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.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

WNBA: Marathon Win For New York

By Mel Greenberg

The marathon came to Madison Square Garden Tuesday though the event had nothing to do with any of the famous indoor track meets held in the famous arena in central Manhattan.

Rather, this was the final tuneup before this weekend's WNBA openers and it was a good thing the game between the host New York Liberty and Connecticut Sun.

What began as a late breafast encounter between two Eastern Division teams that will battle five times in the next several months almost finished around the time thoughts of dinner begin to creep into the human appetite.

Actually, considering that the game did not count -- thus former UConn star Tina charles' official win streak is still alive -- the intensity displayed between the two teams was rather tasty entertainment.

When the third overtime concluded -- a game extended long enough to push the media out-of-towners into the next train fare zone -- New York emerged with an 89-84 victory.

By the third overtime, the Garden was playing Beatles music from the 1960s, suggesting officials had exhausted their supply from ensuing decades. Benny Goodman hits from the 1940s and '50s were rumored to be on standby if the game lasted any longer.

"They shoot horses don't they," New York executive Carol Blazejowski quipped afterwards delighted with the promise her team showed for the future.

The Liberty marked the debut of former Rutgers star Cappie Pondexter, formerly with the defending WNBA champion Phoenix Mercury, who has been with the team just two days after playing overseas in Russia.

The Chicago native finished with 14 points, the same total as rookie and former UConn star Kalana Greene who was a draft pick by New York.

Pondexter, who also had some nifty plays with former Rutgers teammate Essence Carson, also had 11 rebounds and eight assists, though she was 5-for-23 from the field.

"It was great, it was a great atmosphere, my teammates are awesome, it was a great experience overall, Pondexter said of the crowd of mostly school age children.

Most had to leave before the game ended becauses the buses were due to depart around 1 p.m.

New York coach Anne Donovan, who is also the new coach across the Hudson at Seton Hall in South Orange, N.J., expects things will be better once her new arrival gets acclimated.

"We just have to get our offense settled down," Donovan said. "Cappie was trying to do some things we just don't have some spacing for yet."

New York should even be better when former Stanford star Nicole Powell arrives from overseas. She was a draft dispersal pick by the Liberty after the former Sacramento Monarchs franchise dissolved in the offseason.

Veteran Janelle McCarvelle played her first game since arriving from overseas and finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Leilani Mitchell added 12 points to the Liberty total, while free agent acquistion Taj McWilliams-Franklin grabbed 11 rebounds.

New York, which suffered a loss in Washington last week, will open at home Sunday against the Chicago Sky.

Connecticut also gets Chicago to launch its campaign in a home game Saturday.

Charles, the consensus collegiate playert of the year in helping to lead UConn to a second straight unbeaten season, had 22 points and 13 rebounds as the overall No. 1 pick of the WNBA draft made her first return to her native city as a professional.

Technically, Connecticut had an overall edge on the game after rallying from a 25-12 deficit at the end of the first quarter.

But Sun coach Mike Thibault was pretty much pleased with his team's performance short of not being on the high end of the final score.

"It was exciting and kind of fun," he said. "It was good for me in the sense that with a new team and a lot of new players, I can try some things and see who can do what and who remembers what."

Thibault noted that most of the players he had not coached for long after executing several major roster changes through trades and free agent signings in the offseason.

"We are kind of still learning about each other so from that standpoint, it was pretty good. We had a shot to win it at the end of regulation and a shot to win at the end of both the first two overtimes. The ball didn't go in but I thought we got good shots."

Pondexter blocked a layup attempt by newcomer Kara Lawson near the end of one overtime and then converted with a pass to Carson to keep the game alive for New York.

Thibault said Charles had to deal with a lot of double teaming defenses on her, something that she did not have to experience much the last several seasons in college with the Huskies.

Lawson, a former Tennessee star who had been with Sacramento but signed with the Sun as a free agent, had 16 points while Tan White scored 16. DeMya Walker, another former Sacramento player, grabbed 13 rebounds.

Next summer and perhaps several afterwards the Liberty will have to find a temporary home while the Garden undergoes a series of renovations.

So perhaps it could be said that Tuesday's marathon encounter was a good way to make up for future lost time before the Liberty play elsewhere.

-- Mel


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