Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Soggy Day and Mystics' Night

By Mel Greenberg

DEVON _ Yes, folks, it was a wet one at the Devon Horse Show yesterday, making for a shortFriday afternoon and and even shorter, in fact non-existent evening.

Following the last event on the afternoon card, which we reported in the print edition of the major metropolitan newspaper, officials postponed the night portion and re-schedule most events for today's finale.

So it's compacted report from out in the suburbs, unless you want to hear about the nice Japanese restaurant in nearby Strafford.

Didn't think so.

Meanwhile, our Washington correspondent Jonathan Tannenwald was at the Mystics encounter with the Minnesota Lynx on a WNBA night in the MCI Center in which deep threat returned to the Washington attack in the form of three-pointers.

Also back were Alana Beard for the first time and DeLisha Milton.

So here's the inside report from Jonathan.

Mystics Three-Game Skid Ends With Win over Minnesota

WASHINGTON _ In his pre-game pep talk before his team faced the Minnesota Lynx, Mystics head coach Richie Adubato put a note up on the board.

“You’ve got to dig down deep, ladies, you’ve got to dig down deep,” it said.

But unlike his team’s three previous losses this season, all of which came at the MCI Center, Adubato had his best shovel back from the shop Friday night.

At last, Alana Beard returned to the court in the nation’s capital, and she made an immediate impact as the Mystics beat the Lynx, 74-71, for their first home win of the season. The game included seven lead changes and five ties, and even though Washington had a six-point lead with 36.7 seconds remaining, the game was still in doubt until the very end.

“Our backs were at the wall tonight,” Adubato said. “We could not afford to lose four straight at home.”

Although her sprained right ankle was not completely healed, Beard ended up playing a whopping 32 minutes, recording 14 points on 5-of-12 shooting from the field. Her last two points were also the last two points of the game, when she hit a layup with four seconds to go that iced the victory.

“We look completely different [with her], there's no question about it,” Adubato said. “When she takes the floor, it's the charisma that she brings to the court, it's the excitement that she brings to the court. She can play 1 or 2, she creates her own shot, which is very important.”

Delisha Milton-Jones , who sat out the Mystics’ last game against New York with a strained right knee, also returned to action. She played 29 minutes as a substitute, and scored 16 points including two three-pointers in the second half. Chastity Melvin recorded a double-double, scoring a team-high 17 points and pulling down 10 rebounds. Minnesota’s Katie Smith unsurprisingly led all scorers with 20 points.

The 9,620 people in attendance arrived during a rainstorm and had enough time afterwards to get home and see the final at-bat of the Nationals’ 3-2 win over Florida in 11 innings, which may have been a reason for the small crowd.

Beard seizes the stage

With the announcement this week that former second-in-command at the FBI W. Mark Felt was the anonymous source called "Deep Throat" who helped the Washington Post in its coverage of Watergate, one of the great parlor games in Washington history came to a conclusion.

Another question that has been on the minds of a lot of folks here lately-- albeit for more like 30 days, instead of the 30 years since Richard Nixon's resignation-- is when Beard would finally return to action.

That question was answered Friday night, and there was certainly nothing anonymous about it. Beard started the game, and the crowd of roared its approval when her name was announced as the last of the Mystics' five starters.

Was she nervous?

“I didn't go to bed until 1:30 last night and my normal bedtime is 10:00,” Beard said. “I couldn't sleep and felt like a kid waking up on Christmas.”

But once Beard, one of last season's top newcomers, got out on the floor, she said that “it felt so good.”

“I don’t think I can really put it into words, because it was like, I was almost out for a month,” she said. “When I got back to practice I almost had tears in my eyes because I was so happy to be back out there.”

The former Duke star was in action early, stealing the ball from Lynx star Katie Smith just under a minute and a half in. Beard raced away down the floor and was fouled hard by Svetlana Abrosimova, landing on her side under the basket. But she got up immediately, and went right back to work. Her first points came at the 12:40 mark, when she got a pass from Temeka Johnson, took a quick step to her right, and nailed a 15-foot jumper.

With 3:55 to go in the first half, Beard drove hard to the basket and was fouled by Lynx forward Amanda Lassiter. Beard came up limping, which elicited quite a few gasps from the crowd. She was able to run at full strength back to the Mystics bench for a timeout called by coach Richie Adubato, however, and came back out onto the court, where she promptly made two free throws.

Beard said that her injury “was in the back of my head” when she went down, and that “It was a little pain there, a sharp pain.”

Adubato chalked up the quick recovery to karma.

