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.

Friday, August 28, 2015

WNBA: Chicago Rookie Betnijah Laney Out of Rutgers Enjoys Being a Student of the Game

By ROB KNOX (@knoxrob1)

Chicago Sky 6-foot-1 rookie guard Betnijah Laney is another of the younger generation of mother-daughter tandems who have excelled in women's basketball.

The Seattle Storm's Lauren Jackson's mother Maree was a star at LSU and on the Australian national team.

Betnijah's mom Yolanda out of University City High in Philadelphia was an All-American collegian who helped Cheyney University in the Philly western suburbs advance to the first NCAA title game under legendary head coach C. Vivian Stringer in 1982 when the Lady Wolves fell shortto Louisiana Tech.

The younger Laney also played for Stringer at Rutgers the last four years after achieving high school blue chip recruiting status in Delaware which was also enjoyed by Sky teammate sensation Elena Delle Donne.

Now, Laney’s in a perfect situation with the veteran Sky with its cadre of star power.

There’s not much pressure on her to produce points. She’s able to learn and make meaningful contributions to a team with championship aspirations.

“I feel like I am surrounded by great teammates,” Laney said following the Sky’s 66-64 victory over the Washington Mystics Sunday afternoon at the Verizon Center.

“Coming onto a team that made it all the way to the Finals and fell short has made them hungry. Just to be able to come into this situation and being able to learn from them is a great thing.”

Laney scored two points in 12 minutes against the Mystics.

Besides a pat on the back from her teammates and head coach Pokey Chatman, Laney also got a slightly busted lip.

The Smyrna High School graduate shrugged it off as she spoke in the lockeroom.

She’ll gladly accept the battle wounds that come from playing the game she enjoys.

“That’s the game, so you have to keep going with it and roll with the punches,” Laney said. “It’s very physical, but you get used to it. (Being on the floor during the fourth quarter) was an adrenaline rush for me. It just makes you want to go out, give it your all and play as hard as you can.”

Laney is blessed as she had the chance to learn the sport from her mother and Stringer.

That’s like an artist being taught to paint by Michelangelo.

Chatman’s confidence has grown in Laney and when she was available in the second round with the 17th overall selection, she immediately snatched her up.

“She comes from great stock,” Chatman said of Laney. “You know coach Stringer does a great job of teaching the fundamentals of the game and you can tell in training camp that she had so much to offer.

"She’s finally getting comfortable with the multiple positions that she could play.

"Immediately, she’s somebody we felt confident with on the defensive side of the basketball and she’s getting more comfortable offensively.

"She is such a hard worker and eager to learn I have to remind her I also have 10 other players to deal with," Chatman said with a grin.

A role player this season, Laney has enjoyed the experience of watching and competing against Delle Donne, Rutgers standout Cappie Pondexter, Courtney Vandersloot, Allie Quigley and the rest of the Sky’s veterans.

She is continuing to gain confidence in her game and adjusting to a new responsibility of playing on the wing instead of near the basket.

Laney has scored in double figures three times, including a career best 12 points in an 106-82 victory over the Indiana Fever on August 4. She’s played 26 games and is averaging 3.2 points and 2.1 rebounds in 12.6 minutes per contest.

“Coming from Rutgers, I played the four, but here I’ve had to learn how to play the wing,” Laney said. “I have been working on my ballhandling and being tighter with the ball.

"I am learning to make decisions on the perimeter. I think I have come a long way, but I still have a long way to go and continue to work on things that I can improve upon so I can become a better ballplayer for my team.”

The Sky have six games remaining and Laney is enjoying her time in the WNBA. She’s looking forward to contributing during Chicago’s stretch run as the Sky battle for homecourt advantage in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Laney will play in Australia during the offseason.

“This is not a job for me,” Laney said. “I love it here and it’s great to get paid for what you love to do.

"Moving to Chicago was great.

"My mom still comes out to visit, support me and to see how I am doing. I am enjoying being independent. I am really excited (to play overseas during the offseason). It will give me an opportunity to work on a few things in the offseason, keep learning and getting better.”

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

WNBA: Elena Delle Donne's Sensational Season Impressing Everyone But Herself

By ROB KNOX (@knoxrob1)

In just her third season in the WNBA former Delaware All-American Elena Delle Donne is demolishing league statistics at a time when most of the league's younger players are just beginning to hit their comfort level.

She leads the WNBA in scoring with a 23.8 point per game average, free-throw percentage and in double-doubles.

Delle Donne has scored 30 or more points four times this season, including a magnificent 45-point performance against Atlanta in early June and has been named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week five times.

She’s being compared to some the greatest players (men or women) to ever play the sport, including Michael Jordan.

Yet, Delle Donne remains unimpressed.

While the rest of us mere mortals remain in awe of her jaw-dropping numbers, Delle Donne doesn’t have time to study the amazing season she’s enjoying for the Chicago Sky.

Her numbers are at a historical pace topping past performances from some of the all-time greats who have since earned Hall of Fame stature.

The Blue Hens graduate who went second overall in the 2012 draft behind Baylor's Brittney Griner has never been into personal statistics.

However, what she has done has been hard to ignore this season.

She’s even slightly embarrassed that many national pundits have mentioned her as the front-runner for this year’s MVP award.

Delle Donne is too focused on rewriting last year’s ending for the Sky, who were swept in the WNBA Finals by a historically great Phoenix Mercury squad.

“I’ll use the offseason to reflect,” Delle Donne said succinctly following the Sky’s 66-64 victory over the Mystics Sunday at the Verizon Center. “Right now my focus is on how we can get better as a team and win our next game.

"I am focused on our team numbers more than anything else right now. Anything individual, I’ll use the offseason to reflect. I am always trying to improving.”

One area she developed that leaves Delle Donne in a great mood is her rebounding.

Ten double-doubles later, Delle Donne is third in the league averaging 8.8 rebounds per game.

“At the end of last season (Chicago Sky head coach Pokey Chatman) challenged me to be a better rebounder,” Delle Donne said. “I feel like that’s something I’ve made a conscious effort to improve and to crash the glass on every single time. It’s something I am proud of because I was challenged to get better at it.”

Delle Donne is happy and healthy for the Sky this season.

Last summer, Delle Donne missed17 games after a serious flare-up of her Lyme disease. In the WNBA Finals last year, Delle Donne battled through an achy back.

She delivered a playoff performance for the ages despite not being 100 percent when she scored 17 of her 34 points in the fourth quarter to help the Sky rally from a 16-point fourth quarter deficit to beat the Dream, 82-81, in an elimination game on the road last season.

It was like watching Mozart play in his prime.

This year she missed one game in New York because of a tender ankle.

“It’s been really good this year,” Delle Donne said when asked about her health. “It’s been great being out on the court and a huge improvement and difference from last year.”

With a healthy Delle Donne unleashing her fury on the rest of the league this season, the WNBA has benefited in positive ways. She has become one of the faces of the league. It was needed after some of the negative offseason headlines.

Delle Donne was profiled in Sports Illustrated last week and on SportsCenter earlier this year following that 45-point, 11-rebound, six-blocked shot performance against Atlanta.

“It means a lot,” Delle Donne said after being asked about being the face of the WNBA. “I worked really hard on and off the court to grow the brand of the league, myself and the Chicago Sky.

"I put in a lot of work with media and making appearances at different events. It’s nice to hear that it’s paying off and our visibility is continuing to grow. It’s also exciting that we’re gaining new fans of our sport.”

Likely to make her first Olympic squad next year the experience is bound to grow her brand further.

With six games remaining beginning Saturday at home against the Atlanta Dream in a game that will be televised nationally on NBA-TV at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time, the Sky trail the Indiana Fever by two games in the race for second place and the coveted home-court advantage in the opening round that goes with it in the playoffs. The Sky have swept the season series from the Fever this season.

While home court would be a welcomed luxury for the Sky, it can draw on the experience of last season when it advanced to the WNBA Finals as the No. 4 seed without home court in the Eastern Conference.

The battle-tested Sky have won three of their last four games as Allie Quigley and Cappie Pondexter hit game winning shots in less than 48 hours to help Chicago sweep a weekend set from Washington.

“We want homecourt and we know it’s really huge to try and get it,” Delle Donne said. “But at the end of the day, however the cards play out; we’re going to be ready.

"Games like (Washington) are fun especially when you can come out on top. We are focused on winning every single game from here on out.”

If Delle Donne continues producing spectacular numbers during the Sky’s upcoming journey, enjoy it.

Just don’t expect Delle Donne to make a big fuss about them.

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad

WNBA: Suddenly Connecticut Living the Dream Thanks to Atlanta in the Slide for Stewie Race

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

We extended the week in review for our Slide for Stewie Standings by one day since Tuesday morning’s Connecticut-Atlanta game was the only one on the entire WNBA slate and both teams are factors as the Eastern lottery leaders in terms of having a shot at landing UConn senior Breanna Stewart, the grand prize in next April’s draft.

Again, the ongoing reminder that if you haven’t read any of the previous installments just go back to the first one – this is week four – to get the idea of what everything means.

Since the bottom two teams in the East are sorting themselves out in the next week or so we will revise the metrics listings below.

When the Connecticut Sun got off to that runaway start back in early June to belie the preseason doom and gloom predictions built on a slew of injuries, the Sun’s any kind of shot at the Huskies star seemed out the window.

But the injuries kept coming and in the past week after losing one game in overtime to the Tulsa Shock and getting swept Sunday and Tuesday by the other lotto-bound team most likely in the East in the Atlanta Dream the Sun/UConn faithful wishes have gained traction, especially with the new system adding the last two seasons, including this one, to get to the pecking order for better odds off bad won-loss records.

Indeed, once the four lottery teams are sealed we may have to go back and see what games last year with narrow outcomes effected the order.

The San Antonio Silver stars also had a big week losing all three games, none close, to go up a half-game on the Seattle Storm for worst overall record.

Connecticut with a pair of otherwise wins could have reversed direction and moved close to the fourth spot occupied by the Washington Mystics, who after completing a sweep of Western frontrunner Minnesota that had this week’s game played in the Midwest, they managed to lose a pair of games to the Chicago Sky in the final seconds.

While Atlanta and Connecticut have begun to separate themselves backwards – the Dream have begun to win recently but are living off the ragged play they took into the All-Star break – it is a 3-for-2 affair in the West for the lottery or the playoffs depending on your choosing since the Los Angeles Sparks have been unable to totally right the ship after the return of Candace Parker and Alana Beard.

Los Angeles is three games in front of fifth-place Seattle. However, expect the Sparks to win in spite of themselves with a better pace than the Texans and Storm over the final three weeks.

Once we revamp the listings below, since we had the entire East in the lotto hunt, some of the groupings will be retained below to see what key moments translated into seed positions.

The Indiana Fever are red hot right now and it could go to the final game of the season between them and the front running New York Liberty to determine the top two seeds in the East and if any falter, if Chicago or Washington put together run the top of the heap in the East will be as exciting to watch as our Sliding for Stewie race.

And out West after dominating the top spot the Minnesota Lynx has been in a slide with the defending champion Phoenix Mercury drawing closer in second place.

And are shaking off a 10-game slide the Dallas-bound Tulsa Shock are just a few magic numbers away from making their first playoff appearance since the franchise moved from Detroit, where it won three WNBA titles in its previous incarnation.

Now, here are the numbers for this week.

