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.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

WNBA: Seattle Storm Shines Under The Stars

(Guru's note: The overtime Gods did not hang around for his final decision on making up lost time by using Amtrak to Washington Saturday night for the Mystics-Atlanta Dream game. So in an attempt to give him a few ulcers not knowing he held back, they conjured up an extra session that would have made things dicey in catching the 10 p.m. back to Philadelphia. The value saved at this hour is being considered to roll over a quick return to Connecticut Sunday afternoon for the Sun-San Antonio Silver Stars game. Still, enough info is out there to provide context to the four games played.)

By Mel Greenberg

For most of the early season the WNBA Seattle Storm has handled opponents indoors where most of the league's summer contests are played.

However, some teams in the pro women's basketball league have gone to a new racquet, er, racket so to speak by taking a scheduled game outdoors to be played in noteworthy tennis venues.

Two seasons ago, the New York Liberty set the precedent on a steamy night in July, hosting and losing to ther Indiana Fever at the Arthur Ashe Stadium, the annual site of the U.S. Open.

On Saturday night, the Los Angeles Sparks hosted Seattle at the Home Depot Tennis Center in Carson, Calif.

When the volleying was completed, the result was the same way it has gone for both teams in the Western Conference.

Seattle, with the best record in the league now at 7-1, repulsed a Los Angeles rally from a 16-point deficit late in the game to prevail 79-75.

The outcome left the Sparks at 1-6, which left Los Angeles with the worst record.

Outside-inside is already a notation for Seattle with the play of former UConn all-America guard Sue Bird and Australian post sensation Lauren Jackson.

On Saturday night Bird had 22 points for Seattle, while Candace Parker scored 24 points for the Sparks.

Former Maryland star Kristi Toliver, a second-year pro, started for Los Angeles in place of the injured Ticha Penicheiro and scored 15 points. She played last year with the Chicago Sky and was dealt to the Sparks earlier this season.

In 2003 when Seattle won its only WNBA title, there was a little flavor from the former American Basketball League, which collapsed early in its third season in December 1998 under bankruptcy. Karen Byrant, a Storm executive, held a similar position with the ABL Seattle Reign.

Then-Seattle coach Anne Donovan, now heading the New York Liberty, coached the Philadelphia Rage in the ABL's third and shortened season.

If the Storm keeps the pace going all the way to the title there will be another reference to the ABL. Seattle coach Brian Agler guided the former Columbus Quest to the two titles won in the former league's two full seasons.

Seattle returns home Sunday night to host the defending WNBA champion Phoenix Mercury. Another win, which would finish an impressive 3-0 week that also included handing the Atlanta Dream their first loss, and the Storm will certainly be well on the road to a regular season conference title.

Hey, if the All-Star balloting gets announced on season-opening week, maybe it's not too early to talk about battle for playoff spots -- at least in the West.

Dream Stop Slide: Atlanta began the week as the talk of the WNBA, heading into Seattle at 6-0 until the Storm said "Not so perfect."

Atlanta returned home Friday and were surprised by the Chicago Sky, which has decided to go after some attention with the next best week after Seattle.

By late in the third quarter Saturday night in the nation's capital, the Dream were about fall completely back to the Eastern Conference back, trailing the Washington Mystics by 10 points.

But Atlanta rallied and prevailed in overtime, 86-79, to be assured first place on idle Monday while the Mystics fell to 4-4.

Angel McCoughtry, the reigning rookie of the year, scored 23 points for Atlanta, a total matched by teammate Erika De Souza.

Washington, which was looking to take advatange of a favorable home slate in the month of June, fell to 4-4 as former Maryland star Crystal Langhorne of Willingboro, N.J., led the Mystics with 23 points.

It's a tough loss but perhaps some lack should be given before the Same Old Mystics refrain gets heard in the Verizon Center.

The Sky is Rising: Former LSU star Sylvia Fowles had a career-high 32 points to go with her 13 rebounds and four blocked shots in the Windy Suburbs -- City depending where the line is drawn -- and the Chicago Sky won its fourth straight game to even things at 4-4 after topping the Tulsa Shock, 95-70.

Recovering from an 0-4 start, Chicago is now in an Eastern gridlock tied with Washington just a half-game behind the third-place Indiana Fever.

Tulsa, the new decesendant from the former thre-time WNBA champion Detroit Shock which has lost a large portion of last season's roster occupants, fell to 3-4 as Shanna Crossley scored 20 points.

Two of the three Shock wins have come over the Minnesota Lynx, which ruined Tulsa's season and home debut on opening weekend.

Indy Shackles Liberty: In the inaugural WNBA summer of 1997, the New York Liberty and Los Angeles Sparks launched the league in a nationally-televised contest.

Followers envisioned domination by the two major markets though it hasn't always been that way despite two WNBA crowns in Los Angeles and several trips to the finals in New York.

At the moment, the duo squads are closer to competing in the draft lottery for a shot at UConn sensation Maya Moore, a senior next season, than New York and Los Angeles are to the postseason.

Yeah, still early.

But New York finished up with an 0-for-2 back-to-back effort with another narrow setback, losing at the Indiana Fever, 78-73, after losing a close contest at the finish at the Connecticut Sun Friday night.

The loss leaves the Liberty at the bottom of the division at 2-4, something that will immediately cause a stir among a fan base that was looking a promising conditions a few weeks ago with the arrival of such newcomers as former Rutgers star Cappie Pondexter, draft pick and former UConn star Kalana Greene, and former Stanford star Nicole Powell.

Pondexter was virtually shut down in Uncasville, Friday night, ruining the new corporate partnership with the Mohegan-rival Foxwoods Resort Casino.

The Chicago native returned to her All-Star form Saturday night with 21 points and eight rebounds in the Liberty's fourth loss in their last five games.

Indiana moved into third place at 4-3 on the play of second-year pro Shavonte Zellous, the former Pittsburgh star who had a season-high 23 points.

On Sunday, Connecticut hosts the San Antonio Silver Stars on a day in which the Sun will have its whole roster intact following Sandrine Gruda, whose offseason play overseas is completed.

The San Antonio visit means the arrival of newly-acquired former Tennessee star Chamique Holdsclaw for the first time since her previous visit last summer as a member of Atlanta.

The Sun (4-2) could put a little distance from third-place Indiana and move closer to front-running Atlanta, while San Antonio (2-4) could gain a mental lift with a win.

The Phoenix-Seattle game was addressed way back at the top of this roundup.

Indiana will visit Minnesota (2-6), which seemed to finally get going earlier in the week beating Phoenix, but then fell to Tulsa for the second time Friday night.

That's it for the moment.

-- Mel

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