Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Rob Knox's WNBA Report: Tulsa Still Targeting Playoffs While Coping With Tough Setbacks

By Rob Knox (@knoxrob1)

Prior to Sunday’s much-needed 79-69 home victory over the Chicago Sky, Skylar Diggins tweeted to her half-million followers, a simple passage, which perfectly describes her Tulsa Shock squad: “Sometimes the path you're on is not as important as the direction you're heading.”

Tulsa is heading in the right direction thanks to a collection of talented and passionate performers, who are already producing shining moments on a consistent basis.

While Diggins is the WNBA’s second leading scorer at 21.3 points per game and a candidate for the Most Improved Player award, the Shock also feature double-double queens Glory Johnson and Courtney Paris along with rookie guard Odyssey Sims, who is beginning to get comfortable and find her groove. Rookie Jordan Hooper has provided solid minutes this season for the Shock.

Celebrating her 24th birthday on Sunday, Johnson produced her league-leading 14th double-double (15 points, 11 rebounds) against the Sky. Paris notched her 10th double-double of the season against Washington Friday night during a tough 82-77 loss. Together, the pair combines to average 24.3 points and 17.8 rebounds per contest.

Sims has led Tulsa in scoring in two of its last three games. She dropped a career-high 39 points against San Antonio last Tuesday and ended the week with a 24-point performance against Chicago on Sunday. Sims has scored in double figures 19 times this season.

Tulsa (9-17 overall) believes it will catch Los Angeles or San Antonio for a playoff spot in the Western Conference. The win over Chicago was a perfect way to begin a four-game homestand. The math makes it tough, but as long as the Shock is playing then they confidently believe in their chances. They have eight games remaining and trail the Sparks by 2.5 games and the Silver Stars by three games.

Tulsa and Los Angeles play each other for the final time this season on Tuesday, Aug. 5.

“We just have to finish strong and win games,” Sims said last Wednesday following Tulsa’s practice at the Verizon Center in Washington.

“We’re putting more pressure on us to make the playoffs with all of our close losses. We know we know we have to win at least seven or eight of our remaining games. It’s going to take a lot of determination from us and we have to play with heart. I believe if we all give more with a little extra on top, we’ll be O.K.”

The Shock have already overcome a 0-5 start by winning four consecutive games for the first time since the franchise moved to Tulsa from Detroit earlier this season. The Shock are two wins away from tying the highest win total they have had in Tulsa.

No matter how the season ends for the Tulsa, it has been the most the entertaining team to watch this season.

Playing an up-tempo style and featuring a pair of dynamic scorers who are fun to watch when they are on, the Shock certainly have been must-see television this season. Even though Tulsa has lost nine games by five points or less this season, it has never cheated the fans with its effort.

“Losing the many close games has been tough,” Johnson said. “It seems like we start slow, fight hard and fall short. It’s happened a lot to us this year. But with each loss, we’ve learned something from it.”

The close losses have been frustrating, but the Shock has remained upbeat because eventually they know the heartache will begin to bear fruit down the road.

Tulsa has made analytical and probability formulas go crazy with some of their results this year such as losing consecutive home games by identical 78-76 scores in a 48-hour period on last second shots and limiting Washington to one basket in the fourth quarter and still falling short. The Shock are also one of three teams to beat Phoenix this season.

“We know that wins are going to come if we keep working hard and doing the right things,” Johnson said. “Then we’ll be successful. It might take a while, but we’ll keep working hard. Our games are fun to play in and we give everybody a run for their money. It seems like in all of our games, we keep fans on the edge of their seats.

That’s why people like watching us play.”

Johnson, a two-time All-Star, is also a must-see attraction. She is averaging 14.7 points and 9.4 rebounds per game.

With a smile that can illuminate a dark room and a pleasant personality, Johnson is one of the few players in the league, who can dunk. She has good instincts around the basket, is quick and deceptively strong. Like a magnet, loose balls find her. Trailing by 15 points entering the fourth quarter against the Mystics, Johnson scored eight of her 15 points in the final 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, Sims and Diggins have the potential to be one of the league’s most explosive backcourts in the league for years to come. Consider them the modern-day version of “Fire and Ice” or “Shock and Awe.”

They put pressure on defenses with their relentless and fearless ability to get into the lane and produce points quickly. Both players are improving their shot selection and learning to play with another. They have each scored 20 or more points in the same game four times this season.

“I had a talk with coach Fred (Williams),” Sims said. “He told me to dominate the second part of the season and be aggressive. I am comfortable now and it took me a while to adjust to the league.

"I am getting the hang of it now. It’s a mental thing. I like to keep my eyes on the rim when I am attacking. I just have to stay aggressive," Sims said.

"It’s good playing with Skylar especially when we connect and score 30 points apiece, who can stop that? If we can do that every night, we’ll be unstoppable. Then with our post players Glory and Courtney chipping in we’ll be hard to beat.”

Tulsa’s problem has been on defense where it’s in the bottom half of the league in opponents’ field goal percentage, 3-point percentage and forcing turnovers.

The Shock limited Washington to 1-of-13 shooting in the fourth quarter and that effort carried over to Sunday’s win over the Sky. Tulsa allowed fewer than 70 points for the first time since it beat the Los Angeles Sparks, 69-67, on June 13. It held the Sky to 38.9 percent shooting and had eight steals.

Tulsa hosts Seattle on Tuesday, Atlanta on Thursday and Minnesota on Saturday.

MAYA’S MOMENT: Maya Moore’s 48-point performance last Tuesday against the Minnesota Lynx was simply breathtaking in an 112-108 double overtime victory over the Atlanta Dream.

The game was so great that NBA-TV aired it as an “Instant Classic” on Sunday afternoon. Moore came within three points of the Riquna Williams’ WNBA single-game record of 51 points.

That effort earned Moore her league-leading fourth Western Conference Player of the Week honor of the season, her third in as many weeks, and the ninth such honor of her career. For the week, Moore shared the scoring lead in the West with Sims (25.7 ppg), tied for third in the conference in rebounds (8.3 rpg), ranked fourth in three-point shooting percentage (.467, 7-of-15), and placed ninth in assists (4.0 apg).

Now that Minnesota has its entire team back together for the first time in a while, don’t expect any additional point explosions from Moore.

Sunday’s 76-65 road win over Connecticut was just the second game in which defending WNBA champion Minnesota had its entire team available. Rebekkah Brunson missed the first 24 games after knee surgery. Simone Augustus returned Friday after being out eight games with a knee injury. The Lynx also clinched a playoff berth last week.

“There's a lot of people who could've handled it differently and felt sorry for ourselves,” Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve said to the Associated Press following the win over the Sun. “Maya has been terrific, as you guys know, in this run. Lindsey Whalen has been really, really good and above her (scoring) average. They're just warriors; just that competitive drive that fuels them every day. It's fun to be around.”

The Lynx (20-6) have quietly won seven straight games.

They have two games remaining against the red-hot Mercury, winners of 15 straight games and owners of the best record in the league at 21-3 overall. The teams play twice over the next 10 days, including Thursday night in the Twin Cities at 8:00 Eastern Time. Minnesota trails Phoenix by two games overall, although the Mercury have played two fewer games.

Minnesota is the fourth WNBA team to put together at least four straight seasons with 20 or more wins and second team to win 100 or more games in four-season span.

With all due respect to the remaining four teams in the West, Thursday’s game is most likely a glimpse at would be a most anticipated Western Conference finals series in league history since the early Los Angeles and former Houston Comets showdowns.

Both teams are playing at an incredibly high level and are healthy, so this game will have lots of eyes on it for a regular season game.

It’s widely believed that Minnesota stands between Phoenix and the WNBA-record winning streak of 18 games held by Los Angeles. Now, with Atlanta having lost four straight games, the prospect that one of these two teams won’t make the finals is disheartening.