Slide For Stewie Standings
(Thru Tue., Aug. 25)

Team L W *-GBO *-GBL, MNL

San Ant. 21 7 -- -- 3
Seattle 20 7 0.5 -- 4
#Los Angeles 17 10 3.5 3.0
Atlanta 16 11 4.5 -- 4
Conn. 15 12 5.5- -- 3
#Washington 11 15 9.0 3.5
Chicago 11 17 10.0 4.5
Indiana 9 17 11 5.5
New York 8 18 12 6.5

*- GBO is Overall Games Behind Worst Record. GBL is Games Behind Lottery Slot, MNL is Magic Number to Clinch Lottery
#-Top Team Below Lottery Cut in Each Division

Results Five Points Or Less
Most Recent at Top
!-Games Against Other Lottery Contenders

!Indiana 80, New York 79
!Chicago 66, Washington 64
!Chicago 87, Washington 85
Tulsa 84, Conn. 76, ovt.
Minnesota 84, Atlanta 82
!-Washington 66, San Antonio 63
!-Chicago 71, Washington 68
!-Los Angeles 80, San Antonio 78
Phoenix 71, Atlanta 68
!-Connecticut 67, Seattle 66
Phoenix 89, Chicago 87, ovt.
Connecticut 78, Minnesota 77
!-Indiana 75, Connecticut 73
New York 81, Seattle 77
!-Chicago 97, Atlanta 92
Los Angeles 75, Phoenix 70
!-Atlanta 76, Los Angeles 72
Indiana 83, Tulsa 80
!-New York 79, Washington 76
New York 75, Phoenix 73
Phoenix 94, New York 91
Los Angeles 98, Tulsa 93
!-Chicago 77, Connecticut 74
Tulsa 93, Seattle 89
!-San Antonio 73, Seattle 71
!-Atlanta 72, Washington 79
!-Connecticut 80, Los Angeles 76
San Antonio 76, Phoenix 71
!-Chicago 100, Atlanta 96
!-Washington 84, Los Angeles 80
!-Atlanta 74, Chicago 73
!-Atlanta 64, Washington 61
Indiana 77, Phoenix 74
!-Connecticut 67, Chicago 65
!-Atlanta 72, San Antonio 69
!-Connecticut 75, Atlanta 70
!-Washington 67, New York 62
!-Washington 73, Connecticut 68
Phoenix 76, San Antonio 71

Reverse Overall Performance in Close Games

Team L W

Seattle 4-0
San Antonio 4-2
Los Angeles 4-3
Washington 6-4
Atlanta 6-5
Connecticut 4-3
New York 2-3
Chicago 3-6
Indiana 0-4

Reverse Close Game Performance Against Other Lottery Contenders

Team L W

Washington 4-3
Seattle 3-0
San Antonio 3-1
Los Angeles 3-1
Connecticut 3-3
Atlanta 3-5
Chicago 2-4
New York 1-1
Indiana 0-1

Reverse Overall Performance Against Other Lottery Contenders

Team L W
San Antonio 13-5
Connecticut 13-9
Los Angeles 12-6
Seattle 11-7
Atlanta 11-10
Washington 9-11
Indiana 9-12
Chicago 9-15
New York 5-14

That’s it for now.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

WNBA: Ageless Wonder DeLisha Milton-Jones About to Set a WNBA Record for the Ages

By Rob Knox @knoxrob1

DeLisha Milton-Jones is a walking encyclopedic history of the WNBA.

The 40-year-old veteran forward has spanned generations and is still going strong for the Atlanta Dream.

She’s a link to the WNBA’s past, present and future.

Milton-Jones is on the precipice of a major milestone, one that may stand for a long time when she takes the floor Tuesday morning against Connecticut and Friday night in Indiana.

Milton-Jones will tie and eventually pass Tina Thompson for the most games participaed by a player in WNBA history.

She played in her 495th career contest during Sunday’s 102-92 victory over the Connecticut. Thompson played in 496 games during her marvelous career.

“I get a lot of joy of saying to people that I played with Lisa Leslie, Candace Parker and Dawn Staley,” Milton-Jones said during an interview in June when the Dream visited the Verizon Center. “Usually people would shy away from that because it would show your age, but for me, it shows my entire maturation process and tells the story of my longevity in this league, which I am proud of.”

The affable Milton-Jones is a timeless treasure of athleticism, tenacity, grace and beauty.

That she’s been able to survive in the WNBA says plenty about Milton-Jones, a 1999 first-round draft pick who appeared in the movie “Love and Basketball.”

It’s a mark that should be celebrated. Milton-Jones has seen the league expand from eight teams to 16 to its current state of 12 squads.

During her career, she competed against defunct WNBA franchises: the Houston Comets, Orlando Miracle, Miami Sol, Charlotte Sting and Utah Starzz.

Milton-Jones has witnessed the growth of the WNBA from the birth of the Internet to the social and digital media age.

She has thrived despite suffering some major injuries like a ruptured Achilles’ tendon during her career.

She has been a valuable performer her entire career despite that there are fewer jobs and more talented players and bright stars in the WNBA such as Elena Delle Donne, Maya Moore, Tina Charles, Skylar Diggins, Brittany Griner and Emma Meesseman.

“It’s gotten younger,” Milton-Jones said of the WNBA. “You see the future is further down the road.

"When I came in the average age was 30 and we were wondering how long the league would survive because at the time there were a lot of these folks who were in their prime or ready to retire.

"Now, that the talent has risen, the ability to score has gotten better and there have been more oohs and ahhs from the crowd.”

Milton-Jones has prospered because she was diligent as a youngster in taking advice from Lisa Leslie, who will be inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame next month.

“She was the one who took me under her wing,” Milton-Jones said. “Lisa always gave me little gems of wisdom that helped me become the player I am today.

"I learned a lot about being a professional from Lisa and even more so how to be a lady on and off the court. She was all about wearing the lip gloss, lip stick and makeup during games, but that didn’t stop her from being a fierce competitor.”

She also learned another stern lesson while rooming with Leslie.

“Being a rookie, I thought I was going to go to the mall like everybody else after shootaround and Lisa was like no, you’re going to order room service, close those blinds and you’re going to sleep,” Milton-Jones said.

“I would lie in my bed in the dark with my eyes open listening to her breathe. She put the fear factor in me, but I appreciate it because she solidified my way of thinking and functioning as a professional.”

Milton-Jones has accomplished everything one can possibly achieve as a professional athlete.

She helped the Los Angeles Sparks win back-to-back WNBA championships in 2001 and 2002.

A two-time WNBA All-Star and Olympic gold medalist, Milton-Jones is one of five WNBA players all-time with over 5,000 points and 2,400 rebounds.

Quite naturally, Milton-Jones is among the top ten in league history in field goals made (sixth), rebounding (sixth), steals (fifth) and points (tied for ninth).

Another one of Milton-Jones secrets has been also taking care of her body.

“It can be pricy,” Milton-Jones said. “Some people spend their money on designer bags and shoes, but I spend my money on eating very good food, getting daily messages and visiting the chiropractor three times a week.

"I also listen to Kobe Bryant and watch him do some of the things he does. I also talk to his trainer. When I was at the Staples Center, I would make sure I was in his locker to see if he left any paperwork around. I was like if ‘Kobe ordered his food from here then I’m getting my food from there too.'”

Chicago Sky coach Pokey Chatman remembers Milton-Jones from her days at the University of Florida as a dominant post performer.

“As she got into the WNBA, she started adding different parts to her game,” Chatman said. “DeLisha figured out the mental and nutritional side of the game as well. She was into clean eating way before it was popular. She’s a competitor and at the end of the day, I want her in my foxhole because she’s a fighter.”

Milton-Jones has also been a winner off the floor as well by donating her time to spend with children at the Ronald McDonald House and working with the humane society. She’s also an advocate for battered women and children.

She is also a motivational speaker, mentor, wife and mother.

She has no plans of hanging up her high tops anytime soon.

“It’s funny people always say well ‘when is she going to leave,” Milton-Jones said. “If I am still able-bodied and an asset to a team, then why not play if somebody offers me a contract? I get a lot of enjoyment out of taking care of myself. I am going to leave when I am ready.”

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad

Monday, August 24, 2015

WNBA: Narrow Outcomes Marked Key Games Over the Weekend

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

On one hand there is a lot to be done in the stretch drive before the WNBA’s regular season comes to an end and the fates of its 12 teams are determined though it is only a short distance of anywhere from six to eight games to the final buzzer.

On the other hand, when those fates are determined, a look back to this past week particularly Friday night in such places as here in New York at Madison Square Garden and Sunday here in Washington at the Verizon Center may be the signature moments that made the difference between seed positions in the playoffs and also whether or not teams could continue on or pony up to the draft lottery bar and await the drop of the ping pong balls in the lottery to determine the grand prize of next April –University of Connecticut senior Breanna Stewart.

Ah, but on Mondays starting earlier this month we have a specific focus on that race with our Slide fort Stewie standings.

That will come 24 hours form now this week since no games will be played on Monday, which is usually the case.

Instead, let’s get on the upper side and look at exactly what happened in terms of the race for the playoffs, though some aside here will still be mentioned toward the lottery picks.

In our Slide for Stewie discussion we particularly look at games that came down to the final moments to set a team’s course.

How much damage or enhancement won’t be until next month’s final standings but there were four such games during the past week.

The first doesn’t read split second in the final outcome but the fact that it took overtime is just as well as Tulsa, which had been struggling, sent the Connecticut Sun perhaps on the way to its third street lottery while the Shock moved close to clinching its first postseason slot and not a moment too soon for Tulsa fans considering this is their last chance to watch an extended season since the team is headed to Dallas, Texas, next time around.

In the final outcome of the Shock’s 84-76 win Friday night, Connecticut lost former Penn State star Alex Bentley with an injury.

It’s not another season-ender on the forlorn Sun but it factored in losing to another likely-lottery bound team Sunday when the Atlanta Dream, about to see its playoff appearance snapped, temporarily avoided its plunge with a 102-92 victory and will get another shot in a few days at Connecticut in Georgia.

Atlanta came into the game having squandered a second-half nine-point lead here in New York to enable the Eastern-leading Liberty on Friday take a 78-67 win to follow up on Wednesday’s 73-45 road win over the San Antonio Silver Stars, which across the week dropped three straight to drop to the worst overall record in the league by a half-game with its 7-21 mark in the bottom of the Western Conference.

“This was a playoff test and we passed,” Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer proclaimed. “They’re a desperate team and they needed to win this game tonight.”

Atlanta’s Sunday win puts the Dream at 10-16, but at five games behind fourth-place Washington, the magic number for elimination from the postseason is four.

Connecticut at 12-14 is three games behind the last playoff slot and its magic elimination number is five considering Washington already has the season series.

Atlanta’s shot will be long in determines if Stewart because a rule change enacted a few weeks ago, though actually approved way earlier, calls for a lottery team’s two-year record to determine the best odds in the ping pong ball drop.

Atlanta, having been a playoff team last year, will be fourth in terms of best chances because of that.

Connecticut trails Western basement clubs San Antonio and the Seattle Storm by five and four losses respectively so the the Sun are on the verge of elimination from worst record for this year and if it comes up short in the lottery hunt, blame the hot start at the beginning of the season from preventing it from overtaking the Stars and Storm.

The Friday night New York/Connecticut fates put the Liberty within four of gaining its first postseason slot in three seasons but the advance was halted in another photo finish on Sunday in Indiana Fever where the red hot Fever edged the New Yorkers 80-79 to move to within a game of the Eastern lead.

The Liberty’s magic number still dropped one more to three off the Connecticut loss while Indiana, which completed its first three-game road West sweep of Seattle, Phoenix and Los Angeles made it four straight and at the moment, first-year coach Stephanie White, a previous assistant in Indiana to retired coach Lin Dunn, is the frontrunner for coach of the year, though Laimbeer remains in that horse race.

Earlier this week, Indiana won at Los Angeles 79-68 and then dropped Seattle 75-63.

Washington could be sitting right with Indiana but after completing a sweep of Minnesota, still owning the league’s top record, on Wednesday with a road win over the Lynx, the Mystics lost on a buzzer beater by former DePaul star Allie Quigley Friday night, a final possession caused by a questionable call in favor of the Sky.

Then Cappie Pondexter here on Sunday netted a shot just before the finish in a game in which Elena Delle Donne on the Sky came up with another double double to give the Sky a 17-11 mark two games behind New York while Washington is now 15-11 three games behind New York and one and two behind Indiana and Chicago, respectively.

Phoenix got the best of Minnesota on Sunday but the defending champion Mercury could have gained more capital to repeat at the top of the regular season West had not the they lost to Los Angeles 78-68 on Friday night.

For the Sparks, involved in a three-game taffy pull at the bottom of the West with San Antonio and Seattle, they are 10-17, three games in front of the other two and holding a magic number of five to land in the postseason.

Minnesota, if it came right its struggling ship of late, holds a magic number of five to finish first in the West.

And that concludes the deal for everyone in the race for postseason glory. As for postseason draft success, come back late Monday night for this week’s Stewie standings installment.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad

WNBA: Washington Suffers Another Loss at the Wire to Chicago

By ROB KNOX (@knoxrob1)

In the legendary words of Yogi Berra, “it was déjà vu all over again” for the Chicago Sky and Washington Mystics at the Verizon Center in a key Eastern Conference clash Sunday afternoon.

For the second time in less than 48 hours, the Sky and Mystics battled each other in a game that was decided in the final 10 seconds.

Once again, it was the Sky that was able to apply the finishing touch as Cappie Pondexter scored with 6.7 seconds remaining to lift Chicago to a thrilling 66-64 victory over Washington.

