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Stars' bench outscores Mercury's 29-8 in Phoenix's first loss of season

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Attempting to start the season 3-0 for the first time since 1998, the Phoenix Mercury fell to the San Antonio Stars, 78-74, despite 21 points from Diana Taurasi Friday at US Airways Center.

The Stars (2-1) had a balanced attack, with eight of their players scoring between seven and 14 points, with the high coming from Danielle Robinson, who also grabbed eight rebounds and dished nine assists and was coming off performances of 23 and 17 points in her first two games.

“They’re an athletic team,” said Mercury coach Sandy Brondello, who coached the Stars for six years. “We couldn’t contain dribble penetration, and that really hurt us, and you have to know individual tendencies. They have a lot of depth at the perimeter.”

After Brittney Griner put Phoenix up 6-4, Kayla McBride knocked down a three, stole the ball and added two more to lift San Antonio into the driver’s seat for the next 20 minutes. McBride, the rookie from Notre Dame, would conclude with nine points.

San Antonio went up by as many as 10 during the second quarter, although a Penny Taylor three with 42 seconds left brought the Mercury within four at halftime.

DeWanna Bonner knotted the game at 40-40 in the early third. Jayne Appel quickly put the Stars up 44-40 with back-to-back baskets, but Candice Dupree and Bonner would tie it again. In her first game since since tearing her ACL last July, Stars guard Becky Hammon scored a three to make it 51-48. She missed the team’s first two games with a left ankle sprain.

An Erin Phillips three with four minutes remaining in the third gave the Mercury its first lead, 53-51, since it was 6-4 in the early stages.

In the final moments of the third, Shenise Johnson cut the lead to one with a three and Jia Perkins (13 points) returned the advantage to the Stars, 60-59.

San Antonio was able to sustain its lead during the third, fighting off every Mercury rally. Phillips brought Phoenix within two on a layup just before the one-minute mark, and after Appel iced it at the line, Taurasi needed to create the rare four-point play at the buzzer but could not work the magic.

“We knew they were going to make a run, just offensively they’re so challenging, but every run they made we had an answer to,” Stars coach Dan Hughes said. “We tried really hard to play to our inside people, and today it led to some scoring.”

Taurasi also recorded a team-high nine assists, Griner had 12 points and nine rebounds, Bonner finished with 15 points, and Dupree and Phillips each scored nine.

“Most of the game, they pretty much outworked us, and we can’t let that happen,” Taurasi said.

The Mercury will next host Tulsa at 7 p.m. May 30, while the Stars are at Los Angeles Sunday before returning home to face the Shock May 28.

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