MARVELOUS MYSTICS: Washington extended its winning streak to four games by beating Atlanta, 77-67, on Sunday afternoon. It’s the Mystics' longest winning streak since they won six straight to close the 2010 season. They are back at .500 with a 13-13 record and have climbed toward the top of the Eastern Conference standings by averaging 81.8 points in those victories.

Washington, which has won six of seven overall, has also pulled within three games of first-place Atlanta, losing only to Phoenix in that stretch in a competitive setback on the road.

The Mystics have been winning with defense, contributions from everybody on their roster and foul shooting.

Washington, holding teams to a WNBA-low 41.3 percent shooting, has limited its last two opponents to under 40 percent shooting: Tulsa (30-for-84, 35.7 percent) and Atlanta (28-for-75, 37.3 percent).

The Mystics scored a season-high 89 points, including 30 in the fourth quarter to beat Connecticut, 89-75.

Two days later, they beat Tulsa, 82-77 despite making one basket in the fourth quarter.

In that same game, former Duke star Monique Currie was 16-18 from the foul line for all of her points while shooting 0-3 from the field.

A Mystics team spokesman said that was a record in the WNBA. No matter how they got the job done, the Mystics find themselves in second place and entertaining visions of winning the conference crown.

“Everybody's feeding off each other,” said guard Ivory Latta, who was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week. “This is a collective unit that's finally coming together and buying into what we need to do. It's a great feeling right now, but we can't get complacent. It's going to be a dogfight every night in the Eastern Conference. We just have to maintain what we're doing and keep this confidence and keep this swagger.”

For Latta, this Player of the Week award is her first of the season and the fourth of her career. For the week, Latta led the East in assists (5.3 apg), ranked second in scoring (20.3 ppg), and third in both field goal percentage (.564, 22-of-39) and three-point shooting percentage (.500, 12-of-24).

The WNBA All-Star began the week with 23 points, six assists, and three rebounds in an 89-75 win over the Sun. Two days later against the Shock, she tallied 17 points and four assists in an 82-77 win. To close out the week, Latta handed the Dream its fourth straight loss, posting 21 points, six rebounds, and six assists.

PRINCE ADDS ANOTHER GRAND: Epiphanny Prince recorded her 2000th career point and finished with 14 points and five rebounds to lead the Chicago Sky during a 79-69 loss to Tulsa on Sunday.

DELLE DONNE UPDATE: Ursuline Academy and University of Delaware All-American could return to the court later this week, the team said Saturday. Delle Donne has been out while dealing with a recurrence of Lyme Disease symptoms, which have plagued her since her sophomore season at Delaware.

She missed 12 UD games in 2010-11 and six more as a senior in 2012-13 while coping with fatigue-related Lyme issues.

The 2013 WNBA Rookie of the Year, Delle Donne returned to Chicago last week from Delaware, where she'd been undergoing treatment.

She'll have further medical evaluations in Chicago, and the Sky are "hopeful" Delle Donne could play in Thursday night's home game against the New York Liberty, said Sky spokesperson Lauren Niemiera.

Delle Donne has played in nine games this season, averaging a team-best 21.2 points.

The Sky, which had their first winning record last year in franchise history, are 10-15 overall, but have won two of three since the All-Star break. In a congested Eastern Conference, Delle Donne’s return could make a significant difference in the race for a playoff spot.

LIBERTY ALIVE: New York accomplished its goal of a winning West Coast trip. The Liberty beat the Sparks and Storm in overtime before falling to the red-hot Mercury Saturday night. The Liberty hosts red-hot Washington Tuesday in a crucial game before heading out on another three game road trip to Chicago (Thursday), Atlanta (Sunday) and Washington (August 5).

Tina Charles had 31 points and 15 rebounds to lead New York to a 66-64 win against the Sparks on Wednesday night, spoiling the coaching debut of general manager Penny Toler.

Cappie Pondexter added 16 points as the Liberty snapped an eight-game road losing streak, dating to their only other road win in their season opener May 16. Charles doesn’t want July to end as she is averaging 21.6 points and 10.8 rebounds in The month.

BHA WEEK: The WNBA has teamed up with Bright Pink to bring breast health education to fans and encourage all women to live proactively. The league along with its teams and players are proudly supporting the effort to fight breast cancer by raising awareness and funds during WNBA Breast Health Awareness (BHA) Week July 28 to Aug. 3.

During the week, the WNBA will share breast health education with fans and followers through social media and in-game activation.

In partnership with WNBA Cares, sales proceeds of BHA T-shirts sold on WNBAStore.com will benefit Bright Pink, a national non-profit organization whose mission is to save women’s lives from breast and ovarian cancer by empowering them to live proactively at a young age.

This year, ESPN2 and NBA TV will air a combined seven nationally-televised games, bringing attention and cognizance to this important cause.

ESPN2 will feature a doubleheader on July 29 when the Chicago Sky takes on the San Antonio Stars at 8 p.m. ET, followed by the Los Angeles Sparks visiting the Phoenix Mercury at 10 p.m. ET.

NBA TV will televise five BHA games, including an Aug. 3 doubleheader featuring the Washington Mystics and the Sky at 6 p.m. ET, and the Stars and the Seattle Storm squaring off at 9 p.m. ET.

QUICK DUECE DELIVERS: Seattle’s Temeka Johnson recorded the fifth triple-double in WNBA history and first in Seattle franchise history last week in an 84-80 overtime loss to the Liberty. The diminutive and quick 5-3 guard out of LSU delivered 13 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists.

“I didn’t even know, honestly,” Johnson said following the game on the Storm website. Her face, solemn from the loss, cracked into a grin. “I mean, I’m not going to downplay it, it’s a huge accomplishment…but…aren’t I a little small to be doing this??”

THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES: One of the best players in WNBA history, San Antonio’s Becky Hammon will retire at the conclusion of the 2014 WNBA season.

A six-time WNBA All-Star, Hammon was named one of the WNBA’s Top 15 Players of All Time in July of 2011. She will end her career as the Stars all-time leader in assists, points per game and three-point field goals made.

Hammon holds career averages of 13.1 points, 3.8 assists and 2.5 rebounds in 28.0 minutes in 440 games. She was named to the All-WNBA First Team twice and the All-WNBA Second Team twice in her 16 seasons. We’ll have more on Hammon later this year in this space.

MERCURY HOME TO START THE PLAYOFFS: Phoenix officially clinched home court advantage in the first round of the 2014 WNBA Playoffs presented by Boost Mobile following its 78-63 home win over New York that extended the Mercury’s franchise-record win streak to 15 games, matching the second-longest win streak in WNBA history.

Phoenix will host Game 1 of Round 1 on Thursday, August 21 or Friday, August 22 at US Airways Center. The playoff schedule will be released at a later date.

Phoenix is a franchise-best 11-1 at home.

The Mercury have won 10 consecutive home games by win by double figures, giving them a share of the longest such streak in WNBA history (2000 Houston Comets).

More amazingness, the Mercury have shot over 50 percent from the field in six straight games (51.7), a WNBA record. During the streak, Phoenix has shot 206-of-385 for a percentage of 53.5 percent.

Saturday marked the eighth consecutive game in which the Mercury have not trailed in the fourth quarter. Phoenix hosts Los Angeles Tuesday night before visiting Minnesota Thursday in a highly-anticipated matchup.










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Saturday, July 26, 2014

WNBA Report: Skylar Soaring in Second Year As a Pro

By ROB KNOX (@knoxrob1)

WASHINGTON –
Superstar Skylar Diggins wasn’t pleased.

For one of the few times in her basketball life, the 5 foot, 9 inch Tulsa Shock guard faced adversity.

There was no furrowed brow or squint in her eyes as she reflected on her tough rookie season during an extensive discussion following Tulsa’s practice Wednesday night at the Verizon Center. Instead, Diggins’ peaceful facial façade told a different story.

Confidently speaking in a matter-of-fact tone, Diggins’ difficulties were a humorous memory.