The Sky won the season series, 4-1, and that figure could’ve easily been reversed as the last three games between each squad were decided late.

In Friday’s contest, Allie Quigley sank a 3-pointer with 2.1 seconds left that proved to be the difference.

Following the two weekend victories, the Sky (17-11 overall) leapfrogged the Mystics (15-11) in the Eastern Conference standings and into third place.

“As beautiful of a game that Friday was for fans to watch playoff type basketball, today was reasonably ugly,” Washington head coach Mike Thibault said. “You shoot 33 percent, you turn it over 18 times; probably can’t expect to win and yet we had a chance.

"Cappie made a great shot, we screwed up the defensive part of that but she made a great play. Give them credit.”

While Sunday’s game didn’t feature the high scoring of Friday’s 87-85 Sky victory, it was just as intense and exciting despite the multitude of missed shots.

The Mystics rallied from an 11-point second quarter deficit, held their own in the rebounding battle and tied the game when Kara Lawson sank a 3-pointer from the wing with 28 seconds remaining that brought the crowd out of its seats.

Of course Lawson’s triple, which was reviewed by replay, set the stage for the veteran Pondexter to make the decisive drive of the contest.

Pondexter was asked if the final shot was something that was drawn up by Chicago head coach Pokey Chatman or was it something she saw while on the court.

“It was a combination of both,” Pondexter said. “She wanted the ball in my hands. [Tierra] Ruffin-Pratt opened the lane up and there was no help because we have so many great shooters.

"Allie [Quigley] and Elena Delle Donne were lifted so it is kind of hard to scout that or pick and choose who you want to help on so it was a great call by coach and I am just thankful to God to be healthy enough to make the play.”

Pondexter, one of two Rutgers standouts on the squad, finished with nine points, six below her average.

Delle Donne was her usual solid self despite a tough 7-for-22 shooting performance.

She finished with her WNBA-leading 10th double-double (18 points, 10 rebounds) and four blocked shots. Quigley delivered 15 points off the bench for the Sky, which also got 10 points from center Clarissa Dos Santos.

“This is a tough matchup because the Mystics are very talented team,” Delle Donne said. “I feel like we picked it up defensively when we needed to and that helped us tonight.”

Though the Mystics continued tempting fate by not making a field goal for at least the first three minutes of each quarter, they battled and refused to fold when things weren’t going well.

In the second quarter, the Mystics didn’t make their first field goal until 6:53 into the quarter. Yet, they trailed 35-33 at intermission thanks to an 11-2 run to close the half.

After the Sky scored the first six points of the fourth quarter to grab a 57-50 edge, the Mystics responded with nine straight points to take a 59-57 advantage with 3:13 remaining.

The Sky remained together during the Mystics run despite missing six shots, committing two turnovers and going scoreless for over three minutes of the final period.

“That is something we have kind of struggled with throughout the season when a team makes their run at home, we did not fight back hard enough and I think that with so many games behind us, we are learning now,” Pondexter said. “They made their punches, which is what basketball is all about and I think all 12 of us were tough. We fought back and this is an important win for us.”

Lawson scored a game-high 19 points for Washington. Ivory Latta added 15 points off the bench and Emma Meesseman scored 12 points and grabbed a team-best seven rebounds.

Lawson gave the Mystics their first lead of the game, 43-42 with 5:09 remaining in the third quarter.

“I think you just have to credit them,” Lawson said. “They made one more play than us in both games. One when they were down one and now with the score tied.

"That’s an area for growth for us right now, executing defensively in a possession game down the stretch, communicating. They’re a difficult team to defend because they spread you out and they put you in difficult positions as the defense because they surround the whole court with shooters. We learned some things that we have to be better with going down the stretch.”

Both teams will enjoy a few days off before returning to the court.

The Mystics play their next four games against Western Conference opponents beginning Friday when they host the reigning WNBA champion Phoenix Mercury at 7:00 p.m. The Sky host the Atlanta Dream Saturday night, also at 7:00 p.m.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

WNBA: Former Maryland Star Marissa Coleman Gains Confidence From Indiana Coach

By Rob Knox @knoxrob1

Marissa Coleman is home in the heartland.

It’s taken some time, tears and toughness, but Coleman has found a comfort zone that has the veteran Indiana Fever guard among the elite players in the league, a place she always believed she belonged. Her recent selection to the WNBA All-Star presented by Boost Mobile confirmed that status.

“From day one when I signed here, the conversations coach (Stephanie White) and I shared instilled immediate confidence in me,” Coleman said last week before the Fever defeated the Mystics, 73-62 at the Verizon Center.

“She told me that you can be an All-Star in this league. I have confidence and we have confidence in you. That goes a long way. Being selected to the All-Star team meant a lot to me. Now, finally being removed from everything and being able to put it in perspective, it meant more to me than any individual award and honor I’ve ever received.”

Coleman’s swagger is soaring as the Fever are making a strong playoff push, having won 11 of their last 14 games heading into Tuesday’s contest in Los Angeles. They are tied in the congested Eastern Conference standings with Washington for second place, two games behind New York. Both the Fever and Mystics have identical 14-9 records.

A native of Germantown (Md.), who helped Maryland win a national championship in 2006, Coleman was drafted second overall in 2009 by her hometown team, the Washington Mystics. On paper it was a match made in heaven. She was going to lead the Mystics to WNBA glory.

Unfortunately, Coleman never found her groove in D.C. despite scoring 16 points in her WNBA debut. She was traded to Los Angeles in 2011 where she was a role player and enjoyed a few memorable moments.

“I am a firm believer in everything happens for a reason and those years in D.C. and Los Angeles where I struggled were leading to this point,” Coleman said. “They taught me a lot about myself, persevering, hard work and sticking with things.

As she spoke about her journey from first-round draft pick to All-Star, Coleman was relaxed as she sat on the courtside black leather chairs.

“It’s been such a roller-coaster ride in this league for me,” Coleman said. “If you would’ve asked me on draft day 2009, I would’ve been an all-star multiple times by now. There was some extreme frustration with myself and tears after games. To finally make an all-star in my seventh year is probably most special to me.”

Despite those tough moments, Coleman never stopped believing.

She continued improving waiting for her opportunity to torture opposing defenses. She was used more as a spot-up shooter in Los Angeles, but in Indiana, Coleman is showcasing all facets of her beautiful game: The deadly jumper, explosive drives to the basket and tenacious rebounding.

“It was more disappointment and frustration than anything for me,” Coleman said. “That was the most upsetting thing for me knowing that I was capable of playing at a high level and I wasn’t reaching those personal expectations.

"Forget the expectations that everybody else had for myself. I always have higher expectations for myself than anybody can put on me. That was most disappointing knowing I was capable of so much more and I wasn’t showing that.”

All it took was the right fit and perfect coach. Now, Coleman is shining this season for the Fever. The durable Coleman is a versatile combo guard who can score, defend, push tempo and shoot the 3-pointer. She has bolstered the Indiana backcourt with size, strength, versatility and timely shooting.

After setting a new career-high with 9.1 points per game during the 2014 season, Coleman has been better this year, scoring in double figures in 15 of Indiana’s 23 games, including a career-high 25 points in the win over San Antonio. She ranks 20th in the WNBA in scoring (12.8 ppg) and 11th in three-point percentage, shooting 37.8 percent from deep.

“I knew I was going to have the chance to get to where I finally wanted to be in my career with the confidence that everybody in the organization had in me,” Coleman said. “I had a solid year last year. Coming into the season, I knew that coach White had high expectations for me and was going to let me go out play my game and have fun.

“I don’t think people realize that being surrounded in a situation where people have confidence in you how much that does for your game. You can just go out there and have fun and not worry about making mistakes, missing shots because you know matter what from top to bottom the people around you have your back and that does a lot for a player in any sport.”

Indiana’s season has mirrored Coleman’s career. A slow start losing its first three games and dropping four of its first five games before turning things around. Coleman is now a key part of the Fever’s relentless attack. Indiana has a steely toughness that has served it well this season.

The Fever has endured all types of travel inconveniences this season such as being stuck on a tarmac in a hot plane for almost two hours where players took off shirts in an effort to stay cool.

They were stranded in the Reagan National Airport for five hours. The latter forced a rare postponement of a game when the Fever couldn’t catch an alternative flight that would have gotten them to Connecticut in time for that night’s game.

“The travel has been horrendous,” Coleman said with a laugh. “It’s been tough and we talk about it amongst ourselves, but this group has handled it so well. Some teams would complain and we just made the best of delayed flights. Being stuck at the airport just gave us a chance to enjoy each other’s company.”

That closeness shows on the court as well. While Tamika Catchings is the undisputed leader of the Fever, everybody has made contributions during their recent hot stretch.

Briann January is one of the best defenders in the WNBA.

During their win over Phoenix on Sunday, Lynetta Kizer, another Terrapin standout, scored a career-high 19 points. Demonstrating their toughness, the Fever defeated the reigning champions on the road despite missing both centers and having starting guard Shenise Johnson receive four stitches.

Coleman and the Fever are pumped for the stretch run.

“It’s going to be tough,” Coleman said. “It makes for a fun rest of second half. We’re going to grind it out and see how the standings shake out at the end of the regular season. We’re just trying to be consistent and play together as a team. Then we’ll see what happens during the playoffs.”

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Monday, August 17, 2015

WNBA: Slide for Stewie Race Got Even Tighter Among Top Contenders

Guru’s note: The following post and ensuing posts to come on the topic are offered for entertainment purposes only and written tongue in cheek because, well, because the subject exists and so for those poised to look at things that way, this running commentary between now and the final standings are offered as an aid.

By Mel Greenberg

Welcome to week number three of the Slide for Stewie race in which we go in the other direction from watching the playoff hunt to watching how the race for the four draft lottery positions is going, considering this is another stellar year – not so much in plentiful – but one in which the grand prize of the number one pick will offer the opportunity to select UConn senior Breanna Stewart from the same program that has had such number one picks to yield in the past as Sue Bird (pre-lottery), Diana Taurasi, Maya Moore and Tina Charles.

Remember in this exercise everything is done in reverse so our standings charts below lists losses first and then wins since the losses are more important here.

And in each one of these posts, we make the statement here of rather than repeat the entire explanation for the tables below, if you are viewing this topic for the first time, then just go to the first week’s introductory coverage.

While Stewie seems the single focus on the next lottery, there’s always a chance some other star in college or overseas will breakout and become a high value to add to the mix like the multiple three pack of 2013 that produced Brittney Griner, Elena Delle Donne and Skylar Diggins who went 1-2-3 respectively from Baylor to the Phoenix Mercury, Delaware to the Chicago Sky, and Notre Dame to the Tulsa Shock, once known as the Detroit Shock and beginning next season will be the Dallas (nickname retention or new to be determined).

Although much suspense exists on the playoff end of the standings, the tightness of three bottom teams in the Western Conference and differential of the entire Eastern Conference keeps it all interesting though New York seems to making some separation from the top in the East.

Still, the Liberty are one or two key injuries or a slump away from suddenly sliding to the differential from a fourth place playoff spot or an official contestant for Stewie night coming soon after the season is over in terms of announcing how the order will go.

Once teams we’ve been looking at happen to land in the playoffs, the data below will be revised and also if need be, besides looking at how much impact games decided by five points or less had we will also revisit the schedules to add games that were influential through rallies from deep deficits to swing the outcome the other way.
In the past week out of fifteen games involving the nine teams in our lottery hunt only one, Atlanta’s 84-82 home loss to Western leader Minnesota Friday night, produced a narrow outcome though several others did have rallies per se.

The Seattle Storm, which was running away to get the best odds for fate’s blessing when the ping pong balls do their thing, played four overall games, three against others in the hunt, and went 2-2 on the week and 1-2 in the lotto group, where the San Antonio Silver Stars’ 2-0 rack up of losses, including one to the Storm Sunday night, enabled the Texans to draw closer.

Tulsa with its 10-game losing streak was starting to knock on the lottery door but applied the breaks Saturday in New York with a win over the Liberty.

The Los Angeles Sparks went 1-1 in both categories, enough for the moment to stay out of the lottery by 1.5 games.

Atlanta seems probable after a playoff appearance streak to end that run and the Dream are 4.5 games behind Seattle to gain better odds when the lottery show begins.

The Connecticut Sun went 2-1 overall loss vs. wins and 2-0 in the pack to drop a bit deeper on the lottery trail away from the postseason while Chicago went 2-1. New York at 1-2 and 0-2 followed by Indiana’s 0-2 moved both teams closer to the playoffs instead of getting in the lottery mix.

