SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Becky Hammon’s historic new career will have to wait. Her teammates with the San Antonio Stars are not ready to let their beloved teammate exit the WNBA just yet.
Jia Perkins scored 23 points and San Antonio extended Hammon’s playing career with a 92-76 victory over the Minnesota Lynx on Friday night.
Hammon is retiring at the end of the season following a 16-year career in the WNBA after she went undrafted out of Colorado State. She will join the San Antonio Spurs and become the first full-time female assistant coach in the NBA, but her new gig will have to wait at least a week longer.
“It felt good to be out there standing a winner after we won tonight, I can tell you that,” Hammon said. “It would not have been as enjoyable had we not won. So that was the first thing, getting in the playoffs was a great feeling.”
Mirroring Hammon’s career, the Stars overcame a lot this season to earn their seventh playoff berth in eight years.
Spurs general manager R.C. Buford, “Good Morning America” anchor Robin Roberts and Hammon’s friends and family were among the largest home crowd of the season as San Antonio commemorated her career with a postgame ceremony.
“You take great pride in being told you can’t do something and proving us wrong,” Buford said, referring to Hammon’s All-American career at Colorado State. “But we didn’t recognize it again. You go undrafted in the WNBA and now, 16 years later, we are celebrating one of the great careers in WNBA history.”
Hammon received a standing ovation and a long embrace from Stars coach Dan Hughes upon exiting the game with 1:20 remaining and San Antonio having secured a return to the postseason.
She finished with seven points and 10 assists in 23 minutes.
“My teammates, you guys make it fun every day to come to work,” Hammon said during the ceremony. “I believe in each and everyone one of you guys. I believe there are great things we can do together, when we do it together. Every day we go in and we fight for each other and we fight with each other to make each other better. When I leave, the best thing you guys can learn from me is to love and serve each other. Be about each other. Be about each other.”
The Stars secured the final playoff berth in the Western Conference, and will face either the Lynx or top-seeded Phoenix Mercury. San Antonio (15-18) won the season series against Los Angeles (15-17), but the Sparks can secure the third seed by winning their last two regular-season games, or having the Stars lose their season finale on Sunday at Chicago.
Danielle Adams added 19 points and Danielle Robinson had 12 for San Antonio.
Maya Moore scored 20 points, Tan White added 15 and Lindsay Whalen had 13 for Minnesota (24-9).
Playing off the emotion of Hammon’s final regular-season game, the Stars outscored Minnesota by seven points in both the second and third quarters in building a double-digit lead.
Perkins’ jumper closed a 7-1 run and created a 65-55 lead.
Hammon smiled excitedly as the 12,659 in attendance gave her a thunderous ovation during introductions. Averaging 8.6 points, the lowest since her fourth season in the WNBA with the New York Liberty, Hammon had a hand in seven of San Antonio’s first nine points.
“Being overlooked and underestimated has always been a part of my career, and I was OK with that,” Hammon said.
She scored the game’s opening basket, driving the lane and hitting an off-balance jumper high off the glass after receiving a shoulder bump from Whalen.
Hammon later fed Kayla McBride inside for a layup and then hit her only 3-pointer with 6 minutes left in the first quarter.
Hammon’s hot start was countered by Moore, who hit a series of off-balance jumpers and driving layups in scoring 13 points in 10 minutes.
San Antonio opened the second quarter on a 7-1 run to reclaim the lead at 31-29 on a three-point play by Sophia Young-Malcolm off a lob feed from Hammon.
The Stars closed the first half on a 10-6 run to take a 50-47 lead.