“Last year, I’d be the first to tell you that I wasn’t happy with the product I put on the floor,” Diggins said. “I think that I am the hardest on myself. Nobody can place any greater expectations on me than I already have on myself.”

Diggins kept the most important off-season appointments a secret from her half-million Twitter followers.

A client of Jay-Z’s Roc Nation Sports management division, Diggins’ busy offseason schedule gave her detractors plenty of ammunition to question her commitment to improving as a player.

Diggins ignored the excessive noise and silenced her bleacher critics by working harder than ever while simultaneously building her brand.

“People are going to say what they want to say,” Diggins said. “I think the great thing about me is I have a strong inner circle that keeps me grounded and focused.

"Everybody has an opinion and now some of the things I saw from those same people, they’re saying the exact opposite. It’s funny how people flip-flop.”

Diggins appeared in Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue and in Vogue magazine.

She consistently traveled across the country, making red-carpet appearances, signing autographs and conducting clinics.

Even with her demanding schedule, the humble Diggins wasn’t blinded by her celebrity status, which kept her grounded.

“If you followed my social media, you probably would’ve thought otherwise because I didn’t really post a lot of when I was in the gym playing basketball,” Diggins said. “A lot of people were asking how I have the time to do everything that I do. They were even asking, ‘do you play basketball?’

"It was the opposite. Very quietly I was putting in my work. I wanted to get back to that. I fell in love with the game again.”

The solitude along with the soothing sounds of sneaker squeaking traffic was the perfect tonic for Diggins to regain her swag.

“I had the blinders on during the offseason,” Diggins said. “I was always in the gym whether I was in L.A., New York or Indiana. I always found a gym. I really tried to be adamant about the work I put in and I moved with a purpose.

"I was doing a lot of traveling and other things off the court to build my brand, but I scheduled everything around my workouts. I was focused on my basketball grind. I put in a lot of work in to make sure I got better and I accomplished that mission.”

The hard work has yielded terrific results for Diggins, who is demolishing opponents.

The Notre Dame All-American, who shined with 27 points last week in her first career All-Star game, is second in the league in scoring (21.4 points per game) and fourth in assists (5.3).

A mentally stronger and more assertive Diggins has scored 20 or more points 17 times this season.

A human firecracker and highlight waiting to happen, Diggins scored a career high 34 points against San Antonio in a 95-93 loss earlier this week. She also scored 33 points earlier this year against Chicago.

She has reached double figures in 24 of Tulsa’s 25 games after scoring a team-high19 points Friday night during an 82-77 setback to the Washington Mystics.

For those who didn’t think basketball mattered to Diggins, they should’ve witnessed her reddened and moist eyes while she discussed another tough defeat to a gaggle of media members in a postgame interview in the Shock’s silent locker room following the Mystics game Friday night.

Diggins is in the process of detonating the Shock single-season record book.

She is close to breaking a few of Deanna Nolan’s team records when the franchise existed in the glory days of Detroit. She has scored 535 points this season. Diggins is 25 points and 18 assists away from becoming the Shock’s single-season leader in those categories.

“(The critics) must have thought I was broken last year,” Diggins said. “I don’t think I was broken, I just thought I had a rookie season. I knew this year would be better. I am happy with where I am individually this year. I still have a lot of growing to do as well as my team.”

Diggins is the unquestioned leader of a talented Tulsa team.

In addition to Diggins, third-year center and two-time All-Star Glory Johnson along with rookie guard Odyssey Sims, who dropped a career-high 39 points Tuesday night in San Antonio, are great building blocks for first-year head coach Fred Williams.
Courtney Paris also has 10 double-doubles this season.

Despite losing 10 of their 12 last games, the Shock (8-17 overall) still believes they will earn a playoff spot in the Western Conference. Tulsa starts a critical four-game home stand Sunday against Chicago at 3:30 p.m. The Shock trail the Los Angeles Sparks by 2.5 games for the No. 4 seed.

Another example of Diggins’ leadership occurred during practice.

While sitting on the floor, Diggins consistently encouraged guard Angel Goodrich, who was going through a difficult drill in which she was sprinting from sideline-to-sideline, hitting large red bags resembling tackling dummies and stopping to pull-up in the lane to hit a 13-foot jumpers.

Goodrich, a 5-4 guard out of Kansas, averages 6.7 minutes and 0.9 points per game for the Shock. It didn’t matter to Diggins, who clapped and cheered loudly, each time she made a basket.

“I am fortunate to be part of a young team that’s growing and with a coaching staff that’s passionate and positive,” Diggins said. “They’re just a blessing to be around. My goal is to get better and do my part on this Tulsa Shock team. I want to be a better individual and teammate.”

Diggins’ impact goes beyond the basketball court.

Recently, Diggins was featured in a New York Times article in which she gave beauty tips and in O magazine discussing calf-exercises one can do while in the shower.

Diggins is a model for a new line of Nike sports bras.

She also had role on the hit MTV series “Wild ‘N Out” opposite Nick Cannon. Of course, Diggins recently made a memorable ESPY’s appearance in which she kissed Drake on the forehead.

“The ESPYs is the biggest sports stage so I thought it was great to represent my brand, my family, the Tulsa Shock and WNBA,” Diggins said. “To be able to do that and be on stage was fun. I thought it was a great moment and everybody got a laugh out of it. That entire week was great for me and a blessing. I got to participate in my first all-star weekend as a player. It was amazing and I had a great time doing that.”

Diggins is major attraction in opposing arenas.

During Friday’s game against the Mystics, many little girls paraded around sporting Diggins’ black No. 4 jersey and her trademark headbands.

She has the second-highest selling jersey in the league behind Atlanta rookie Shoni Schimmel.

With a major AAU tournament in town at Convention Center, Diggins made it a priority to make an appearance at the showcase especially since she sponsors the Sky Digg Elite team.

“For me it’s important, that I am always myself,” Diggins said. “With that, I carry around my family. I am very passionate and dedicated to the things that are in my life such as basketball, my family and children. I want to be remembered as someone who always did good, had great character, cared about her family and somebody who stuck to her values.

"I have so many things that I want to do. I just want to make the world a better place.”

When asked to elaborate on her future plans, Diggins smiled and guarded her thoughts the way she locks down defenders.

“I can’t share all my plans,” a grinning Diggins said. “I am full of surprises, but there are great things ahead. I am excited for the future. I am with Roc Nation, the best management company in the world. They’re great at what they do and they keep opportunities coming my way. As long as I do my part and produce, they will do their job. We’re just getting started.”

Just like her journey to greatness is beginning.





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Friday, July 25, 2014

WNBA Report: Vaughn Rescues Washington To Turn Back Tulsa

By Rob Knox @knoxrob1

WASHINGTON –
Snoozing through a tough fourth quarter, the Washington Mystics needed somebody to make a play down the stretch to prevent an epic collapse against the Tulsa Shock Friday night at the Verizon Center.

Enter Kia Vaughn, a Rutgers product in her second year with the Mystics.

Vaughn came through with a pair of plays that steadied a wobbly Mystic team, created a seismic momentum shift and helped them hold off the Shock, 82-77 in a thriller.

Extending its winning streak to three games wasn’t easy as Washington played a furiously fought, but frightfully-flawed fourth quarter.

However, thanks to Vaughn’s timely efforts, the Mystics lived to tell and smile about it.

It was a game with bizarre stats for the winning team -- like former Duke star Monique Currie going 16-18 from the foul line for all of her points while shooting 0-3 from the field.

A team spokesman said that was a record in the WNBA.

Then there's the fact that in the fourth quarter Washington was 1-for-13 from the field -- the one being Kara Lawson's basket from the corner with 45.9 seconds left to play -- and still won.

But in the end, all that matters is that the Mystics improved to 12-13 overall and climbed into second place in the Eastern Conference standings ahead of idle Indiana. Tulsa dropped to 8-17 overall after suffering its ninth loss by five points or less this season.

