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Feenstra's Shock, Lange's Silver Stars Advance to WNBA Conference Finals

August 29, 2007  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Katie Feenstra and the Detroit Shock open their WNBA Eastern Conference Finals series against the Indiana Fever Friday at 8 p.m. on ESPN2. (Photo by Dan Lippitt/NBAE)

Katie Feenstra and the Detroit Shock open their WNBA Eastern Conference Finals series against the Indiana Fever Friday at 8 p.m. on ESPN2. (Photo by Dan Lippitt/NBAE)

Both Katie Feenstra's Detroit Shock and Olaf Lange's San Antonio Silver Stars successfully fought off elimination in their respective opening-round series to advance to the conference finals of the 2007 WNBA Playoffs.

The Shock dropped the first game of their series with the New York Liberty by 22 points, before returning home to win two-straight contests. The decisive game three victory came by a 71-70 margin in overtime and put Detroit into the Eastern Conference Finals for the third time in five seasons.

Detroit was sparked by the return of forward Cheryl Ford from a knee injury, which sidelined the All-Star Game MVP for the last 13 games of the regular season. Ford tallied 17 points and 10 boards in game three, last night. The Shock will now face the Indiana Fever, who came back to oust the Connecticut Sun in three games in their first-round series.

Feenstra, a 2005 Liberty graduate, started all three playoff games at center for the Shock. Her most productive outing was a seven-rebound performance in the series opener, which served as Feenstra's WNBA playoff debut. If history is any indication, the 6-8 native of Grand Rapids, Mich., should be a factor in the conference finals against the Fever. She averaged 6.0 ppg and 8.0 rpg in Detroit's four regular-season match-ups with Indiana, including a 14-point, 11-rebound contest on June 16.

The Eastern Conference's top two seeds, who split their four regular-season tilts, will tip off the best-of-three series Friday night at 8 p.m., at Indiana's Conseco Fieldhouse. The first game will be televised by ESPN2. For the second-straight Sunday, Feenstra and the top-seeded Shock will be televised nationally on ABC, as game two is slated for a 1 p.m. tip-off at the Palace at Auburn Hills. Game three, if necessary, will also be played at the Palace, at 6 p.m. Monday evening on NBA TV.

Meanwhile, the Silver Stars, who include both Lange, Liberty's former associate head coach, and his wife, Sandy Brodello, on their coaching staff, had to survive a few moments of trepidation themselves. The 2006 Western Conference champion Sacramento Monarchs took game one by an 86-65 count, putting San Antonio on the brink of elimination. The Silver Stars bounced back with a 25-point win, their first-ever playoff victory, to even the series and set the stage for Monday night's game three nailbiter.

Sacramento trailed by 20 points in Monday's decisive game at the AT&T Center, before storming back to take the lead. In the end, Vickie Johnson took a pass from Becky Hammon to score the game-winning lay-up for San Antonio, with 0.5 seconds remaining on the clock. Sophia Young's 26 points keyed the Silver Stars' 80-78 triumph, which punched the team's ticket to the Western Conference Finals.

In the conference finals, San Antonio will tangle with the top-seeded Phoenix Mercury, arguably the hottest team in the WNBA. The Mercury won 11 of their last 12 games to close the regular season and earn the No. 1 seed, before sweeping Seattle in two games last week. Phoenix, who averaged 98 ppg against Seattle and features Diana Taurasi, took three-of-four meetings with San Antonio in the regular season.

San Antonio will host game one at the AT&T Center, tomorrow night at 8 p.m. on ESPN Classic. Games two and three (if necessary) will be played at Phoenix's US Airways Center. The second game is set for 7 p.m. Saturday night on NBA TV, while the third game would be played at 5:30 p.m. Sunday on ESPN2.

The winners of the Detroit-Indiana and San Antonio-Phoenix series will square off in the best-of-five WNBA Finals. Game one of the Finals will take place on Sept. 5.