Looking at the week ahead, on Tuesday, Indiana visits Los Angeles, on Wednesday, Washington will be after a sweep of Minnesota following Sunday’s home win over the Lynx, while New York is in San Antonio.

On Friday, Atlanta is at New York, Washington is at Chicago, and Indiana is at Seattle while on Sunday, Chicago visits Washington, Los Angeles is at San Antonio, Atlanta is at Connecticut, and New York is at Indianapolis.

With all that said, here are the weekly lottery standings updates.

Slide For Stewie Standings
(Thru Sun., Aug. 16)

Team L W *-GBO *-GBL

Seattle 19 7 -- --
San Ant. 18 7 0.5 --
#Los Angeles 16 8 2.0 1.5
Atlanta 15 12 4.5 --
Conn. 12 12 6.0 -- --
#Chicago 11 15 8.0 2.0
Washington 9 14 8.5 2.5
Indiana 9 14 8.5 2.5
New York 7 16 10.5 4.5

*- GBO is Overall Games Behind Worst Record. GBL is Games Behind Lottery Slot
#-Top Team Below Lottery Cut in Each Division

Results Five Points Or Less
Most Recent at Top
!-Games Against Other Lottery Contenders

Minnesota 84, Atlanta 82
!-Washington 66, San Antonio 63
!-Chicago 71, Washington 68
!-Los Angeles 80, San Antonio 78
Phoenix 71, Atlanta 68
!-Connecticut 67, Seattle 66
Phoenix 89, Chicago 87, ovt.
Connecticut 78, Minnesota 77
!-Indiana 75, Connecticut 73
New York 81, Seattle 77
!-Chicago 97, Atlanta 92
Los Angeles 75, Phoenix 70
!-Atlanta 76, Los Angeles 72
Indiana 83, Tulsa 80
!-New York 79, Washington 76
New York 75, Phoenix 73
Phoenix 94, New York 91
Los Angeles 98, Tulsa 93
!-Chicago 77, Connecticut 74
Tulsa 93, Seattle 89
!-San Antonio 73, Seattle 71
!-Atlanta 72, Washington 79
!-Connecticut 80, Los Angeles 76
San Antonio 76, Phoenix 71
!-Chicago 100, Atlanta 96
!-Washington 84, Los Angeles 80
!-Atlanta 74, Chicago 73
!-Atlanta 64, Washington 61
Indiana 77, Phoenix 74
!-Connecticut 67, Chicago 65
!-Atlanta 72, San Antonio 69
!-Connecticut 75, Atlanta 70
!-Washington 67, New York 62
!-Washington 73, Connecticut 68
Phoenix 76, San Antonio 71

Reverse Overall Performance in Close Games

Team L W

Seattle 4-0
Los Angeles 4-3
San Antonio 4-2
Atlanta 6-5
Washington 4-4
Connecticut 3-3
Chicago 3-4
New York 1-3
Indiana 0-3

Reverse Close Game Performance Against Other Lottery Contenders

Team L W

Washington 4-3
Seattle 3-0
San Antonio 3-1
Los Angeles 3-1
Connecticut 3-3
Atlanta 3-5
Chicago 2-4
New York 1-1
Indiana 0-1

Reverse Overall Performance Against Other Lottery Contenders

Team L W
Los Angeles 11-4
San Antonio 11-5
Seattle 10-7
Atlanta 10-8
Indiana 9-9
Chicago 9-13
Connecticut 8-11
Washington 7-11
New York 4-13

That’s it for now.

-- Mel

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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

WNBA: Chelsea Gray Shining for Connecticut Sun After Conquering Doubt and Injury

by ROB KNOX (@knoxrob1)

Chelsea Gray underwent a temporary crisis of faith.

The confidence the affable 5 foot, 11 inch guard once played with as an elegant two-time All-American guard at Duke was as fractured as her right knee.

Suffering two debilitating season-ending knee injuries, as Gray did during her junior and senior years can do that. Even though she is a strong spiritual person, those unfortunate setbacks even forced Gray to have doubts.

She eventually conquered the distrust in herself believing something greater would come, despite two major knee surgeries in less than a year.

Patience and a strong support base paved the way to where she is today, an impact rookie with the Connecticut Sun.

“It’s great to be out on the floor, play and put on a uniform,” Gray said Sunday afternoon prior to the Sun’s 84-73 loss to the Mystics at the Verizon Center. “It’s a blessing. I am happy to be here. There was a lot of doubt in my head when I went down when I knew I wouldn’t be able to finish my senior year (at Duke) on the court. It broke me a little bit.”

The 22-year-old Gray is making a difference averaging 6.6 points and 2.7 assists per game.

She’s healthy, blessed and cherishes each moment she puts on the sacred blue-and-white Sun uniform. Her sterling performances this season have helped the Sun shine into one the pleasant surprises of the WNBA season.

The Sun are 12-10 overall, a game out of a possible playoff spot with 12 contests remaining following Wednesday’s 80-74 victory over Tulsa at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

They trail Indiana, Washington and Chicago, who are all in a three-way tie for second place in the spandex-tight Eastern Conference standings.

After hosting first-place New York Friday night, the Sun have an odd schedule, playing three of its next four games against Atlanta sandwiched around a road game at Tulsa over the next two weeks.

With all-stars Alex Bentley and Kelsey Bone leading the Sun in scoring this season, there’s been no additional pressure for Gray to be great. She’s been able to blend in and play her role as an energizer off the bench.

Gray has placed herself in the WNBA Rookie of the Year discussion with several consistently excellent efforts this season. She had a career-best seven assists against the Stars in an 82-51 win last week. In Wednesday’s win over the Shock, she scored six points and handed out four assists.

Gray is second among rookies in assists per game, second in three-point shooting percentage (.341) and fifth in scoring average. She is averaging 3.9 assists over her last 11 games.

“It’s great to see her back with everything she has been through and healthy again,” said Connecticut guard and former Duke star Jasmine Thomas. “Having a chance to show what she can do is great.

"She’s already a good rookie and she’s going to have a great career in this league. It’s just nice to see her compete again. Chelsea is a great teammate. She has real good court vision and is a playmaker. One of the best things about her is she’s always looking for the brightness in every situation.”

During a crucial West Coast swing earlier this season, Gray averaged 12.3 points with nine assists and eight steals in three games as the Sun swept the always tough Phoenix-Los Angeles-Seattle trifecta. Gray had her best game in a Sun uniform, finishing with career-highs of 16 points while making all four of her 3-pointers.

Those efforts were part of the Sun’s overall 8-1 start to the season where Gray had five double-digit scoring performances.

Watching Gray carve up defenders, thread pinpoint passes and make her teammates laugh with hilarious one-liners, one would never guess that she had trepidation about attending the 2014 WNBA Draft when she was invited to the party with no guarantees that she would hear her name uttered by commissioner Laurel J. Richie.

“When I heard my name called during the draft, I was like ‘oh my God’, this is a dream come true,” Gray said. “I finally I was able to come to training camp and this is what I’ve been dreaming about since I was a little girl.”

It turned out to be the best situation for Gray, who was able to spend a year focusing on getting healthy and her knee stronger without any pressure to play. Being away from the court not only gave Gray a greater appreciation of the sport she loves more than her favorite musician Maxwell, but helped her gain a mental edge that’s been a key to her success this season.

Gray was also able to adjust to the rigorous travel schedule and improve aspects of her overall game.

Proving that she was back was her overseas performance for Hapoel Rishon Le-Zion of Israel in which she averaged 20.5 points, 6.4 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 2.8 steals. The speed was back as was her swagger.

“I was able to slow down and not feel rushed to get back on the court,” Gray said. “I was able to focus on the little things that would get me back on the floor like bending my knee in certain positions or stop doing certain movements that were harmful to my knee. Being able to slow down, focus and not feel rushed was huge for me because I knew I had a lot of time to get back to the way I wanted to.”

Throughout her rehab and those dark moments when questions crept into Gray’s mind about whether she would ever play basketball at a high level, she surrounded herself around her awesome support system that included family and former teammates Tricia Liston and Haley Peters.

Gray’s journey to her achieving her dreams of being a professional women’s player may have featured a few unscheduled detours, but she never veered off-course even when things looked bleak. It’s a road that Gray is happy she traveled in hindsight.

“I would encourage people to follow your dreams no matter what,” Gray said. “There’s going to be adversity. The road isn’t always a clear path. There’s a lot of bumps and obstacles, but at the end of the finish line, you’ll be happy with the result.”

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WNBA: Catchings Leads Indiana to Key Road Win in Washington

By ROB KNOX (@knoxrob1)

Nobody would have blamed venerable Indiana Fever forward Tamika Catchings if she took Tuesday’s encounter against the Washington Mystics a little personal.

Instead, it was all business for Catchings, who scored 10 of her game-high 20 points in the fourth quarter to help the Fever claim a key 73-62 victory over the Mystics in another critical Eastern Conference clash at the Verizon Center.

With the win, the Fever (13-9 overall) created a three-way tie for second place with the Mystics (13-9) and Sky (14-10).

They all trail first-place New York (15-6) by 2.5 games. Connecticut (11-10) is lurking behind everybody in fifth place. The loss snapped Washington’s season-high five-game home court winning streak.

A monument of excellence in the twilight of her career, Catchings dazzled by making 9-of-18 shots from the floor and finishing with six rebounds to match Tina Thompson as the second-leading rebounder in WNBA history (3,070). She already is the league’s second-leading scorer and its all-time leader in steals and free throws.

Asked of tying Thompson on the league’s all-time rebounding chart, Catchings quipped, “I’m old. That’s what that means.”

The 36-year old All-Star added, “It’s important for me to go hard every time I step on the floor. It’s the way I play.”

Catchings’ performance was much better than the atypical one she experienced here on July 17 in a double-digit loss to the Mystics.

In that contest, Catchings was 0-for-7 from the field and scored two points. Catchings didn’t have anything to prove against the Mystics, but it was nice to enjoy a strong effort that resulted in a key road win.

“This game was not personal, for me,” Catchings said. “I looked at this game like a playoff game. As a team, we left here with a bad taste in our mouths the last time.

“We really wanted to come in and play well tonight especially after our last performance as a team and coming out and getting blown out. So it was really important not necessarily just me personally, but as a team it was really personal to come out and play the way we know we are capable of playing.”

Catchings had plenty of help from her buddies.

Former University of Maryland and Mystics star Marissa Coleman added 11 points for the Fever, as did offseason trade acquisition Shenise Johnson who scored in double figures for the 11th time in the past 12 games, coinciding with a streak that has seen the Fever win nine of 12.

Johnson, who also led the Fever with nine rebounds, was a difference maker in third quarter as Indiana gained the separation it needed to even the season series at 2-2 against the Mystics.

The energetic Johnson had six points, three rebounds and two assists all during a game-altering 16-2 third quarter burst that helped Indiana turn a 36-35 edge into a comfortable 52-37 bulge with 93 seconds remaining in the third quarter.

Though the Mystics closed the third quarter with seven straight points and trailed 52-44 heading into the final frame, they never whittled Indiana’s deficit under that margin, largely because Catchings couldn’t be stopped.

Indiana owned a 37-26 rebounding edge and erased a 12-point second quarter deficit to win for the fifth time in six games since the All-Star Break.

“I was just really proud of our team because it’s like a playoff atmosphere and every game is a battle,” Indiana head coach Stephanie White said. “For us, we came back and regrouped in the first and second half on the defensive end.

"We played with so much energy, got to the loose balls, made all the hustle plays, and then we were shot makers in the second half. I was really proud of the way our team came out and played and competed the entire ball game. Specifically our effort on both ends in the second half.”

For the Mystics, playing their fourth game in six games, they couldn’t maintain the momentum generated from a fast start that yielded a 29-17 advantage with 6:20 remaining in the second quarter. The Fever’s aggressive and trapping defense made life tough for the Mystics offense.

Tierra Ruffin-Pratt led the Mystics with 17 points on 8-of-12 shooting. Ivory Latta added 13 points and Tayler Hill delivered 12 points off the bench for the Mystics, who also got four blocked shots from LaToya Sanders. Kara Lawson saw action for the first time since the first half of the San Antonio game on July 31. She had been out with a bad back. Lawson scored five points in 13 minutes of action.

When asked how the Fever won, Washington head coach Mike Thibault didn’t hide his disappointment as he got right to the point.

“They bullied us better,” Thibault said. “From about a couple minutes into the third quarter until the early fourth they got every loose ball, they got offensive rebound, we got shoved around and if you want to play at the highest level you have to respond to that and I don’t think we did that quick enough to stop their run.