With the Mystics clinging to a 70-69 lead with less than two minutes remaining, Vaughn made two foul shots, blocked a Glory Johnson shot attempt that led to a pair of Bria Hartley free throws and recorded an assist on Kara Lawson’s baseline jumper, which ended a string of 13 straight Washington missed shots to start the fourth quarter.

When asked about the blocked shot, Vaughn admitted to having some extra aderaline at that point of the game.

“It was natural instinct,” Vaughn said of her huge blocked shot. “I had some juice underneath me when I was elbowed in the face earlier. Right now I don’t think we’ve reached our peak as a team where everybody can be great.

"Tonight was a test of our character and he we’re built as a team. We were able to stay focused, stick together as a team and make some plays when it mattered.”

Ivory Latta led Washington with 17 points while Currie had nine rebounds to go with her 16 points from the charity stripe. Hartley finished with 11 points.

Washington ultimately made 12 of 15 free throws in the final quarter to post consecutive home victories for the first time this season.

The hard-luck Shock trailed 68-53 entering the fourth quarter before Johnson and Skylar Diggins fueled a big rally.

Diggins scored a game-high 19 points and handed out five assists.

Johnson scored eight of her 15 points in the final frame.

Courtney Paris scored 10 points and grabbed 16 rebounds for her 10th double-double. Odyssey Sims had 14 points and seven rebounds.

The Shock attempted 20 more shots than the Mystics (84-64) and won the rebounding battle, 43-41, but still ended up on the short end of the scoreboard. Washington was 26-of-32 from the foul line while Tulsa attempted 16 foul shots. Currie attempted 18 free throws.

“We fought hard,” Johnson said. “We worked hard on offense, but didn’t make the shots we normally make. We wanted to finish strong especially on defense, which is what we did as a team tonight and didn’t give up. I saw Kia when I went up for the shot. I thought I was going to get a finger roll or an and-one there.”

In building a 49-37 halftime lead, the Mystics shot 48.7 percent (18-for-37) from the field. Latta was 4-of-7 shooting in scoring 11 first half points while Emma Meesseman made all four of her first half shot attempts for eight points. Lawson also came off the bench to make three of her four shots for seven points.

Defensively, the Mystics did a good job on Sims and Diggins forcing the duo into a combined 9-of-20 shooting effort for 19 points. Neither player made a 3-pointer in the first half.

“We played better defense in the fourth quarter and gave ourselves a chance to win the game,” Diggins said. “We kept fouling, which helped them put points on the board.”

Both teams return to action Sunday afternoon. Washington closes out its three-game homestand against East leading Atlanta at 4:00 p.m. Tulsa begins a stretch of four consecutive home games against Chicago at 3:30 p.m.


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WNBA Report: Bentley Looks to Guide Connecticut Back to the Playoffs

By Rob Knox @knoxrob1

WASHINGTON –
Alex Bentley is looking forward to the challenge of helping the Connecticut Sun earn a playoff spot.

Even though the Sun are in a temporary rut – a rough stretch in which they lost nine of their last 11 games -- the energetic 5 foot, 7 inch guard is not worried because she believes Connecticut (10-15) will be part of the WNBA’s postseason party when the season concludes on August 17.

Coach Anne Donovan's squad finds itself in fifth place in the Eastern Conference standings, a half-game behind New York, winners of two straight, as it takes the court Sunday afternoon against former UConn queen Maya Moore and the reigning WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx (18-6) at the Mohegan Sun Arena beginning at 3:00 p.m.

“The Eastern Conference is a dogfight,” Bentley said. “The end of the season is approaching quickly and we’re getting into playoff mode. It’s going to be a battle every night. I am looking forward to it. I love challenges and the competiveness of the league. We’re going to have some fun.”

The Penn State product has always had a blast overcoming obstacles and turning doubters into believers.

There were occasions she was told that she was too short to be an impact player at a major Division I school despite enjoying a phenomenal high school career.

Not only did she become one of the best players in Penn State history, Bentley was drafted in 13th overall by the Atlanta Dream.

With a chip the size of the state of Georgia on her shoulders last season, Bentley played a key role in helping the Dream advance to the WNBA Finals by averaging 8.3 points per game.

A fierce floor-general, Bentley was named to the WNBA All-Rookie team and set a league record by making 10 consecutive 3-pointers during a sizzling two-week stretch.

Just as she was becoming comfortable in Atlanta, she was traded to Connecticut, which became another opportunity to thrive in a new situation.

“At first, I was surprised,” Bentley said. “I learned about the trade when I was overseas playing in Brazil from my agent. When I came back home, I got my mind right for training camp and focused on trying to help my team win. I love the organization here in Connecticut. My teammates and coaching staff are great. I am in a good position.”

Bentley has produced solid numbers for the Sun this season.

Averaging 12.0 points per game, which is third on the team behind rookie Chiney Ogwumike and Katie Douglas, Bentley has scored 20 or more points five times this season.

She has reached double figures in scoring in 14 of the Sun’s last 18 games after her 15-point outing Wednesday afternoon in an 89-75 loss to the Mystics at the Verizon Center.

She also leads the Sun with 93 assists after delivering a season-high tying nine helpers against the Mystics.

Earlier this season, Bentley became the fourth player in franchise history to string together three consecutive 20-point games and she registered three straight career-highs in the process: 21 points against Indiana (June 7), 22 against Phoenix (June 12) and 24 against New York (June 13).

Those efforts all occurred during the Sun’s season-high six-game win streak. She was also named Eastern Conference Player of the Week in June.

Bentley’s passionate and fearless play on the floor has made a nice impression on her teammates. The best part about Bentley is she has inspired confidence in everybody. Bentley has a knack for finding ways to score late in the shot-clock.

“She’s a very confident player, which is good for our team,” veteran guard Renee Montgomery said. “We have a good shot to make playoffs. At this point, we don’t have to hope and wish somebody wins or loses because we control what happens.

"We understand that every game matters for us especially since we’re playing against East teams. We have a chance to move up and stay up in the standings as long as we handle business.”

One of the wins during the streak was a 96-95 triumph over Phoenix. The Mercury have won 14 straight contests since that setback to improve their record to 20-3 overall.

A win over Phoenix proves to the Sun that they have the ingredients to do some special things over their final nine games despite a difficult slate that features a three-game road trip next week.

“There are nine games left with everybody trying to get into the playoffs,” Bentley said. “We’ll keep working and fighting until the season is finished and see where we are. When we play hard as a team, we’re hard to stop. We just have to continue to work hard in practice and try to get these wins.”

One of the highlight's of Bentley’s recent trip to Washington was meeting up with the Penn State coaching staff and former teammate for dinner on Tuesday night. Bentley keeps up with the progress of the Nittany Lions and remains in consistent communication with head coach Coquese Washington.

During whatever tough times Bentley has encountered as a professional, Washington has always been there to provide encouragement and support.

“I talk to coach almost everyday,” Bentley said. “She’s always going to be a mentor to me. She’s like a mom to me. That’s my homie. I saw the entire coaching staff and one of my teammates Mia Nickson, so that was nice. I don’t get up there much. I plan to go visit before I go overseas.”

Bentley has confidence that the trip back to Happy Valley will be delayed a few weeks as she finishes some important business.










- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad

Philly Summer League: Leaders Short-Circuit Upset Bids as Gold Clinches First 2014 Playoff Berth

By Mel Greenberg

HATBORO, Pa. --
Teams White, Orange, and Black nearly squandered all of big leads each held before escaping with victories while Gold clinched the first of eight playoff slots Thursday night in the Philadelphia/Suburban Women's NCAA Summer Basketball League at Kelly Bolish Gym, home of the AAU Renengades in lower Bucks County.

Three nights remain on the regular season schedule -- two next week and then on Tuesday, August 5 -- before the quarterfinals begin two nights later.

Overall, there was one very slight ripple in the standings on Thursday night.

However, winless Royal Blue (0-9) became the first team eliminated, but not before erasing all but one of a 21-point deficit down the stretch to Orange, which held on for a 77-74 victory.

