Former York Comprehensive High School basketball sensation Ivory Latta made her presence felt in Saturday’s WNBA All-Star game, won by the East team 125-124 in overtime.
Shoni Schimmel, a rookie bench player for the Atlanta Dream, scored a game-high 29 points to power East over West in front of a sold-out crowd in Phoenix.
Latta, a first-team McDonald’s High School All-America selection her final year in a Cougars uniform, dished out numerous assists, seldom shooting the ball from her point-guard position.
Though Latta wasn’t a starter for the East All-Stars, she played the entire fourth quarter and overtime, a remarkable show of confidence by the East head coach.
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After sitting out the first quarter, Latta started the second of the nationally televised game.
Moments after entering the game, the ESPN play-by-play announcer reminded television viewers of Latta’s crowd-pleasing performance in last year’s All-Star game: “Ivory was one of the top players in the game last year,” he said.
Latta had 15 points for the East team last year. She was taken out of the lineup midway through the second quarter but returned in the final minute of a tight first half because of her reputation as a scoring threat from three-point range.
Latta scored on a driving layup with 3:22 left in the fourth quarter of this year’s game, expanding the East’s lead to 108-99 at the time.
Latta’s second-consecutive WNBA All-Star appearance was no surprise to former Lady Cougars head coach Arsonia Stroud.
Stroud, who will be returning as an assistant to head coach Paula Blackwell for the 2014-15 season, was Latta’s mentor during Latta’s high school career at YCHS.
“God gave her talent,” Stroud said of South Carolina’s career highs school scoring leader.
Latta, a McConnells native, started playing on the York seventh-grade girls’ team. Several games into the season, Stroud elevated her to varsity status.
Stroud said many who have watched Latta play, including millions nationwide via television, have no idea of the sacrifices she’s made to reach elite status.
“Every time someone says Ivory is too small or not tough enough, she proves them wrong,” said Stroud. “When Ivory played for us, she trained, running every day.
“She played against the boys in York. She played against older kids in AAU. She was intense doing whatever it took to make herself a better player. She outworked everyone.”
Latta was representing the Washington Mystics in the WNBA All-Star Classic on July 19.
After signing with the Mystics in February 2013, she quickly became a fan favorite, just as she did at UNC Chapel Hill and with the Lady Cougars.
Latta is the Mystics’ leading scorer, averaging 11.1 points per game, after last season averaging a team-high 14-plus.
Latta embraces high-pressure situations when the game is on the line for the Mystics.
In a typical performance for Latta, the 5-foot-6 point guard scored 25 points on eight of 11 shooting, including seven of nine behind the arc, in the Mystics’ season-opener against the Minnesota Lynx.
Latta has thrived under Mystics head coach Mike Thibault.
In the team’s last eight games, Latta has scored double-figures in seven, the one exception a nine-point performance in the win against the Chicago Sky on July 9.
For details on Latta’s status with the Washington WNBA franchise, go to www.wnba.com/mystics.