" We used a couple timeouts to try and stop their run but there has to be a will to stop it and it’s about them having a little more experience of being through it, it’s part of their mentality, and if you’re a team like them you basically foul on every play and see what gets called, and then it’s not a bad strategy.

" Some nights you get away with it and some nights you don’t but there are NBA teams that play that same way and if you’re going to play with those teams you have to be able to withstand that mentally and physically.”

The Mystics conclude their homestand Sunday afternoon when they host the Minnesota Lynx, the team with the best record in the WNBA. It will be the first of two straight games against the Lynx. Meanwhile, Indiana makes its annual west coast trek beginning with a stop in Phoenix to meet the reigning WNBA champions Sunday afternoon.

“We need to get away from the gym,” Latta said. “That’s what [Coach Thibault] said—get away from the gym. Go do something fun. Just get away from the game of basketball right now.

"What are we at, four or five games in seven days? That’s pretty tough. But we’re not going to make any excuses. When we come back to the gym we’re going to be ready and focused and get ready for a good team on Sunday in Minnesota.”

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Monday, August 10, 2015

WNBA: Sanders and Rest of Mystics Look to Keep Indiana a Safe Distance Away

By ROB KNOX (@knoxrob1)

The rollicking Verizon Center has been the place to be lately. It’s also where the wins have been for the Washington Mystics.

As they prepare to host the Indiana Fever Tuesday night in another key Eastern Conference matchup, the Mystics (13-8 overall) will try to open some breathing room in the congested standings.

Currently, the Mystics lead the Fever (12-9) by a game in the Eastern Conference.

This is the start of a critical four-game road swing for the Fever, who currently sit in fourth place in the Eastern Conference standings. With the top five teams in the East separated by just three games, Indiana can force a second-place tie by ending the Mystics five-game home win streak.

Not only would a win open a two-game cushion, it would also clinch another season series victory for the Mystics, who have already won two of the three meetings, including a 68-50 decision on July 17 that started their current five-game home court winning streak.

The Mystics understand the sense of urgency of taking care of business at home.

“We try to win every game, but there is an extra emphasis on winning games at home,” Washington’s LaToya Sanders said. “Playing here is our comfort zone. Having our fans behind us gives us comfort. Plus it’s just important for us to win at home.”

Washington is 8-3 at home this season, equaling its home win total from 2014.

During its five-game winning streak, the Mystics have won three games by double digits. Two of the victories were over Connecticut. The most impressive victory was the one over Indiana on July 17 as it may have saved the Mystics season.

They were 6-6 entering the game and dealing with a three-game losing streak. Emma Meesseman and Sanders scored 14 points apiece to lead the Mystics in the win.

Sanders also grabbed 10 rebounds for her only double-double of the season.

The Mystics held the Fever to six points in the third quarter. Meanwhile, Tamika Catchings scored two points and missed all seven of her shots in that game. All-Star Marissa Coleman, a one-time first round draft pick of the Mystics, led the Fever with 11 points.

“Both LaToya and Emma were very aggressive tonight and they’re both long and that’s a match up for Tamika, a little bit different from what she sees some nights,” Washington coach Mike Thibault said following that matchup. “We could match her length with ours and actually be able to be a little bit bigger. It’s nice to have two sets of younger legs going together then tag team a little bit.”

However, Sanders expects a different game Tuesday night. Both teams enter the contest off of wins. The Mystics beat Connecticut, 84-73 on Sunday behind the inside-outside combination of Stef Dolson (21 points) and Tayler Hill (20). The Fever blasted Atlanta, 106-77 last Friday behind Coleman’s 19 points.

“It’s going to be a tough game,” Sanders said. “We know it’ll probably be different than the last game we played against them. They have all their players now. We just have to focus and execute coaches’ game plan. If we do that, then we’ll have a good chance of winning.”

Sanders’ presence has been a blessing for the Mystics. Since joining the team in early July, the Mystics are 8-3 overall and she has been a defensive terror. She’s averaging 6.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.5 blocked shots in 19.5 minutes of play. She blocked a career-best six shots in a road win over Tulsa just before the All-Star break.

Meanwhile, the Fever have been rolling, winning eight of its last 10 games. Against the Dream, Indiana almost rewrote its record book. In scoring 100 or more points for the sixth time in franchise history, the Fever posted their second-highest scoring total in franchise history and the largest margin of victory this season. Indiana set franchise records as they made 40 free throws on 44 attempts.

Shenise Johnson added 15 points and a team-high seven rebounds in the win over the Dream. Johnson has now scored in double figures in six straight games and 10 of her last 11 appearances overall.

“I’m really proud of our energy and effort,” Fever coach Stephanie White following Friday’s contest. “I love that we had balanced scoring. I love that we had 27 points off of turnovers and 40 points in the paint. Certainly love that we were aggressive to the rim and got to the foul line as well. We needed this. It was a really good bounce back game for us and our players rose to the occasion.”

NOTES: Tamika Catchings will pass Tina Thompson (3,070 rebounds) as the No. 2 rebounder in WNBA history with just seven more rebounds. With just six more assists, Catchings will become the seventh player in WNBA history – and the first over 6-feet – with 1,400 career assists. Already the WNBA career leader in steals, Catchings needs just 13 steals to become the ONLY player in league history to reach 1,000.

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WNBA: Little Change in Slide for Stewie Standings Though New Procedure for Lotto Teams

Guru’s note: The following post and ensuing posts to come on the topic are offered for entertainment purposes only and written tongue in cheek because, well, because the subject exists and so for those poised to look at things that way, this running commentary between now and the final standings are offered as an aid.

By Mel Greenberg

Well it was a week of interesting developments since we posted the first in our series of the reverse race slide for Stewie, looking to see who has the best chance to land UConn star Breanna Stewart once the lottery participants and order are determined for next April’s WNBA draft.

Rather than repeat the entire explanation for the tables below, if you are viewing this topic for the first time, then just go to last week’s introductory coverage.

There are some things different this time than three years ago when three premium top picks were to be had. This time around only one such person exists now barring some stellar performance developments this winter among the senior collegiate class or news of potential WNBA talent existing overseas.

Coincidentally, one thing that did happen just two days after we began this satirical look is the league announced a change in how the order will be determined within the group.

The current in-season records still determine the participants so there is no need to adjust anything now – that will happen after all four teams – the two in each division – who do not make the playoffs drop into the pool.

But once all four are determined, then their overall records of the past two seasons will be combined to determine the odds.

When all is said and done, the luck of the drop of the ping pong balls will still ultimately determine the 1-4 except the team with the worst combined two-year record if not landing with the first or second pick will be guaranteed the third pick.

By the way there were no quotes within the league announcement on the new procedure but a source within the league told the Guru the alteration was voted on a while ago, should have been ratified since then and for whatever reason the home office decided to make the change public last week.

Two years ago Washington with the worst record but landing the fourth pick would have benefitted with the third pick, which would have landed Notre Dame star Skylar Diggins, who went to Tulsa.

This time, the worst guaranteed the third pick does not offer as great a prize but things can change.

Also, as we go, as soon as teams heading in the other direction toward the postseason get there, they will be dropped from this mix and there will be a re-adjustment, but for now the entire East is included because as great a renaissance season as the New York Liberty are having in the top spot as the Monday pause in the schedule arrives, they are still one bad streak or injury-hampering event from falling since only 3.5 games separate them from the fifth-place Connecticut Sun.

The oddity of the overall records right now continues to have the three bottom West teams ahead of everyone in the East but one of them will have to go into the playoffs and in the past seven days the with the return of former Tennessee All-American Candace Parker, the Los Angeles Sparks began to win a little and moved .5 games in front of the San Antonio Silver Stars toward the postseason.

Also, the Atlanta Dream continue to experience a nightmare and are more on a rebuilding lottery-bound mode then where they have been in recent seasons in the playoffs.

Eight games were played against each other within the lottery contenders and all were definitive in their outcomes except for Washington’s rally at home last Wednesday to grab a 66-63 win in the Verizon Center, which was the only game of five points or less any one them experienced.

If the season ended right now and the Stars landed Stewie we could point to that rally as influential since San Antonio fell below the playoff bar since our last report.

Also, we're also mindful that the season-injury to Diggins last month could continue to impair Tulsa and if the Shock fall closer to lottery land they will be added to the group.

For the week against each other – games against sure playoff teams are not counted for now in our exercise unless they involved outcomes of five points or less – in reverse loss-and-win, Los Angeles was 0-0 playing teams above the bar, Atlanta went 1-0, Seattle, the front-runner, went 1-0, San Antonio went 2-1, Chicago went 1-1, Connecticut went 1-2, New York went 0-1, Washington went 1-2, and Indiana went 1-1.

Next week we will sum the seven days with the overall loss-win in that period among the lottery group. For now, here are the updated numbers.

First comes the lotto hunt with the rightful normal standings records but with overall games behind the worst and games behind the lottery listed.

Slide For Stewie Standings
(Thru Sun., Aug. 9)

Team W L *-GBO *-GBL

Seattle 5 17 -- --
San Ant. 7 16 1.5 --
#Los Angeles 7 15 2.0 0.5
Atlanta 8 14 3.0 --
Conn. 11 10 6.5 -- --
#Indiana 12 9 7.5 1.0
Chicago 14 9 8.5 2.0
Washington 13 8 8.5 2.0
New York 14 6 10.0 3.5

*- GBO is Overall Games Behind Worst Record. GBL is Games Behind Lottery Slot
#-Top Team Below Lottery Cut in Each Division

Results Five Points Or Less
Most Recent at Top
!-Games Against Other Lottery Contenders

!-Washington 66, San Antonio 63
!-Chicago 71, Washington 68
!-Los Angeles 80, San Antonio 78
Phoenix 71, Atlanta 68
!-Connecticut 67, Seattle 66
Phoenix 89, Chicago 87, ovt.
Connecticut 78, Minnesota 77
!-Indiana 75, Connecticut 73
New York 81, Seattle 77
!-Chicago 97, Atlanta 92
Los Angeles 75, Phoenix 70
!-Atlanta 76, Los Angeles 72
Indiana 83, Tulsa 80
!-New York 79, Washington 76
New York 75, Phoenix 73
Phoenix 94, New York 91
Los Angeles 98, Tulsa 93
!-Chicago 77, Connecticut 74
Tulsa 93, Seattle 89
!-San Antonio 73, Seattle 71
!-Atlanta 72, Washington 79
!-Connecticut 80, Los Angeles 76
San Antonio 76, Phoenix 71
!-Chicago 100, Atlanta 96
!-Washington 84, Los Angeles 80
!-Atlanta 74, Chicago 73
!-Atlanta 64, Washington 61
Indiana 77, Phoenix 74
!-Connecticut 67, Chicago 65
!-Atlanta 72, San Antonio 69
!-Connecticut 75, Atlanta 70
!-Washington 67, New York 62
!-Washington 73, Connecticut 68
Phoenix 76, San Antonio 71

Reverse Overall Performance in Close Games

Team L W

Seattle 4-0
Los Angeles 4-3
San Antonio 4-2
Washington 4-4
Atlanta 4-5
Connecticut 3-3
Chicago 3-4
New York 1-3
Indiana 0-3

Reverse Close Game Performance Against Other Lottery Contenders

Team L W

Washington 4-3
Seattle 3-0
San Antonio 3-1
Los Angeles 3-1
Connecticut 3-3
Atlanta 3-5
Chicago 2-4
New York 1-1
Indiana 0-1

Reverse Overall Performance Against Other Lottery Contenders

Team L W
Los Angeles 10-3
San Antonio 10-5
Atlanta 10-7
Seattle 9-5
Indiana 9-8
Connecticut 8-9
Washington 7-10
Chicago 6-12
New York 4-11

That’s it for now.

-- Mel

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WNBA: Washington Tightens Defense to Earn Weekend Split With Connecticut

By Rob Knox @knoxrob1

After falling flat Friday against Connecticut on the road, the Mystics responded with a charged-up performance highlighted by three quarters of suffocating defense to claim an 84-73 victory in the back end of a home-and-home set at the Verizon Center Sunday afternoon in another critical Eastern Conference battle.

While each win is important, this one was significant for the Mystics, who clinched the season series over the Sun, 3-1.

They also regained their two-game cushion over the fifth-place Sun in the congested Eastern Conference standings.

Additionally, the Mystics extended their home court winning streak to five games by turning in a much better defensive effort than they did in Friday’s 86-72 setback to the Sun.