There are a technical clear eight in the current standings but only because Purple (5-5) snapped an eight-place tie with a 59-30 win over Red (2-7), while Pink (4-5), also known as the Division II University of the Sciences of Philadelphia contingent, was idle.

That was the slight ripple previously mentioned.

Meanwhile, the Guru spoke too soon to longtime Commissioner David B. Kessler earlier in the evening.

The Guru noted that his individual nightly performance standard of 20 or more points was becoming a rarity.

Then no less than six players achieved the distinction with four of them -- two on each side -- collecting big totals in the Orange/Royal Blue matchup.

Ciara Andrews, a Saint Joseph's junior out of Cheltenham, turned in the season's third best nightly performance with 29 points and was 5-for-5 from the line for Royul Blue while Sarah Fairbanks on Hunter Green, who holds the best performance with 35 points in a win laat week over Orange, now also owns the fourth best performance eih 28 points in Hunter Green's 66-53 loss to Sky Blue.

Continuing a trend, Saint Joseph's were all over the scoring leaderships in the six games played.

Saint Joseph's Summer Stars Reunion in Maryland

The Guru recently reported the Loyola, Md., announcement that former Hawks and summer league star Katie Kuester, who spent last season as the video coordinator for North Carolina, has been hired as an assistant coach by Joe Logan, who is a former assistant on Hawk Hill to Cindy Griffin.

The Guru happened to meet Kuester Wednesday in the nation's capital at the Washington Convention Center where many collegiate coaches have descended to scout talent in AAU Competition at the U.S. junior national tournament.

Kuester noted how much she misses the summer action, said she follows the league by computer, and sent her wishes to everyone.

Earlier in the day when the Guru was over at the WNBA contest beteen the host Mystics and Connecticut Sun, the Guru ran into Hall of Fame North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell, who said of Kuester: "I'm going to miss her. I din't want to lose her but she's going to do well."

Meanwhile, though Logan hasn't formally made the announcement, he told the Guru he is bringing aboard Erin Shields, another former Hawks and summer league star, as director of basketball operations.

He also hired former Villanova star Sarah Jones.

"Our office is going to be something when Saint Joseph's and Villanova meet, we might have to go up to Philly to watch that one," Logan quipped.

Sewing the Seeds

As mentioned, not much changed Thursday night, but there will be clinchings and more eliminations probably when the action of the three doubleheaders take place Tuesday night.

Gold, with a two-game lead, is a clear No. 1 seed and either a win over Pink Tuesday night or a White loss to Maroon will give Gold the top seed in the playoffs.

White (7-2), also known as the Division II West Chester squad, is clearly second, while Hunter Green (6-4) and Maroon (6-4), which both lost Tuesday, are tied for third and Hunter Green gets the higher seed off a recent win over Maroon.

Black (5-4), Orange (5-4), and Sky Blue (5-4) all won but did not play any game amongst them self so Black at 1-0 in the group stays fifth, Orange at 1-1 for sixth, and Sky Blue (0-1) is seventh.

Purple (5-5) is eighth with the 59-30 win over 12th place Red (2-7), which is all alone in the slot.

Pink (4-5) is ninth, and since both Kelly Green (3-6) and Navy Blue (3-6) both lost, Kelly Green stays 10th off its head-to-head win over Navy Blue in overtime.

Thursday's Recaps

Orange 77, Royal Blue 74 -- Most of the fireworks from this near-upset by Royal Blue have been addressed.

In addition to the 24 points from incoming Saint Joseph's sophomore Amanda Fioravanti for Orange, Penn senior Kara Bonenberger of Northampton High had 21 points, while sister Quakers aenior Kathleen Roche of the defending Ivy champions, scored 15 points and was 5-for-5 from the line in a game that had some pretty good foul shooting accuracy.

On Royal Blue, adding to the 28 from Ciara Andrws, including 6-for-6 from the lone, incoming Saint Joaeph' freshman Adashia Franklyn od Rustin High in West Chester had a summer high 20 points and shot 5-for-5 from the line.

Black 52, Maroon 45 -- Division II Phiadelphia University stayed in the middle of the pack with an upset of Maroon (6-4), as senior Ram Monica Shacker out of Germantown Academy got Black (5-4) above .500 with 17 points.

Black had 17-point lead cut to six by Maroon.

Maroon (6-4) got nine points from Division II East Stroudsburg sophomore Rachel Falkowski out of Central Bucka South, and seven from East Stroudsburg sophomore Courtney Brown of Council Rock South.

White 60, Navy Blue 58 -- The Division II West Chester bunch saw a 17-point lead whittled to just two over Navy Blue (3-6) but stayed in second as sophomore Emily Torrance of Henderson High scored 15 points for White (7-2) while sophomore Victoria Smick of Woodstown High scored 10 points.

Saint Joseph's incoming freshman Chelsea Woods as mentioned had another great individual night, scoring 20 points for Navy Blue, and Devin Gold, a Caldwell College senior out of Council Rock North scored nine points.

Gold 61, Kelly Green 48 -- Senior Pallavi Juneja of Division III Haverford College out of the Peddie School scored 15 points for unbeaten Gold (9-0), which clinched a playoff spot and hss a magic number one one to finish the regular season in first place.

Ashley Wood, a recent Division II Kutztown graduate out of Spring-Ford, whose father Keith is the Gold coach, scored 13 points, while Saint Joseph's senior Natasha Cloud out of Cardina O'Hara had 12 points and was 4-for-4 from the line.

Kelly Green (3-6), in a precarious situation, got 17 points from Villanova sophomore Megan Quinn of Episcopal, while Lexi Scrivano, a Division II Millersville junior out of Central Bucks East, scored 10 points.

Sky Blue 66, Hunter Green 53 -- Avery Marz, an incoming Saint Joseph's freshman scored 16 points and Hawks sophomore Jessica Pongonis added 13 for Sky Blue (5-4), which stopped Hunter Green (6-4) from taking sole possession of third place.

Hunter Green (6-4) got the 28 points from Saint Joseph's sophomore Sarah Farbanks, as mentioned, while Erin Martin of Indiana U. of Pa. as a junior out of Plymouth Whitemarsh, scored 10 points.

Purple 59, Red 30 -- Lia DiScaascio, a Scranton senior out of Cardnal O'Hara, scored 15 points for Purple, which also got nine points each from Sarah Payonk, a Scranton sophomore out of Spring-Ford, and Samantha Stipa, an incoming Lafayette freshman out of Spring-Ford for Purple (5-5).

Red (2-7) continued to fade but got six points each from Tuga Goff, a Rosemont sophomore out of Upper Dublin, and Josephine Noonan, an incomingx an incoming Salisbury freshman.

Individual Scoring Performances
(20 or more points)

