WNBA: Mystics' Langhorne Shatters Sparks
By Mel Greenberg
Billed as a WNBA game in the nation's capital Thursday night, the Washington Mystics' cross-conference matchup with the Los Angeles Sparks drew key involvement from alums of its prominent NCAA neighbor up the road -- the University of Maryland.
Two members of the 2006 NCAA champion Terrapins were the leading scorers for their teams, most notably Washington's Crystal Langhorne, who drove the Mystics into a second-place three-way tie in the East via a 68-53 victory over the injury-riddled Los Angeles Sparks at the Verizon Center.
The native of Willingboro, N.J., a suburb of Philadelphia, scored a career high 27 points and grabbed 14 rebounds as the Mystics' 8-4 record became a match with the Connecticut Sun and Indiana Fever behind the front-running Atlanta Dream (10-4).
Point guard Kristi Tolliver, acquired in a trade earlier this season from the Chicago Sky, scored 11 points for Los Angeles, which sunk further at the bottom of the West at 3-9.
However, as one member of the Sparks noted of her team that recently lost All-Star Candace Parker for the season because of a separated shoulder, a two-game win-streak puts the Sparks right back in the hunt.
Maryland was making news back on campus at the same moment with multiple sources reporting that longtime athletic director Debbie Yow about to take the soon-to-be-vancat AD position at North Carolina State, where her late sister Kay Yow had a Hall of Fame coaching career.
Ironically, Washington recently honored former Terrapins coach Chris Weller last Saturday to mark her induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Tenn., earlier this month, as yet another Maryland local tie.
The Mystics also have Marissa Coleman, another former Terrapin star, on the roster, and previously had Olympian Vicky Bullet as a player and assistant coach.
When Bullet attended Weller's induction, one member of the entourage noted that Bullet, in her brief coaching stint, had said that Langhorne had a solid foundation and was certainly a hard worker.
The win was Washington's fourth straight giving the Mystics their place in the local sports scene that was highlighted Thursday night by the NBA building neighbor Wizards selecting Kentucky's John Wall as the overall No. 1 pick in the draft.
A few miles away, the baseball Washington Nationals have been in the headlines over rookie pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg.
Meanwhile, the news of Yow's impending move -- a press conference at N.C. State in Raleigh is expected Friday, has a sense of irony involving the opening caused by Lee Fowler's departure June 30.
Her sister Kay lost a longtime battle against breast cancer in January 2009.
Despite sentimental support for Kay's longtime assistant Stephanie Glance to be her full-time successor -- she had filled in as interim several times -- Fowler ignored Kay's wishes and went with Kellie Harper, a former Tennessee star who had been head coach at Western Carolina.
Harper guided the Wolfpack back to the NCAA tournament in her first season in Raleigh.
Although Debbie Yow has run a department that produced a slew of NCAA championships, including basketball titles for the men and women, she also had been a previous coach at three universities.
And to this date, despite her adminstrative success, Debbie Yow constantly prods the Guru to continue to note that she was the first to have three different teams make the AP womnen's poll via Florida (83-84), Kentucky and Oral Roberts (a one-week wonder in 1982-83).
Several others have followed with the trifecta, including Ohio State's Jim Foster, Texas A&M's Gary Blair, and Rutgers' C. Vivian Stringer.
Believe it or not, there is a UConn tie in all this because Huskies athletic director Jeff Hathaway has already been speculated as a potential successor at Maryland where he held various adminstrative slots in the early 1990s with the Terrapins.
WNBA Weekend Fireworks
Ok, the Guru didn't let it slip by, time to look ahead to another wild weekend when the schedule is more plentiful.
Friday night ioaded as is Sunday, which features a five-spot.
The Guru will be busy checking elsewhere on the WNBA Apps on his iPad and Blackberry while being hopefully live at Mohegan where the Connecticut Sun and Phoenix Mercury have a one of the key confrontations.
The Sun could stay right in the mix for first with a weekend sweep that would include a potential Friday win and one Sunday in New York at Madison Square Garden against the Liberty.
Connecticut is coming off of Tuesday's upset loss to the Chicago Sky, the first at home. The Sun won at Phoenix last Sunday, escaping the defending WNBA champs after blowing a 21-point lead in the desert.
Phoenix (5-7), holding a slim half-game edge over the San Antonio Silver Stars (4-7) for second in the West, is trying to avoid falling even further behind the dominating Seattle Storm. Furthermore, the Mercury travel to Washington Sunday.
Seattle (11-2) hosts the defending Eastern champion Indiana Fever, which beat the Storm in the Midwest a week ago. Indiana is trying to stay right with Connecticut and Washington in that second-place logjam.
The Mystics could finish with a dynamite week if Washington can survive the back-to-back and get a win Friday in Chicago against the Sky (5-8), over which it rallied last week at home and prevailed in overtime. As mentioned, then its back home to ready for Sunday's game against Phoenix.
New York (4-7), which rallied and then fell to Minnesota at home Tuesday night, has a must-win game at the Tulsa Shock (3-9), which is tied for last in the West with Los Angeles.
When the Shock were the once-proud group in Detroit winning three WNBA titles, the franchise existed in the East and the games with the Liberty were among the top rivalries in the league.
But the Shock is but a shadow for now of its former life in Motown, which is why New York needs a win quickly, especially with Connecticut's visit looming Sunday.
The Sun have already won the first of the five-game season series back in Uncasville.
Only one game is on Saturday's slate with the Minnesota Lynx visiting San Antonio.
The Lynx struggled early in the season and were heading nowhere fast until Seimone Augustus' return from surgery fueled a two-game sweep a week ago against Tulsa and continued with the win in New York that got Minnesota right back in the West playoff hunt.
Unfortunately, Minnesota lost former Stanford star Candice Wiggins with another injury, this time a season-ending ruptured left Achilles tendon with eight seconds left in the win over New York.
So the San Antonio game is the first test of where the Lynx go from here, while likewise, the Silver Stars are looking to get on some kind of run as both teams seek to stay ahead of Tulsa and Los Angeles.
As for Sunday's games yet to be mentioned a bit further or added to the discussion, Los Angeles at Atlanta. A must-win for the Sparks in the wake of the loss at Washington, while the Dream will be seeking to maintain its first-place East slot off the quick start it got from opening day.
Chicago, with the Washington game Friday night, and a visit from Indiana Sunday will be trying to move closer to the playoff contenders in the East, though the odds are the Sky could be further when idle Monday rolls around.
The Fever will be trying to stay in the East crowd, especially if Seattle gets revenge Friday night for last week's loss.
The Storm finish off Sunday with a visit to Tulsa in a game in which Seattle tries to keep the pedal down on the conference rivals while the Shock seek to get closer to playoff contention, which is not impossible thanks to the mediocrity of the won-loss records in the West.
That's it for now.
Hopefully, back with a live game and a wrapup from the other sites Friday night that will probably be written on a late-nite Amtrak return trip.