“We came out with energy this game,” Washington guard Tayler Hill said. “Last game we didn’t play defense, clearly. I don’t think it was anything special that they did.

"It was just on our half, not focused, and I think tonight we came out focused and we really emphasized that.”

Washington (13-8 overall) did plenty right. It shot 49 percent from the field, 84 percent from the foul line and outrebounded the Sun, 32-29.

Leading the Mystics charge was Stefanie Dolson, who scored a game-high 21 points, one shy of her career-high.

Dolson, who had been held to single-digit scoring in the last three Mystics games, went on to shoot 6-for-9 from the field and a career high 9-for-9 from the free throw line. It was the third time this season that Dolson scored at least 20 points.

She had plenty of help from Hill’s career-best 20 points. After a 1-for-6 effort Friday against Connecticut, Hill punished the Sun by shooting 7-for-10 from the field, 4-for-5 from three point range and 2-for-2 from the free throw line. Hill has hit for double figures for the third time since the All-Star break.

\\\Tierra Ruffin-Pratt added 12 points and Emma Meesseman chipped in with 11 markers for Washington, which led virtually the entire game, save for a 2-2 tie. Natasha Cloud led the Mystics with a career-high seven rebounds.

“Normally I retreat and try to protect the basket,” Cloud said when asked if she did anything differently to get a career-best rebounding total. “I am trying to get out of my college habits of being the point guard and retreat. Coach told us as guards, we need to stop being spectators on the perimeter. That’s where my mindset came from today.”

Really though the story of this game was the Mystics energy and defense.

Thibault made an adjustment in his coaching philosophy on Saturday that may have fueled the victory.

Normally, the Mystics usually watch a condensed version of their previous game. Saturday following their flight in which they also shared with the Sun, Thibault had his players watch the entire game of their loss to Connecticut.

The defensive effort on the Sun’s terrific tandem of Jasmine Thomas and Alex Bentley was dynamite. They burned the Mystics Friday night for a combined 46 points, with Bentley scoring a career-best 31 points.

Two days later, they were limited to 12 harmless points with 10 of them from Thomas during a 35-point fourth quarter for the Sun. Bentley’s only basket in the first quarter – a tough jumper while being double-teamed – was her 1,000th career point.

“We saw from the film that we weren’t pressing them or making them uncomfortable,” Cloud said. “(Jasmine and Alex) are great players and they’re going to get their points, but we needed to make them uncomfortable and earn everything. I think Friday, they felt comfortable and could do anything that they wanted. We wanted to pressure them today and if they were going to make shots, then they needed to be contested.”

As a team, Washington was great for three periods.

Connecticut scored 46 points in the first half on Friday night. It had 38 points at the end of the third quarter. It also shot a sizzling 53.8 percent in the win over the Mystics. It was a different story as the Sun made 34.3 percent of its shots.

While the win was nice for Thibault and the Mystics, he was slightly annoyed at Connecticut’s fourth quarter offensive outburst.

“We were revitalized till the fourth quarter,” Thibault said. “I’m really happy with the win. We did a lot of great things but giving up 35 in the fourth was a little scary but we took them out of their favorite stuff. We tried to get them to go to secondary stuff. I think for the most part we did a good job.”

Thomas was one of four Sun players to score in double figures. Kelsey Bone led the Sun with 19 points. Shekinna Stricklen added 16 points and Alyssa Thomas added her first double-double of the season (14 points, 11 rebounds).

After Alyssa Thomas tied the game at 2-2, the Mystics scored eight straight points. Even though the Sun closed to 12-10 following a Stricklen 3-pointer with 1:51 remaining in the first period, it never got comfortable or closer to the Mystics, who led 17-12 after the first quarter and 34-22 at intermission.

“Today we weren’t as organized on offense,” Jasmine Thomas said. “On Friday, we were all on the same page and had our own tempo. We dictated what we wanted to do on Friday whereas today whatever they made us do, we did. That was the only difference today.”

The Sun return home to host Tulsa on Wednesday and New York on Friday.

Connecticut still has three games remaining against the Liberty and two against Chicago and Atlanta each. The players aren’t in panic mode as they understand they have the pieces to capture a playoff spot.

“There’s 13 games and we have a chance,” Jasmine Thomas said. “We’re not counting ourselves out of anything. This was a big one for is and definitely made things a little difficult for us. Now we have to be that more focused going into every single game from here on out.”

Meanwhile, the Mystics continue their three-game homestand Tuesday night against Indiana. Washington has won two of three meetings over the Fever this season including a 68-50 conquest on July 17.

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Saturday, August 08, 2015

WNBA: All-Star Kayla McBride Has Adjusted Well in Her Second Pro Year With San Antonio

by ROB KNOX (@knoxrob1)

Being away from her sanctuary proved to be a blessing in disguise for San Antonio second year guard Kayla McBride.

While playing overseas in Hungary with UE Sopron, McBride suffered a season-ending injury. Despite being limited to 14 games, McBride was impactful, averaging16.9 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 27.4 minutes.

“That was hard for me,” McBride said following the Silver Stars’ 66-63 loss to Washington Wednesday night at the Verizon Center.

“I had to come home. It was the first time in my life where I hadn’t played basketball in a long time. I was going for about three years straight without a break. It gave me a mental break and put things in perspective for me.”

Though nobody likes being hurt, it helped ease her frustration earlier this season when she missed five games with a foot injury.

McBride hasn’t slowed down since returning. With a 14.2 point per game average, McBride leads the Silver Stars in scoring and is one of four players averaging double figures for her team.

The native of Erie (Pa.) shined at Notre Dame and was a central figure in one of the greatest eras in the Fighting Irish’s storied women’s basketball history.

Now, she’s doing the same thing in the WNBA as her recent selection to the All-Star Game confirmed.

At 23, McBride was the youngest All-Star in this year’s game. She had a blast in Connecticut, scoring 18 points to help her Western All-Stars claim a 117-112 victory.

McBride was always confident that one day she would be considered one of the elite women’s basketball players on the planet.

With a quick release complemented by robotic-like accuracy, McBride could probably beat Steph Curry in a few games of H-O-R-S-E.

“It was special,” McBride said when she was informed of her All-Star status. “I know I worked hard for it and making the all-star team was one of my goals coming into the league.

"Being able to go with one of my teammates (Danielle Robinson), meant a lot to me. It was a cool experience because everybody is in a pretty chill environment. It was a lot of fun to get to know each other off the court. To me, that was the coolest part of everything.”

Another change in McBride’s game this season was her off court preparation thanks to playing overseas last offseason.

“It’s is a lifestyle,” McBride said of her overseas experiences. “I mean how you eat, sleep and take care of your body. Coming out of college where things are set up for you; you have to take responsibility in your own hands for everything.

"I tried to do that coming into this year. I changed how I eat. I am learning how to rest, instead of going all the time. I also learned that with my injury too.”

The focus has yielded huge rewards as McBride is comfortable this season. Even though she averaged 13 points per game and earned a spot on the WNBA All-Rookie team, McBride really didn’t find a groove.

This season, she came in determined to add to her game, specifically rebounding. McBride is averaging 3.2 rebounds per game while still lighting up the scoreboard.

Against the Mystics on Wednesday, McBride finished with 18 points. She also grabbed five rebounds, the third time this season she pulled down at least five caroms. For the season, McBride has scored in double figures 13 times and hit for 20 or more points three times.

“Rebounding is something I wanted to do more of this year,” McBride said. “I think I am also more comfortable in catch-and-shoot situations. I think last year, I did it more because I had to. I’m a shooter and scorer. That’s my role and what my team needs me to do every night.”

Even though the Silver Stars are in the midst of a four-game losing streak heading into Saturday’s critical home game against the Seattle Storm, they remain confident in their ability to return to the playoffs.

The Stars are in fifth place behind the surging Los Angeles Sparks in the race for the final Western Conference playoff spot. Seven of San Antonio’s final 12 games are against Tulsa, Los Angeles and Seattle.

McBride was part of a sizzling triumvirate featuring Jia Perkins and Sophia Young-Malcolm that combined for 58 of San Antonio’s points against Washington.

“Against Washington, we found our identity in the first half,” McBride said. “We were aggressive, the ball was moving and we played confidently. We don’t have a superstar that’s going to drop 30 a night. When we’re at our best, we’re the smartest and toughest team on the floor especially when the ball moves around.”

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WNBA: Catching Up With Rookie Natasha Cloud as Mystics Look to Even Weekend Series With Connecticut

by ROB KNOX (@knoxrob1)

Rookie guard Natasha Cloud helps the Washington Mystics continue their playoff push with a critical home game Sunday afternoon against the Connecticut Sun. Tip-off from the Verizon Center is 4:00 p.m.

The Mystics (12-8 overall) will try to rebound from Friday’s 86-72 road loss to the Sun.

In addition, a win would give the Mystics the all-important season series victory for tie-breaking purposes. Of course a win by the Sun (11-9) would complete a weekend sweep and give it the same record as the Mystics with 13 games remaining.

Washington is hoping its comfortable surroundings make a difference.

The Mystics have won four consecutive home games.

One of the many reasons the youthful Mystics are a factor in a crowded Eastern Conference is because of Cloud, who has played like a 10-year veteran most of the season.

“I am still learning,” Cloud said following the Mystics’ 66-63 victory over the San Antonio Silver Stars last Wednesday.

“That’s a big thing for me even though I am at the midway point of my rookie year. I am still coming out every day and learning new things. I am still figuring out what works and learning from the veterans on the team. I am more comfortable and confident in my game.”

Cloud leads all rookies in assists, averaging 3.1 per game before Friday’s game at Connecticut.

Over her last five games, Cloud has an out of this world assist-to-turnover ratio. She has dished 23 assists while committing two turnovers.

That’s a pretty impressive number even for a seasoned veteran, but for a rookie to do that says something special about the six-foot Cloud, who has started the Mystics last eight games.

“That’s a great stat in this league,” Washington head coach Mike Thibault said. “I would say she’s at a good B plus level and possibly an A-minus considering she’s a rookie. She’s been very, very good on the defensive end, which is probably an A-plus effort there. She’s been very good and she’s going to get better. I’d just like to see her be more aggressive on offense.”

Cloud is averaging 3.5 points and 2.5 rebounds per game.

She has attempted five or more shots in a game three times and only once since the Mystics third game of the season.

Cloud’s mindset has always been to pass first, second and third, which is a great thing because she has never cared at personal statistics. Though she did acknowledge that being a little more aggressive could make a difference down the stretch.

“I’ve always had that mentality of being a pass-first point guard,” Cloud said. “Teams are beginning to play me for that so I do need to be more of a threat to open things up for my teammates.”

Cloud hasn’t been surprised by much this season. The only major difference from her four years on Hawk Hill at Saint Joseph's in Philadelphia has been the WNBA travel schedule.

There have been back-to-backs and life in many airports, including one in which Cloud had to dress like a baby wearing an oversized diaper as part of her rookie experience.

Fortunately she was able to share the experience with her Atlantic-10 and rookie counterpart Ally Mallot.

“That’s been the hardest adjustment for me is coming off a game, traveling to another city and playing a game that night,” Cloud said.

“I am getting used to these long road trips like three games in five days. That’s been the hardest part for me. Getting used to playing so many games in a short period of time because you can go a week in college without playing.”

Cloud and the Mystics still have one long road trip remaining, a key four-game jaunt to Seattle, Phoenix, Los Angeles and Atlanta over eight days beginning on Sunday, August 30.

However that’s for later in the season as the Mystics are looking to rebound from Friday’s setback.

They must find a way to control Connecticut guards Alex Bentley, who dropped a career-high 31 points and Jasmine Thomas, who supplied 15 points.

The Mystics fell behind 16-3 and trailed by as many as 15 points before rallying to tie the game at 62-62. The Sun finished the game on a 24-10 run to snap an eight-game losing streak against Eastern Conference opponents.

Emma Meesseman led the Mystics who scored 15 points.

A quartet of Mystics (Tierra Ruffin-Pratt, Tayler Hill, Ivory Latta and Bria Hartley) had nine points each. LaToya Sanders had eight rebounds and three blocked shots. Cloud handed out four assists in 19 minutes.

“There haven’t been many surprises during this year for me,” Cloud said. “My coaches and teammates have prepared me well. Being in the starting lineup has been an amazing feeling, but either way coming off the bench or starting, I just want to contribute in any way. We’re a young team and we’re doing well. Hopefully we keep it rolling.”