35 pts. -- Sarah Fairbanks, Hunt. Grn(W) vs. Orange, July 17
31 pts. -- Jasmine Elum, Gold (W) vs. Maroon, July 1
29 pts. -- Ciara Andrews, RB (L) vs. Orange, July 24
28 pts. -- Sarah Fairbanks,Hunt.Grn. (L) vs. S. Bl., July 24
27 pts. -- Samantha Stipa, Purple (W) vs. H.G., June 26
26 pts. -- Mariah Powell, White (W) vs. Red, July 17
26 pts. -- Courtney Brown, Maroon (W) vs. R. Blue, July 2
25 pts. -- Meghan Gibson, Gold (W) vs. Navy Blue, July 17
24 pts. -- Jasmine Elum, Gold (W) vs Hunter Green, June 24
24 pts. -- Erin Fenningham, Hunt. Green (W) vs. N.B., July 1
24 pts. -- Alexis Smith, Gold (W) vs. Maroon, July 1
24 pts. -- Brianne Traub, Pink (W) vs. Royal Blue, July 10
24 pts. -- Amanda Fioravanti, Orange (W) vs. R. B., July 23
23 pts. -- Lexi Scrivano, Kelly Green (L) vs. White, June 24
22 pts. -- Mariah Powell, White (W) vs. Kelly Green, June 24
22 pts. -- Alex Smith, Gold (W) vs. Orange, June 26
22 pts. -- Brianne Traub, Pink (L) vs. Sky Blue, July 1
22 pts. -- Chelsea Woods, Navy Bue (L) vs. White, July 24
21 pts. -- Alex Smith, Gold (W) vs. Hunter Green, June 24
21 pts. -- Jasmine Elum, Gold (W) vs. Orange, June 26
21 pts. -- Chelsea Woods,Nav Blu (L-OT),vs.Kelly Grn, July 8
21 pts. -- Amanda Fioravanti, Orange (L) vs. Maroon,July 10
21 pts. -- Natalie Stella, Pink (W) vs. Royal Blue, July 10
21 pts. -- Sarah Fairbanks, Hunt Grn (L) vs. White, July 14
21 pts. -- Ciara Andrews, Royal Blue (L) vs. Gold, July 14
21 pts. -- Kara Bonenberger, Orange (W) vs. Toyal Blue, July 24
20 pts. -- Brittany Sicinski, White (W), vs. R.B., June 26
20 pts. -- Lauren Crisler, Gold (W), vs. White, July 10
20 pts. -- Natasha Cloud, Gold (W), vs. Royal Blue, July 14
20 pts. -- Chelsea Woods, Navy Blue (W), vs. Black, July 22

Running Tracker for Playoff Seeds and Tiebreakers
Placements now reflect seeds (in front of team name) if the season ended today, which it doesn't

1-Gold (9-0): H.G. (W), Orange (W), Maroon (W), Purple (W), White (W), R.B. (W), N.B.(W), S.B. (W). K.G. (W)

2-White (7-2): K.G.(W), R.B. (W), Purple (W), S.B.(W), Gold (L), H.G.(W), Red (W), Orange (L), N.B. (W)

3-Hunter Green (6-4) Gold (L), Purp. (L), N.B. (W), Pink (W), Red (W), vs. Black (W), White (L), Orange (W), Maroon (W), S.B. (L)

4-Maroon (6-4): Red (W), K.G. (W-F), Gold (L), R.B. (W), S.B. (L), Orange (W), N.B. (W), Pink (W), H.G. (L), Black (L)

5-Black (5-4): Pink (L), Red (L), Orange (W), K.G. (W-F), R.B. (W), H.G. (L), Purple (W), N.B.(L), Maroon (W),

6-Orange (5-4): Gold (L), Black (L), Purple (W-F), Pink (W), Maroon (L), S.B. (W), H.G. (L), White (W), R.B. (W)

7-Sky Blue: (5-4) R.B.(W), Pink (L), White (L), Maroon(W), Purple (W), Orange (L), K.G. (W), Gold (L), H.G. (W)

8-Purple (5-5): N.B.(W), H.G.(W),White (L), Orange (L-F), Gold (L), S.B. (L), K.G. (W), Black (L), R.B. (W), Red (W)

9-Pink (4-5): Black (W), N.B. (L), S.B. (W), H.G. (L), Orng (L ), R.B. (W), Red (W-OT), Maroon (L), K.G. (L)

10-Kelly Green (3-6): White (L), Maroon (L-F), Black (L-F), N.B. (W-OT), Red (W), Purple (L), S.B. (L), Pink (W), Gold (L)

11-Navy Blue (3-6): Purple (L), Pink (W),H.G.(L), Red (W), K.G. (L-OT), Maroon (L), Gold (L), Black (W)

12-Red (2-7) Maroon (L), Black (W), R.B.(W), N.B. (L), H.G. (L), KG (L), Pink (L-OT), Gold (L, Purple (L)

13-Royal Blue (0-9): S.B. (L), White (L), Red (L), Maroon (L), BLack (L), Pink (L), Gold (L), Purple (L), Orange (L)

Standings (Thru Monday, July 28)

Team, W-L, Pct., G.B., Pts., Opp Pts.

x-Gold, 9-0, 1.000, --, 691 537
White, 7-2, .750, 2.0, 653 479
Hunter Green, 6-4, .600, 3.5, 611 617
fw-Maroon, 6-4, .600, 3.5, 541 411
w-Black, 5-4, .556, 4.0, 408 388
Orange, 5-4, .556, 4.0, 484 517
Sky Blue, 5-4, .556, 4.0, 579 499
fl-Purple, 5-5, .500, 4.5, 519 482
Pink, 4-5, .444, 5.0, 467 479
fl(2)-Kelly Green, 3-6,.333, 6.0, 382 458
Navy Blue, 3-6, .333, 6.0, 502 701
Red, 2-7, .222, 7.0, 474 596
Royal Blue, 0-9, .000, 9.0, 428 624

x -- Clinched playoff slot
fw -- includes forfeit win, fl -- includes forfeit loss

Past Results

Thursday (July 24) Results

Gold 61, Kelly Green 48
White 60, Navy Blue 58
Black 52, Maroon 45
Sky Blue 66, Hunter Green 53
Orange 77, Royal Blue 74
Purple 59, Red 30

Bye: Pink

Tuesday (July 22) Results

Purple 72, Royal Blue 51
Orange 67, White (D2-West Chester) 58
Navy Blue 45, Black (D2-Phila. U.) 36
Hunter Green 68, Maroon 57
Gold 74, Sky Blue 63
Kelly Green 43, Pink (D2-USP) 37
Bye: Red

Thursday (July 17) Results

White (D2-West Chester) 102, Eed 62
Black (D2-Phila. U.) 56, Purple 39
Hunter Green 78. Orange 62
Gold 83, Navy Blue 62
Maroon 55, Pink (D2-USP) 36
Sky Blue 70, Kelly Green 55
Bye: Royal Blue

Tueaday (July 14) Results

White (D2-West Chester) 89, Hunter Green 37
Gold 79, Royal Blue 64
Pink (D2-USP) 64, Red 59, ovt.
Purple 62, Kelly Green 59
Orange 73, Sky Blue 72
Maroon 68, Navy Blue 61

Black (D2-Phila. U.), Bye

Thursday (July 10) Results

Maroon 53, Orange 47
Sky Blue 59, Purple 36
Kelly Green 59, Red 45
Gold 69, White(D2-West Chester) 47
Hunter Green 51, Black (D2-Phila. U) 43
Pink (D2-USP) 70, Royal Blue 50

Tuesday (July 8) Results

Black (D2-Phila. U.) 58, Royal Blue 56
Kelly Green 74, Navy Blue 70, ovt.
Orange 50, Pink (D2-USP) 49
Sky Blue 52, Maroon 47
Hunter Green 75, Red 60
Gold 77, Purple 57

Wednesday (July 2) Results

Hunter Green 51, Pink 47
Maroon 98, Royal Blue 48
White (D2-West Chester) 59, Sky Blue 48
Navy Blue 78, Red 52
Black 2, Kelly Green 0, forfeit
Orange 2, Purple 0, forfeit

Tuesday (July 1) Results

Hunter Green 69, Navy Blue 59
White (West Chester) 54, Purple 45
Gold 85, Maroon 68
Black (Phila. U.) 54, Orange 38
Pink (USP) 59, Sky Blue 56
Red 70, Royal Blue 57

Thursday (June 26) Results

Red 55, Black 54
White 84, Royal Blue 59
Gold 79, Orange 68
Purple 80, Hunter Green 50
Navy Blue 62, Pink 46
Maroon 2, Kelly Green 0 (forfeit)
Bye: Sky Blue

Tuesday (June 24) Results

Purple 69, Navy Blue 44
Maroon 48, Red 42
Sky Blue 93, Royal Blue 43
White (West Chester) 99, Kelly Green 44
Pink (USP) 59, Black (Phila. U.) 53
Gold 84, Hunter Green 59
Bye: Orange

Looking Ahead

Purple gets a break with the bye and could move to a game in front of Pink since the USP group will be playing Gold at 8:15 p.m. on Court 3.