“I figured we're about due for a break, so she's going to get up,” he said.

Beard’s first three-pointer came with just over a minute to go in the half, and the Lynx coaching staff was not so happy about what they thought was an illegal screen to set the shot up.

“It would have been more legal if they were dancing,” Lynx assistant coach Nancy Darsch yelled to whoever was within earshot.

Beard and rookie point guard Temeka Johnson seem to have established a quite formidable partnership in the Mystics’ backcourt. Johnson recorded her second double-double in as many games, scoring 16 points and dishing out 10 assists, three of which went to Beard.

“She’s the type of point guard that comes in, she sets her teammates up, and she knows the game,” Beard said. “We have so many people that can score and she distributes the ball really well, and she gets hers when they leave her open.”

Smith in focus

Adubato had heaped praise on Lynx forward Katie Smith over the last few days, and that continued before Friday night’s game.

“What scares me is the fact that they made the playoffs last year without Katie Smith and now they have Katie Smith,” he said.

Smith got hurt prior to the Olympics, but traveled with the USA team to Athens before being sidelined permanently.

Adubato's concerns were was justified with Smith’s 20 points, although she was held to only 1-of-5 shooting from three-point range. At one point in the second half, Smith was swarmed at the edge of the paint by three Mystics players, which led to a three-second violation on Stacey Lovelace after Smith somehow wrestled her way through to get Lovelace the ball.

“She’s our leading scorer, she’s our leader on the floor, she’s someone that is a big part of our offense and a big part of our defense as well,” Lynx coach Suzie McConnell Serio, a former Penn State all-American said. “It’s 20 points, and not by any means is it a selfish 20.”

Melvin’s big night

Of perhaps equal significance to Chastity Melvin’s double-double was the fact that she finished the night with only four fouls, after fouling out in the last game against New York. Against the Liberty, Melvin played only 24 minutes, but she played 31 against the Lynx.

“Chastity Melvin so far has had a banner year for us,” Adubato said. “We’re hoping that she continues to score inside, we love her inside game. The big thing with Chastity, we hope that she continues to rebound– she’s always been an offensive rebounder.”

Med school

Yours truly (Jonathan) is much more a liberal arts type than the type that would be found in, say, a set of buildings adjacent to a large and well-known hospital in Philadelphia a few blocks west of the Schuylkill River. So, wanting to learn a bit about how a person such as Alana Beard would recover from a sprained ankle, I sought out Mystics trainer Chalisa Fonza in the workout room before tipoff.

So with apologies to those readers who thought they were done with class for the summer, let’s all get the notebooks back out, shall we?

“The first thing we do is, one, pain management, then we try to decrease the amount of swelling while we decrease the amount of pain that the person is experiencing at the same time,” Fonza said. “In conjunction with that we do a lot of stretching, a lot of balance activities.”

Then come what Fonza called “a battery of tests.”

“The big thing is we look at their strength,” she said. “Whether that's doing figure-eights, straight ahead running, some cut-and-pivoting, those kinds of things will give me better cues as to whether they'll be able to do those things out on the court.”

Celebrity watch

Washington Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas and forward Brendan Haywood sat at center court in the seats which were occupied by the Mystics' new ownership for the New York game. Cathy Andruzzi was in the house as well, scouting the Mystics for the Liberty. The two teams will face off at Madison Square Garden on Sunday

Front office watch

When the Mystics locker room opened to the media, those who came by found new owner Sheila Johnson and General Manager Linda Hargrove standing outside the door acting as a rudimentary cheerleading squad as the players came by. Midway through the second half, Johnson showed off her dancing skills to the crowd when she was caught on the JumboTron during a timeout.

When asked how the first few weeks of her time at the helm have gone, the co-founder of Black Entertainment television answered, “I'm having a ball.”

On to New York

The Mystics’ next game is Sunday afternoon against the Liberty at Madison Square Garden, and Milton-Jones offered some tactical advice as a preview.

“They are big on the inside, very crafty veterans that they have in Ann Wauters and Elena Baranova,” she said. “If we can eliminate them, keep them under their average, as well as get to those prolific shooters in Vicki Johnson and Crystal Robinson, then I think we can get the win.”

Melvin said that there was a good chance that her team could do just that.

“It's going to be a battle, she said, “but I feel like if all of us come out and play like we did tonight and we make some shots, obviously, we’ll win the game.”


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I enjoyed Jonathan's game report, especially the background on how a player's sprained ankle is treated. One note: Ms. Melvin's first name is spelled "Chasity," not "Chastity."

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