Perkins, Young lead Silver Stars

It has been a summer of coming home for Jia Perkins, and one of growing up for Sophia Young.

Those two led the way Sunday as San Antonio beat Minnesota for the first time this season, and in the process avoided elimination in the Western Conference semifinals.

Perkins, who just before this season joined San Antonio via trade from Chicago, led the Silver Stars with 24 points, while Young had 23. After five losses to Minnesota, including a one-point escape by the Lynx on Friday, this time San Antonio found a way to beat the Western Conference's top seed, 84-75 in San Antonio.

It sends the series all the way back north up I-35 to Minneapolis, where the Lynx will put their league-best record on the line Tuesday in the decisive Game 3 (ESPN2, 8 p.m. ET). Trying to prevent Minnesota from winning its first playoff series will be a group of Silver Stars who on Friday left the Twin Cities intent on returning and taking this series the distance.

The opener, a 66-65 Minnesota victory, was the first playoff game for Perkins, who has played seven full seasons in the WNBA, along with four games back in 2004. That's the year she came into the league after a senior season at Texas Tech that was cut short because she gave birth to her daughter that summer.

Perkins started out in Charlotte, then went to Chicago in the expansion draft for the 2006 season. She helped the Sky franchise get off the ground, but never made it into the postseason.

Meanwhile, Young has spent all six of her season with the team that drafted her out of Baylor in 2006, and this is her fifth time in the playoffs.

Perkins and Young played against each other during their overlapping time in the Big 12 -- it looks like we might one day have to explain to youngsters what that conference was -- and more recently were on the same team overseas.

Perkins grew up in Granbury, Texas. And while she basically liked her time in Chicago, she was happy to hear of the trade that sent her back to the Lone Star State.

"It's been very convenient for me," said Perkins, who added that San Antonio coach/general manager Dan Hughes called her before making the deal. "He asked if I was willing to come and kind of told me my role. And I was excited about it.

"With Becky [Hammon], Ruth [Riley] and Sophia being the core, I felt like I could just find a place with this team. They welcomed me. And it's awesome to finally be in the playoffs."

Perkins' 24 points were the most she has scored this season since hitting for 25 on June 26 at Atlanta. Sunday at AT&T Center, she made nine of 18 shots from the field and also had six rebounds, six assists and four steals.

She said she learned a lot from her time in Chicago.

"Mostly about going through adversity," said Perkins -- although, of course, she also experienced that with how her career concluded at Texas Tech. "With the Sky, we had some great players, and I think we should have gotten farther than we did. I just had to move past that."

Young had her own "adversity" to face this season. She had been mentored in previous years by San Antonio assistant Olaf Lange, and credited him with much of the progress she'd made as a post player at the pro level. Lange's wife, Sandy Brondello was the Silver Stars' head coach last year, but both were let go after the season.

"It was a very challenging thing for me [as] a player this year with Olaf not being here," Young said. "He was somebody who really worked hard in developing my game, and he was there for me whenever I was down or struggling.

"And this season, I've had some games where I have struggled, and having him gone did have a big impact. I just had to learn to live with it. It's been a mental struggle. I was … I would use the word dependent on Olaf. I had to learn to see things for myself and figure them out, when before he was always there to point them out for me."

However, there also have been some very bright moments for Young this summer. None more so than when she was sworn in as a U.S. citizen recently. A native of St. Vincent and The Grenadines, she came to Louisiana to attend high school before going to Baylor.

"I don't think it's quite sunk in yet," Young said of her new citizenship. "Because I haven't traveled outside the United States yet. I remember always thinking how amazing it would be to have it. I just feel you have so many more opportunities when you are an American. And now I can vote. I have that voice now.

"I am looking forward to that. I know a lot of people don't do it, but I'm eager to learn more about the political side of things now."

And if USA Basketball is interested, Young would be very happy to cast her hat in that ring.

"Totally," she said. "If that opportunity ever came around, I would jump at it. Who wouldn't want to play for the USA, right?"

Which leads us to her Silver Stars teammate Hammon, who really did want to -- but didn't get the chance, then ended up playing for the Russian national team. Hammon was the other San Antonio player who scored in double figures Sunday, finishing with 18 points.

Hammon and Young were big parts of the 2008 San Antonio squad that made it to the WNBA finals before falling to Detroit. The Silver Stars had the best record in the league that year, but had to go the distance to beat first Sacramento and then Los Angeles in the playoffs.

This year, San Antonio is in the underdog role and Tuesday will need the same kind of supporting-cast performance behind Hammon that Perkins and Young provided Sunday.

"I think maybe we underachieved this season at times," Young said. "I know a lot of people didn't think we were going to make the playoffs. The season had its ups and downs, but I think we've picked it up at the end. We have an opportunity to win a championship, pretty much just like everyone else. That's how we look at it."

Mechelle Voepel, a regular contributor to ESPN.com, can be reached at mvoepel123@yahoo.com. Read her blog at mechellevoepelblog.com.