Two of the teams in the three-way tie for fifth, Black (5-4) and Sky Blue (5-4) meet at 8:15 p.m. on Court 2.

Orange (5-4), the third team in that mix, eill meet Red (2-7) at 7 p.m. on Court 1.

Kelly Green (3-6) will be an underdog facing Hunter Green (6-4) at 7 p.m. on Court 3.

At the same time Maroon (6-4) will be playing White (7-2) on Court 2.

Upcoming Schedule

Tuesday, July 29

7 p.m.

Red (2-7) vs. Orange (5-4), Court 1
White (7-2)vs. Maroon (6-4), Court 2
Hunter Green (6-4) vs. Kelly Green (3-6), Court 3

8:15 p.m.

Royal Blue (0-9)vs. Navy Blue (3-6), Court 1
Black (5-4) vs. Sky Blue (5-4), Court Court 2
Gold (0-0) vs. Pink (4-5), Court 3

Bye: Purple

Thursday, July 31

7 p.m.

Gold vs. Black, Court 1
Kelly Green vs. Royal Blue, Court 2
Maroon vs. Purple, Court 3

8:15 p.m.

Pink vs. White, Court 1
Sky Blue vs. Red, Court 2
Navy Blue vs. Orange, Court 3

Bye: Hunter Green

Tueaday, August 5

7 p.m.

Sky Blue vs. Navy Blue, Court 1
Purple vs. Pink, Court 2
Hunter Green vs. Royal Blue, Court 3

8:15 p.m.

Orange vs. Kelly Green, Court 1
Red va. Gold, Court 2
Black vs. White, Court 3

Bye: Maroon

Regular Season Ends

Playoff Schedule

Quarterfinals

Thursday, August 7


7 p.m.
8th aeed vs. 1st seed, Court 1
6th seed vs. 3rd seed, Court 2

8:15 p.m.

7th seed vs. 2nd seed, Court 1
5rh seed vs. 4th seed, Court 2

Semifinals

Tuesday, Aug. 12


7 p.m.

Highest surviving seed vs. lowest surviving seed, Court 1

8:15 p.m.

Remaining quarterfinals survivors, Court 1

Championship

Thursday, Aug. 14


Semifinal survivors, Court 1

That's it for this report.

-- Mel


- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

WNBA REPORT: Latta Powers Washington Past Connecticut

By Rob Knox @knoxrob1

WASHINGTON –
Ivory Latta punctuated her monster fourth quarter scoring spree by draining a 3-pointer with under a minute remaining and while running back down the floor on defense, pointing at Wizard guard John Wall, who was sitting courtside.

Like a bottle of carbonated diet soda mixed with Mentos candy, Latta erupted in the fourth quarter, scoring 12 of her game-high 23 points to fuel the Washington Mystics to an 89-75 victory over the Connecticut Sun Wednesday afternoon at the Verizon Center.

In scoring 20 or more points for the second time this season, Latta was unstoppable and entertaining during the Mystics’ 30-point fourth quarter surge.

“We had to do the little things down the stretch to get the win,” Latta said. “We had to stop them from getting second chance points and when we did, we kind of controlled the game.

"At that point, I knew somebody had to take control of the game and luckily I was able to do that. When I get going, everybody does well. Coach told me to control the tempo and that’s what I tried to do.”

Among the crowd was Women's Basketball Hall of Famer Sylvia Hatchell who was Latta's college coach and for whom the former Tar Heels star works as an assistant in the winter.

Celebrating her second consecutive All-Star selection, Latta treated the energetic gaggle of thunder-stick banging youth campers wearing a kaleidoscope of bright colored t-shirts from fluorescent teal to orange to a fourth quarter takeover that had to be witnessed to be believed.

When Latta was done burning the nets, she turned those duties over to rookie Stefanie Dolson, who scored nine of her 13 points in the final period.

Latta and Dolson were a combined 9-for-12 shooting in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Sun, 21-16. Dolson finished one point away from tying her career high.

In building off the momentum generated by a 3-2 road trip, the Mystics (11-13 overall) moved into a tie for second place in the Eastern Conference with the Indiana Fever.

“That road trip was so big for us,” Latta said. “We did an outstanding job. I think it gave us the momentum going into this stretch of games. We came together well during that trip. We realized that we can be as good as we want to be. We know we can’t let anybody control the way we play. We control our destiny going forward.”

As has become its modus operandi, it was far from a one-woman show for Washington, which defeated Connecticut for the third time this season to clinch the series.

Also reaching double figures for Washington, winners of four of its last five games, was Monique Currie (17 points), Bria Hartley (11) and Emma Meesseman (10).

Another key to the Mystics victory was committing one turnover in the fourth quarter while forcing Connecticut into a 5-for-15 shooting performance.

“This is a good win for us especially here at home because we haven’t won as many games here as we would’ve liked to,” Hartley said. “It’s awesome to watch Ivory when she gets into that zone. She was making plenty of plays which helped our team get going.”

It took a little time in the fourth quarter for the Mystics to impose their will on Connecticut, who built a 65-61 lead with 8 minutes, 38 seconds remaining following a pair of foul shots from rookie Chiney Ogwumike. A little while later, Latta’s 3-pointer gave the Mystics the lead for good, 68-66 with 6:52 remaining. That basket was part of a bigger 12-1 Washington run that turned the game.

Prior to that burst, the game was an entertaining tug-of-war between a pair of teams trying to improve possible playoff positioning. There were seven ties including 38-38 at halftime and 59-59 at the end of the third quarter along with nine lead changes.

Dolson delivered better than Dominos during the fourth quarter. She drained a 12-foot baseline jumper off of a Latta pass that cut the Sun’s edge to 66-65. Then, with 3:04 remaining, Dolson completed an old-fashioned 3-point play that gave Washington an 80-70 bulge.

“She played big for us today down the stretch and I am proud of her,” Latta said of Dolson. “She’s capable of doing that every night so we’re definitely looking forward to her doing that and giving her the ball down there so she can keep scoring.”

The Sun (10-15) was paced by Ogwumike’s 18 points and 10 rebounds. Kelsey Bone and Alex Bentley scored 15 points each. Bentley, who handed out nine assists, insisted the Sun are not down following the road setback.

“We just got away from our defensive execution in the fourth quarter and that led to their baby run,” Bentley said.

“We broke down on a couple of plays. We have to stay focused on defense for 40 minutes. It’s a dogfight and there are nine games left with everybody trying to get into the playoffs. We’ll keep working and fighting until the season is finished and see where we are.”

The Mystics will host high-scoring Tulsa Friday night at 7:00 p.m. Tulsa’s dynamic backcourt of Odyssey Sims and Skylar Diggins combined for 73 points in Tuesday’s setback to San Antonio.

The Sun will host Maya Moore and the Minnesota Lynx Sunday afternoon at 3:00. Moore dropped 48 points, three shy of Riquia Williams’ single-game record set last year, in a thrilling double overtime victory over Atlanta on Tuesday night.


- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad

Philly Summer League: Saint Joseph's/Penn Combo Gives Orange Upset of White

By Mel Greenberg

HATBORO, Pa. --
A 67-58 upset win by Team Orange over Team Whie, also known as the Division II West Chester squad marked a string of string of surprises and near-upsets in Tuesday night's action in the Philadelphia/Suburban Women's NCAA Summer Basketball League at Kelly Bolish Gym, home of the AAU Renegades in lower Bucks County.

Unbeaten Gold (8-0) opened a two-game lead over White but had to turn back a strong effort from Sky Blue before emerging with the 74-63 win.

Maroon had a chance to move into a second-place tie but was taken down by by Hunter Green, 68-57, which caught Maroon in a tie for third but gets the third seed for now because of the head-to-head win.

Navy Blue from the lower part of the standings surprised Black, also known as the Division II Philadelphia University squad, with a 45-36 win but didn't get any headway because Kelly Green upset Pink, closing out the Division II University of the Sciences of Philadelphia in the final minute.

