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.

Monday, June 02, 2014

WNBA Report: Mystics Douse Sparks in Marathon Battle

By Megan Nipe

The Washington Mystics (3-2) gave the Los Angeles Sparks (2-2) a not-so-warm welcome to DC late Sunday afternoon, as the triple overtime thriller left the Sparks heading home with their second loss on the season after the first of two East-West confrontations between the squads.

The Mystics pulled out a 92-84 win over the third place team in the Western Conference.

"I'm too tired to talk," quipped Mystics coach Mike Thibault after his team made several rallies to keep extending the game until Washington was able to grab the win.

"I don't know if I've ever seen a game in which you win a game in three overtimes and you have 31 turnovers," Thibault said of the one glaring flaw in an otherwise gritty performance against one of the more talented teams in the WNBA.

"L.A. has quickness and they bothered us. But the things we were working on all week -- half-court defensively, rebounding the ball (52-39 Wash), we got on the free throw line a lot (20-22), they all were coming back to pay off today," Thibault contined.

"I'm looking out there at all those young players and I'm going 'Holy Smoke.'

"But you have to get tested somewhere, and they survived the test and they learned some valuable lessons while doing it. ... It was really ugly for a while but it was good in many ways,too."

Playing in a tight game going into overtime is a rarity for the first-round rookie duo of Bria Hartley and Stefanie Dolson out of the two-time defending NCAA champion Connecticut squad who only saw that kind of game in the old wars with Notre Dame.

"But we fouled out in that game, so we didn't get to play in the overtime,"Hartley said after getting a career-high 20 points, while Dolson had 14 points and 11 rebounds, each contributing to a lopsided 63-10 romp in terms of the Mystics' bench production.

Veteran Monique Currie, in a new role as a substitute for this one, had 12 points off the bench as did Jelana Milanovic.

"I'll give credit to someone like 'Mo, she gave us a huge lift coming off the bench in the first half." Thiobault said. "Players like that are going to have different roles from game to game. I'm going to play players based on matchups, play them based on adrenalin."

Former UConn star Kalana Greene, who played under Thibault with the Connecticut Sun and was picked up by Washington after her release just before last month's season openers, didn't get into Sunday's game but had no complaints nor notice any change in him with Washington.

"Mike is still Mike," Greene smiled. "He's the same dude."

Los Angeles star Candace Parker, one of the top players in the league, dropped 30 points and added 12 rebounds and 6 assists.

However, the contribution by the former Tennessee All-American wasn't enough to sustain the career-high attacks by the UConn rookie duo.

Former North Carolina backcourt star Ivory Latta joined her Washington teammates with a very solid gamer putting in 14 points, many of them clutch baskets late in the game, and adding 6 rebounds and 8 assists.

That followed a struggle in regulation in which she shot 2-for-14 from the field but then was 2-for-3 in the extra sessions, hitting critical three-pointers.

"Ivory has short term memory that way," Thibault said of the ability to shurg off an effort in which the shots don't drop.

Before Sunday night, the Sparks had won the last 5 meetings between them and the Mystics.

Washington was also looking to make it a two-game win streak at home after dropping their season opener to the Minnesota Lynx.

Despite the advantage the Sparks seem to have over the Mystics in the past, this time the Mystics showed no plans to lose another one.

With double-digit lead changes and tied scores, this match was a battle from the beginning.

The first half didn’t see much scoring as it finished with a two-point lead from the Mystics, 12 – 10.

The second half showed more action.

After a jumper from Dolson and a 3 from Currie, the Mystics took a 9-point lead, the biggest leither team would have for the game.

After some shooting success, the Mystics seemed to begin a one-on-one offense, but the inside presence of the Sparks, including Parker, Nneka Ogwumike who had a solid double-double of 16 points and 12 rebounds, and Jantel Lavender, caused trouble for the Mystics getting to the basket.

Despite unforced turnovers late in the second half, the Mystics went in to halftime leading the Spark 33-28.

Going into the second half, it didn’t take long for the Sparks to make a comeback, and after a quick layup from Lavender, they had taken the lead from the Mystics and were up 43-40.

Washington still adjusting to the Sparks defense, which was shown by multiple last second shots taken at the end of the shot clock.

However, on the other end of the court, they seemed to have the same issue.

A missed last second jumper by the Sparks allowed the Mystics to keep the lead heading into the fourth quarter, 51-49.

The fourth quarter is where the rookies’s play starts to became vital.

An early jumper by Dolson tied the game at 47 a piece and a hard drive to the basket by Hartley brought the Mystics up 59-57 with a little over 30 seconds left in the game… or at least in regulation.

A missed jumper from Parker on the Sparks end and a jumper that bounced off the rim at the last second by Milovanovic sent the game in to its first overtime

The first extensions showed no sign of defeat for either team.

After some contact Ogwumike found herself on the hardwood, leaving Dolson to put in an open layup to give the Mystics a two-point lead, 61-59.

However, Ogwumike answered on the other end, and four consecutive points from Parker put the Sparks up by two.

The Sparks found themselves up 3 points with 11 seconds to go in overtime, but the Mystics go-to guard, Latta, was not ready for the game to end.

With the Mystics having possession of the ball and 5 seconds left, Latta threw in an off-balanced three-pointer to, once again, tie the game.

The Sparks would attempt a quick shot to win the ball game, but a missed turnaround jumper from Ogwumike sends the game into double overtime.

Milovanovic connected on an and-1 play early in the second overtime, and Hartley hit a three to open up the Mystics lead to four, 72-68.

At this point, Hartley was leading with 13 points and is playing with the aggression of a veteran rather than a rookie in only her third game at the Verizon Center.

After trading a few more baskets, the 5-minute game clock was winding down.

Parker, who now had 30 points, hit a shot to put the Sparks up two points with 13.4 seconds left.

What may have felt like the end of the game, was far from the truth.

Latta drove hard to the basket on the next possession and found herself on the free throw line.

After connecting on both, and a missed floater from the Sparks' Lindsey Harding, who finished with 13 points and 4 assists, the game was headed into yet another overtime tied at 78.

The third and final overtime began with Hartley hitting a jumper to give the Mystics a quick lead.

A few possessions in favor of the Sparks put them up by three points, but in true fashion of this game, Hartley and Latta hit a layup and three pointer, respectively, to put the Mystics up by two with under a minute to play.

The Sparks had the ball in their hands with 25 seconds to go and down two points.

A questionable out of bounds ball with 19 seconds left had the referees reviewing the play on the sideline as the crowd began chanting, “Mystics ball!”

In fact, in a very important turn of events, the Mystics ended up with the ball.

A quick foul from the Sparks gives Hartley another two points from the line and the next possession Milovanovic found herself at the free throw line, making both.

The mystics were up 90-84 with 10.3 seconds to go. Before the game clock expired, Dolson scored another two points to close the game.

Moments after the game, Hartley and Dolson were asked about the teams performance.

Both players out of breath, Hartley said that the team was “just excited to be out there on the court,” which was evidenced by the team’s unwillingness to quit at any point.

“It took a lot of heart,” added Dolson. “We played strong and the fans had our back,” she said.

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad


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