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Friday, August 07, 2015

WNBA: Hill Helping Washington Climb to the Top of the East as Mystics Start Big Home-And-Home Weekend With Connecticut

By ROB KNOX (@knoxrob1)

Third-year Washington Mystics guard Tayler Hill has drained opponents of their energy lately.

She hasn’t brought anybody a purse, truck or mall, but she has supplied plenty of fuel, enthusiasm, scoring and leadership in four games since the All-Star break for the streaking Mystics, winners of six of their last seven games.

Averaging 11.2 points in her last four games, the turbo-charged Hill has been as relentless as a mid-summer thunderstorm in raining baskets and aggressively flying to the basket like a superhero.

She has scored in double figures in two of the Mystics games since the All-Star break, including a timely 13-point performance in Wednesday’s 66-63 win over San Antonio. Hill scored 11 of her points after intermission to help Washington erase an 11-point halftime deficit and a 13-point third-quarter hole.

“We’ve really pushed Tayler to come with the same type of bounce everyday,” Washington head coach Mike Thibault said. “We’ve shared with her that you have to approach practices with the same type of game speed. Everyday we’re getting shooting drills and practice habits at a higher level of speed and effort. That makes a big difference.”

The fourth overall pick in the 2013 WNBA Draft, Hill’s awesome game is coming at the perfect time as the Mystics head into a critical portion of their schedule. They will play home-and-home sets against Connecticut, Minnesota and Chicago over the next 16 days.

The first of those back-to-back sets starts Friday night in the Nutmeg State when the Mystics (12-7 overall) visit the Connecticut Sun (10-9) beginning at 7:00 p.m. The Sun visits the Verizon Center Sunday afternoon at 4:00 p.m. Winners of six of its last seven games, Washington has won both matchups against Connecticut this season.

As with every contest remaining in this season, this is a crucial weekend set for both teams. The Mystics are a game behind the first-place New York Liberty in the Eastern Conference. Meanwhile, Connecticut is in fifth-place, a half-game behind Indiana for the fourth and final playoff spot.

By now everybody knows Hill missed most of 2014 after giving birth to her son.

Even though she was in shape when she returned, Hill only averaged 7.8 minutes in the Mystics final five games.

Through dedication, hard work and a steely focus, Hill came back this season stronger, quicker and better than ever.

Though she had some good moments during the year like a 15-point effort against Atlanta and 16-point outing against Chicago, Hill still wasn’t as consistent as Thibault would have liked her to be.

“Sometimes, I think the reason why she has had streak shooting days is that you don’t shoot at the same speed or effort everyday and I think that’s been the biggest change in her the last two or three weeks,” Thibault said.

“Plus she’s been getting more opportunities as well. She’s gotten better at mixing up shooting the three, shooting the pull-up and going to the basket. That’s been good and she’s also been getting herself to the free throw line. If she does that on a regular basis that will really help our team because we can get other teams in foul trouble.”

Since the All-Star break, Hill has attempted 18 free throws, the most of any Mystic.

After playing a season low four minutes against Tulsa, in the game before the All-Star break, Hill admitted the week away was the perfect tonic for her.

She charged out of the break with an electric 18-point effort on a 6-of-10 shooting performance that included a pair of 3-pointers.

“I just played with Maurice,” Hill said following the win over the Storm. “We stayed here and just relaxed. My body needed the rest, which I think was good.”

With the Mystics playing three games over five days, Hill’s body will get a workout. She’s prepared for the challenge.

Meanwhile, Thibault has a unique way of looking at the strange schedule.

The Mystics just played San Antonio twice in five days, winning both games. Later this month, the Mystics will play Minnesota in consecutive games on Sunday, August 16 and Wednesday, August 19.

Then they will battle Chicago on Friday, August 21 and Sunday, August 23. The Mystics will also play reigning WNBA champion Phoenix twice in a five-day period in three weeks.

“We approach these games like a playoff series,” Thibault said. “We’re going to play teams two or three times in a row in the playoffs so let’s start treating some of these games like that.

"We’ll use these games as learning sessions on how to prepare and make adjustments from the first game to the second game. It’s good preparation. I don’t love it, but I don’t mind it in that regard.”

Those games will be tougher without the services of veteran guard Kara Lawson, who missed her second straight game with a sore back.

Thibault indicated that she could miss a significant amount of time. That injury has forced the Mystics to alter their lineup again. Ivory Latta has shined in her return back to the lineup in the two games, averaging 21 points per game.

Latta’s 23 points led the Mystics in the win over the Silver Stars. Hill added 13 points and Tierra Ruffin-Pratt contributed 10 points. They all had key baskets during a 19-6 run to close the third quarter that helped the Mystics rally from a 13-point second-half deficit.

“We definitely have to put this one behind us though because Connecticut has two all-stars and some other great players so we got to be ready to focus on them,” Latta said.

These two games will match the top two rookie assist leaders in Washington’s Natasha Cloud (3.1 per game) and Connecticut’s Chelsea Gray (2.8).

The Sun are looking to extend its home winning streak to three games. In beating San Antonio, 82-51, on Tuesday night, Connecticut All-Star Kelsey Bone had 17 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.

Bone, making a strong case for the WNBA’s most improved player award, is averaging a team-best 15.7 points per game. She has three double-doubles and reached double digits in scoring 15 times, including the Sun’s last four games. Bone is averaging 15.8 points in the Sun’s last 10 games, scoring at least 20 points three times.

The win over San Antonio was Sun head coach Anne Donovan's 200th career WNBA victory. She is the first female coach - and fourth overall - to reach the milestone.

All-Star Alex Bentley and Alyssa Thomas had 10 points apiece for Connecticut, which had a season-high 24 assists, led by Chelsea Gray's career-best seven. It was just the third time the Sun have had at least 20 assists this season.

Meanwhile, Bentley chips in 14.3 points per contest. Sun rookie Elizabeth Williams is a sizzling 15 of 19 from the field over her the last five games, averaging 6.8 points and 4.8 rebounds.

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Philly Summer League: Neon Green Powers Past Purple For 2015 Title

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

HATBORO, Pa. -- Third-seeded Neon Green quickly put an end to seventh-seeded Team Purple’s postseason Cinderella run Thursday night, taking a lopsided 75-41 victory to capture the 2015 championship of the Philadelphia/Suburban Women’s NCAA Summer Basketball League at Kelly Bolish Gym, home of the AAU Renegades in lower Bucks County.

Purple, also known as Division II USciences had made history in the quarterfinals and semifinals taking down the top two seeds, No. 2 Pink in the quarterfinals and No. 1 Gold, the defending champion, in the semifinals.

But in this one, Neon Green (9-3), which had beaten Purple 72-60 in their regular season matchup, got off to a hot start and pulled away to earn coach Ted Hagedorn his second title in three seasons following the 2013 crown won by a group that included former Saint Joseph’s stars Katie Kuester and Erin Shields.

No one hit the magic nightly performance 20-or-more points mark in the final event of the 13-team league, of which eight earned playoff bids, but Neon Green’s Maureen Leahy just missed.

The Bryant incoming senior senior out of Cardinal O’Hara, topped the winners with 19 points while the Villanova duo of junior Megan Quinn out of Episcopal Academy and sophomore Alex Louin out of Mount St. Joseph’s were at it again with 16 points each.

Samantha Stipa, a Lafayette sophomore out of Spring-Ford High also scored in double figures with 10 points.

The scene was enhanced by longtime commissioner David Kessler assuming his usual role in the championship of using a wireless microphone to announce the game.

No one on Purple (6-6) scored in double figures but nine players collected points with Amber Reiley, an incoming Devils senior, and Shannon Evans, also a Devils senior, topping the group with eight each.

Purple was the seventh seed but actually finished in a three-way tie for fifth.

Neon Green started the season on June 16, losing to Pink, also known as Division III Scranton, in the opener and then straightened out for the most part but down the stretch handed Gold their only lost and suffered narrow setbacks to Sapphire Blue, also known as Division II East Stroudsburg, in double overtime, and also to Black, also known as Division II Philadelphia U.

But in the playoffs Neon Green avenged the losses and actually used a road that went through all three teams involved in the fifth place tie.

“I thought as we went along about third-way we really started to jell,” Hagedorn said. “I didn’t expect much out of Megan Quinn off of last summer, but she really did what was needed to improve since then

“And the other thing is we played great defense, which really carried us.”

Neon Green also had great skill all summer hitting three-pointers, especially Quinn, who was redshirted at Villanova last winter.

Traditionally, the teams and players who perform well here are often indicators on how they may fare when school resumes in the fall.

Considering other players on Villanova, such as senior Caroline Coyer, who was on the USA silver medal Pan Am team, who didn’t participate here, there will be big expectations out of the Wildcats in the Big East wars.

The array of Saint Joseph’s players in the league all did well, particularly sophomore Chelsea Woods on Team Red, who along with Quinn were the two scoring leaders in the league.

But there are times a misread will come off a potential omen. Even though Saint Joseph’s had graduated a strong senior class, the play of the Hawks here last summer seemed to indicate they might overcome the losses but injuries forced the squad to struggle.

One bright spot was Broomall’s Natasha Cloud out of Cardinal O’Hara, who played on Gold last summer and is now performing solidly as a rookie in the WNBA with the Washington Mystics where she has made six straight starts and has helped keep the squad strongly in the playoff hunt and contend for the regular season Eastern Division crown.

One change that happened in the league was adjusting to some of the new collegiate basketball rules that were passed by the NCAA just before opening day in mid-June.

Thus, a switch was made from two 20-minute halves to four 10-minute quarters.

Next summer the league will enact the rest of the alterations.

Kessler, who does a fine job orchestrating everything, had is usual mixed feelings once the final awards were handed to the two squads.

“On one hand, I’m glad it is over but on the other I’m going to miss it,” he said.

This ends the Guru’s annual Philly summer league coverage (well, maybe something from the Aug. 20 staff outing) and leaves him solely with the WNBA through the playoffs and soon the phase-in to the collegiate season.

But since this is word and not video, for closing credits here are the scorekeepers and then the rosters of the top two finishers. They are listed out of alphabetical order because the roster order followed low to high player jersey numbers, which are not needed here since the season is over.

Scorers Table/Timekeepers Officials

April Bush
Ryan Dreeman
Curtis Goff
Emily Makara
Lindsey & Samantha Spector
Melanie Werner
Kayla Wolf & Her Dad

Neon Green (2015 champions)

Alex Louin, 6’ Mt. St. Jos./Villanova ‘18
Mackenzie Rule, 5’6 Cardinal O’Hara/Saint Jos. ‘17
Eliza Polli, 5’8 Hanover/Swarthmore ‘13
Sarah Sherman, 5’7 Methacton/Juniata ;17
Megan Quinn, 6’2 Episcopal Academy/Villanova ‘17
Carly Monzo, 5’10 Mt. St. Jos./Loyola ‘18
Larissa Leyes, 5’1 Upper Dublin/Gwynedd Mercy ‘18
Nia Holland, 5’6 Shipley School/Lafayette ‘19
Samantha Stipa, 5’5 Spring-Ford/Lafayette ‘18
Brynne Brous, 5’8 Parkland High/Wash. College ‘18
Maureen Leahy, 6’2 Cardinal O’Hara/Bryant ‘16

Team Purple (2015 Runners Up)

Micah Morgan, 5’7 Caravel Academy/USciences
Molly Greenberg, 5’6 Saint Basil/USciences ‘18
Marissa Silver, 5’8 Nazareth Academy, USciences ‘19
Colleen Walsh, 5’10 Shipley School,.USciences ;18
Haley Helms, 5’10 Cardinal/O’Hara/Usciences ‘20
Amber Reiley, 5’8 High Point Regional/USciences ‘16
Hadiya Tucker, 5’10 Sanford School/USciences
Laura Trisch, 5’10 Arch. Wood/USciences ‘18
Natalie Stella, 5’9 Wilmington Christian/USciences ‘16
Sarah Abbonizio, 5’8 Episcopal Academy, USciences ‘20
Alex Thomas, 5’10 USciences ‘19
Shannon Evans, 5’10 Jackson Memorial H.S./USciences ‘16
Caitlin Conroy, 6’4 Red Bank Catholic, USciences ‘18

Final Regular Season Standings

Team W-L G.B. PF PA Pct.

*-1-%%-Gold 11-1 -- 659 556 .917
*-1-%-Pink 11-1 -- 689 510 .917
X-*-3-%-Neon Green 9-3 2.0 760 650 .750
*-4-@-Maroon 8-4 3.0 732 .667 .
*-5-Sapphire Blue 6-6 5.0 681 678 .500
*-5--%-Black 6-6 5.0 570 584 .500
R-*-5-Purple 6-6 5.0 653 600 .500
*-8-%@-Red 5-7 6.0 674 657 .417
8--%@-Forest Green 5-7 6.0 610 689 .417
10-Orange 4-8 7.0 746 763 .333
10--&-Ash 4-8 7.0 526 575 .333
12-@-Kelly Green 3-9 8.0 674 755 .250
13-@-Royal Blue 0-12 11.0 537 793 .000

%%-Includes 2 forfeit 2-0 wins
%-includes 1 forfeit 2-0 win
&-includes 2 forfeit 0-2 losses
@-includes 1 forfeit 0-2 loss

*-Clinched playoff berth
X-Champion, R-Runnerup


(Seed No. in Front of Team
Regular Season Records in Parenthesis
^-Won Regular Season Meeting Between the Two)

Thurs., Aug. 6

Championship Result

^3-Neon Green 75, 7-Purple 41

Tues., Aug. 4

Semifinals Results

7-Purple 54, 1-Gold 42
3-Neon Green 68, 5-Sapphire Blue 49

Thurs., July 30

Quarterfinals Results

1-Gold 2, 8-Red 0, forfeit
3-Neon Green 57, 6-Black 50
7-Purple 57, 2-Pink 56
5-Sapphire Blue 2, 4-Maroon 0, forfeit

Season Results

Tues., July 28
End of the Regular Season

Pink 2, Kelly Green 0, forfeit
Forest Green 2, Maroon 0, forfeit
Black 66, Neon Green 65
Orange 67, Ash Grey, 64, overtime
Gold 51, Sapphire Blue 39
Purple 50, Royal Blue 30
Bye: Red

Thurs., July 23

Neon Green 55, Gold 48
Pink 97, Maroon 57
Orange 83, Forest Green 61
Sapphire Blue 62, Kelly Green 58
Black 43, Purple 34
Red 69, Ash 38
Bye: Royal Blue

Tues., July 21

Gold 56, Pink 47
Neon Green 68, Royal Blue 53
Sapphire Blue 49, Black 33
Orange 69, Red 67, ovt.
Maroon 51, Ash 47, ovt.
Forest Green 85, Kelly Green 84, ovt.
Bye: Purple

Thurs., July 16

Gold 65, Purple 60
Pink 69, Orange 48
Neon Green 72, Kelly Green 48
Maroon 74, Sapphire Blue 65
Red 2, Forest Green 0, forfeit
Black 2, Royal Blue 0, forfeit
Bye: Ash Grey

Tues., July 14

Neon Green 72, Orange 66, ovt.
Gold 61, Black 55
Pink 56, Ash Grey 38
Sapphire Blue 70, Red 65
Maroon 68, Purple 63
Kelly Green 73, Royal Blue 52
Bye: Forest Green

Thurs., July 9

Sapphire Blue 70, Neon Green 67, 2 ovt.
Gold 2, Red 0, forfeit
Pink 34, Purple 31
Forest Green 79, Royal Blue 54
Black 54, Ash 43
Kelly Green 67, Orange 62
Bye: Maroon

Tues., July 7

Pink 52, Black 42
Gold 72, Forest Green 56
Neon Green 72, Purple 60
Maroon 68, Red 63
Ash Grey 74, Kelly Green 68
Sapphire Blue 58, Royal Blue 41
Bye: Orange

Thurs., July 2

Maroon 67, Royal Blue 51
Ash 56, Sapphire Blue 59
Pink 60, Forest Green 56
Kelly Green 68, Black 51
Neon Green 75, Red 73
Purple 63, Orange 56
Bye: Gold

Tues., June 30

Red 60, Purple 47
Orange 89, Royal Blue 43
Gold 76, Kelly Green 60
Maroon 67, Black 48
Forest Green 60, Sapphire Blue 54
Neon Green 2, Ash 0, forfeit
Bye: Pink

Thurs, June 25

Maroon 77, Orange 56
Purple 59, Sapphire Blue 54
Red 94 , Kelly Green 64
Gold 2, Ash 0, forfeit
Pink 87, Royal Blue 31
Bye: Neon Green

Tues., June 23

Black 49, Orange 47
Neon Green 91, Forest Green 42
Purple 59, Ash 31
Red 89, Royal Blue 84
Gold 87, Maroon 84
Pink 54, Sapphire Blue 49
Bye: Kelly Green

Thurs, June 18

Gold 70, Royal Blue 57
Ash 74, Forest Green 67
Sapphire Blue 62, Orange 60
Neon Green 69, Maroon 60
Pink 67, Red 50
Purple 66, Kelly Green 40
Bye: Black

Tues, June 16

Maroon 59, Kelly Green 54
Gold 69, Orange 43
Black 73, Red 42
Pink 64, Neon Green 52
Purple 61, Forest Green 47
Ash 61, Royal Blue 41
Bye: Sapphire Blue

Scoring 20 Points or More

32-Chelsea Woods, Red (L) vs. Maroon (W) – July 7
31-Dallas Ely, Maroon (W) vs. Royal Blue (L) – July 2
31-Chelsea Woods, Red (W) vs. Kelly Green (L) – June 25
30 Chelsea Wood, Red (L-Ovt) vs. Orange, (W) – July 21
30 Megan Quinn, Neon Green (W) vs. Royal Blue (L) – July 21
30- Megan Quinn, Neon Green (W), vs. Forest Green (L) - June 23
30-Maureen Leahy, Neon Green (W), vs. Forest Green (L) –June 23
29-Sarah Fairbanks, Pink (L) vs. Purple (W) – quarterfinals – July 30
29-Megan Quinn, Neon Green (L-2ovt) vs. Sapphire Blue (W), July 9
28-Chelsea Woods, Red (L), vs. Neon Green (W) – July 2
28- Chelsea Woods, Red (W), vs. vs. Royal Blue (L) – June 23
28-Chelsea Woods, Red (L), vs. Pink (W) – June 18
27-Chelsea Woods, Red (W), vs. Ash (L) – July 23
26-Megan Quinn, Neon Green (W) vs. Black (L), quarterfinals – July 30
26-Chelsea Woods, Red (L) vs. Sapphire Blue (W) – July 14
26-Megan Quinn, Neon Green (W-ovt.) vs. Orange (L) – July 14

25-Megan Quinn, Neon Green (W), vs. Red (L) – July 2
25-Tori Smick, Maroon (L) vs. Gold (W) – June 23
25-Ashley Wood, Gold (W) vs Orange (L) – June 16
25-Alex Louin, Neon Green (W) vs Maroon (L) – June 18
24-Mary Ellen McCollum, Kelly Green (L-ovt.) vs. Forest Green (W) – July 21
24-Amanda Fioravanti, Kelly Green (W) vs. Orange (L) – July 9
24-Jasmine Elum, Gold (W) vs. Forest Green (L) – July 7
24-Jasmine Elum, Gold (W) vs. Kelly Green (L) – June 30
24-Sarah Fairbanks, Pink (W) vs. Red (L) – June 18
24-Tyniqua Henderson, Royal Blue (L) vs. Gold (W) – June 18

23-Sarah Fairbanks, Pink (W) vs. Maroon (L) – July 23
23-Katie O’Hare, Forest Green (W-ovt), vs. Kelly Green (L) – July 21
23-Dallas Ely, Maroon (W), vs. Sapphire Blue – July 16
23-Amanda Fioravanti, Kelly Green (W) vs. Royal Blue (L) – July 14
23-Mackenzie Carroll, Orange (W) vs. Royal Blue (L) – June 25
23-Lauren Crisler, Gold (W) vs. Maroon (L) – June 23
22-Megan Quinn, Neon Green (W) vs. Sapphire Blue (L), semifinals – August 4
22-Jenna Swope, Kelly Green (L-ovt.) vs. Forest Green (W) – July 21
22-Sarah Fairbanks, Pink (W) vs. Forest Green (L) – July 2
22-Alex Thomas, Purple (W) vs. Sapphire Blue (L) – June 25
22-Micah Morgan, Purple (W), vs. Kelly Green (L) – June 18
21-Johanna McMillan, Pink (W), vs. Maroon (L) – July 23
21-Jasmine Elum, Gold (W), vs. Purple (L) – July 17
21-Alex Louin, Neon Green (W), vs. Purple (L) – July 7
21-Aunjel Van Brakle, Ash (W), vs. Kelly Green (W) – July 7
21-Chelsea Woods, Red (W) vs. Purple (L) – June 25
21 Sarah Payonk, Pink (W) vs. Royal Blue (L) – June 25
21-Natalya Lee, Red (W), vs. Royal Blue (L) – June 23
21-Alex Louin, Neon Green (W), vs. Forest Green (L) –June 23
21-Lauren Crisler, Gold (W) vs. Royal Blue (L) – June 18

20-Emily O’Donnell, Sapphire Blue (L), vs. Maroon (W) – July 16
20-Emily O’Donnell, Sapphire Blue (W) vs. Red (L) – July 14
20-Micah Morgan 20, Purple (L) vs. Maroon (W) – July 14
20-Samantha Stipa, Neon Green (W), vs. Red (L) – July 2
20-Maggie Locke, Royal Blue (L) vs. Orange (W) – June 25
20-Mary Ellen McCollum, Kelly Green (L) vs, Red (L) – June 25
20-Margaret Melham, Red (W) vs. Royal Blue (L) – June 23
20-Brittany Sicinski, Maroon (L) vs. Gold (W) – June 23

Tie-Break Tracker

#-Gold (10-1) vs. O (W), RB (W), vs. M (W), Ash (W-*F), KG(W), FG(W), Red (W-*F), Black (W), Pur(W), PK (W) NG (L), SB (W)
Pink (10-1) vs. NG (W), Red (W), SB (W), RB(W), FG(W), Black (W), Purple (W), A(W), O (W), Gold (L), M(W), KG (W-*F).

Neon Green (9-3) vs. Pnk(L), M(W), FG (W), Ash (W-*F), Red(W), Purp (W), SB(L-2ovt.), O (W-ovt.), KG(W), RB (W), Gold (W) Black (L).

Maroon (8-4) vs. KG (W), NG (L), G(L).O(W), Black (W), RB(W), Red(W), Purple (W), SB (W), Ash (W-ovt.), Pink (L), FG (L-*F).

$-Sapphire Blue (6-6) vs. O(W), Pink(L),Purple(L), FG(L), Ash(L), RB(W), NG (W-2ovt.), Red(W), M(L), Black (W), KG (W) Gold (L).
Black (6-6) vs. Red (W), O (W), FG(L), M(L), KG(L), Pink (L), Ash (W), Gold (L), RB (W-*F), SB (L), Purple (W), NG (W).
Purple (6-6) vs. FG (W), KG (W), A(W), SB(W), Red (L), O(W), NG(L), Pink (L), M(L), Gold (L), Black (L) , RB (W).

^-Red (5-7) vs. Blk (L), Pink (L), RB(W), KG(W), Purp(W), NG(L), M(L), Gold (L-*F), SB(L), FG(W-*F), O(L-ovt.), Ash (W).
Forest Green (5-7) vs. Purp (L), Ash (L), NG(L),B(W), SB(W),Pink(L),Gold (L), RB(W), Red (L-*F), KG(W-ovt.), Or (L), M (W-F*).

%-Orange (4-8) vs. Gold (L), SB (L), B(L),M(L), RB(W),Purple(L), KG(L), NG(L), Pink (L), Red (W-ovt.), FG (W), Ash (W).
Ash (4-8) vs. RB (W), FG (W), Purple (L), Gold (L-*F), NG(L-*F), SB(W), KG(W), Black (L), Pnk(L), M(L), Red (L), Orange (L)

Kelly Green (3-9) vs. M (L), Purp (L),Red(L), Gold(L),Black(W), Ash (L), O(W), RB(W), NG (L), FG (L-ovt.), SB (L), Pink (L-*F).

Royal Blue (0-12) vs. Ash (L), Gold (L), Red (L),Pink(L), O(L),M(L), SB(L), FG(L), KG(L), Black(L-*F), NG(L), Purple (L).

*-Forfeit win or loss

#-Gold holds first on head to head win over Pink.

$-Three-Way Sapphire Blue, Black, and Purple all 1-1. Sapphire Blue and Black both beat Neon Green on best win, dropping Purple to seventh and then Sapphire Blue beat Black on head-to-head to fifth seed and black at sixth.

^-Red takes eighth seed on head-to-head win over Forest Green.

%-Orange takes 10th place on head-to-head win over Ash Grey.

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