Chelsea Woods, an incoming Saint Joseph's freshman, had 20 points for Navy Blue in the win over Black and was the only player in the three doubleheaders to hit the 20 points or better nightly performance milestone.

Woods had 21 points in a game earlier this summer.

The playoff race for the eight spots and seed positions remain tight though Gold can officially be tbe first to the postseason qualifying stop on Thursday with either a win or a loss by Black.

The 13 teams in the league have either four or three games remaining depending on who or who has not yet served a nightly bye.

The Guru Takes an Audible

And so wuth the Guru providing passenger service this week to longtime commissioner David Kessler, who is finishing his rehab from hip replacement surgery serveral weeks ago, the Guru opted to work on this report at what had been an all-night Fedex place in nearby Willow Grove rather than his normal headquarters across the river from Northeast Philadelpia in Cherry Hill, N.J.

However, upon arrival, it appeared the all-night status was no more, but not to worry.

Just across the parking lot in the little shopping mall was a place open all night with wifi, snacks, restroom, electric outlets and a few other commodities, so to put it in plain English, this report is coming to you and being finished in the middle of the night thanks to the ability for the Guru to run on Dunkin.

Of course, still to be determined as the clock ticks is whether the Guru wil drive all the way or take advantage of the MARC communter rail down in either Perryvlle or Abderdeen, Md., to get to the late morning WNBA game in the nation's capital between the Washington Mystics and Connecticut Sun as both teams resume the rest of their regular seasons following the break for Saturday's All-Star Game in Phoenix.

More Notables

Former Temple star Marilyn Stephens was back on the scene Tuesday night to watch her daughter Adashia Franklyn, who is Saint Joseph's bound this fall.

Also on the scene was former Immaculata All-American Theresa Grentz, who has been involved in Franklyn's training.

Grentz and her former Mighty Macs teammates are part of the Immaculata era 1972-74 that will be enshrined next month in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.

The Mighty Macs are also heading for the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame in November and just this past weekend the team was announced as a winner of the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame Trailblazer Award and will be cited besides the six inductees heading for inclusion in Knoxville, Tenn., on June 13 next year.

Grentz, who coached at Saint Joseph's, Rutgers and Illinois and has recently written a book and now runs her own clinics and training operation, has already been individually honored in Knoxville and at the Philly Hall as has her teammate Marianne Stanley, an assistant coach with the WNBA Washington team, and former Mighty Macs coach Catby Rush.

On the Mend

Besides the commissioner, also back from hip surgery Tuesday night was Tom Utescher of the Chestnut Hill Local who was operated upon a few weeks after Kessler.

Sewing the Seeds

OK, here is how the tiebreaks set up the seeds right now if the season ended today, which of course will not really happen until August 5.

Quarterfinals begin Augusut 7, followed by the semifinals on August 12, and title game on August 14.

Gold and Wbite continue as the top two seeds, wbile Hunter Green gets the third seed off Tuesday's win over Maroon, which created a tie between the two teams.

Black, Orange and Sky Blue are tied for fifth and the games among them are not all complete.

But for now within the group Black gets the fifth seed at 1-0, Orange is 1-1 and Sky Blue is 0-1 for the seventh seed.

There is a tie for the eighth seed cut-off for the playoffs.

Purple and Pink have yet to play each other but for now Purple gets slotted eighth because of its best quality win over Hunter Green.

Kelly Green and Navy Blue remain tied for 10th -- both teams won Tuesday -- so Kelly Green remains 10th in the tiebreaker move of having beaten Navy Blue in overtime.

Red, which had the bye Tuesday, is 12th and Royal Blue finishes out the standings still looking for a win.

In terms of getting to the eighth spot, Kelly Green and Navy are a half-game out while Red is 1.5 games out and Royal Blue must win its four remaining games, though that may not be enough.

At the bottom, the remainder of the regular season schedule is listed, given there are but four nights left. Playoff dates are also listed with the actual teams to be filled in when the seeds and final standings are determined.

Tuesday's Recaps

Orange 67 White 58 --
In the big upset, Saint Joseph's incoming freshman Amanda Fioravanti had 17 points for Orange (4-4), which got back to .500 in a three-way tie for fifth.

Penn senior Kara Bonenberger, a former Big Five rookie of the year who went to Northampton High, had 16 points and Division II Kutztown sophomore Kelsey Watson out of Methacton scored 10 points.

White (6-2), the West Chester squad, as mentioned, got 15 points, of which nine came from three treys, from junior Dallas Ely, Emily Torrance, a sophomore from Henderson High, scored 14 points, while Mariah Powell, a senior out of Rustin High for the Golden Rams, had 10 points and was a perfect 4-for-4 from the line.

Navy Blue 45, Black 36 -- Chelsea Woods and her 10 points for Navy Blue (3-5) have aready been mentioned. Lauren Gold, a Shippesnburg sophomore from Abington Friends, scored 10 points, shooting 4-for-4 from the line and nailing a pair of three-pointers.

Philadelpia U. senior Najah Jacobs out of Central High scored 12 points for Black (4-4), while senior Jacqueline McCarron out of Lansdale Catholic scored nine points.

Gold 74, Sky Blue 63 -- Saint Joseph's senjor Natasha Cloud out of Cardinal O'Hara had 18 points for the unbeaten Gold (8-0) group, while Ashley Wood, the daughter of Gold coach Keith Wood and recent Division II Kutztown graduate out of Spring-Ford, scored 17 points.

Lauren Crisler, an American U. sopomore out of North Penn High, and Jasmine Elum, a 2012 Bethune-Cookman graduate out of Bodine High, each scored 11 points for the winners.

Alyssa Isler, a recent Division III Gettysburg graduate out of New Hope-Solebury, scored 12 points for Sky Blue (4-4) as did Avery Marz, an incoming Saint Joseph's freshman.

Jessica Pongonis, a Saint Joseph's sophomore; and Stephanie Schultz, a Colgate senior out of the Hill School, each added 11 points to the Sky Blue total.

Hunter Green 68, Maroon 57 -- Sarah Fairbanks, a Saint Joseph's junior out of Elizabethtown High, scored 15 points in a balanced attack for Hunter Green (6-3), which also got 14 points from Sarah Sherman, a Division III Juniata College sophomore out of Methacton High, 11 from Taylor Walker, an incoming Division II Holy Family freshman out of Delsea Regional High, and 10 points from Simone Jacques, a New York Univrsity sophomore out of Plymouth-Whitemarsh.

Maroon, which fell to 6-3, had 14 points from Taylor Bryant, a Penn player from Upper Dublin High, who nailed three 3-pointers, while Courtney Brown, an East Stroudsburg sophomore out of Council Rock South, scored 10 points.

Purple 72, Royal Blue 51 -- Four players scored in double figures for Purple (4-5), which stayed in the playoff hunt as Lia DiSciascio, a Division III Scranton senior out of Cardinal O'Hara collected 14 points, Lindsay Fluehr, another Scranton senior but out of Naxareth Academy, scored 11 points, while Samantha Stipa, an incoming Lafayette freshman out of Spring-Ford, scored 10 points, aa did Sarah Payonk, a Scranton sophomore out of Spring-Ford.

Royal Blue (0-8), still winless, got 19 points from Adashia Franklyn, the incoming Saint Joseph's freshman who, as previously mentioned, is former Temple star Marilyn Stephen's daughter.

Hawks sophomore Ciara Andrews out of Cheltenham High, scored 11 points, and Stevens junior Megan Petuskey scored 10 points.

Kelly Green 45, Pink 37 -- The winners (3-5) stayed in the playoff hunt while Pink (4-5) got in danger of falling out.

The Villanova duo of incoming freshman Alex Louin out of Mount St. Joseph's and sophomore Megan Quinn out of Episcopal Academy each scored 11 point for Kelly Green.

No one scored in double figures for the Pink squad, which is also the University of the Sciences of Philadelphia team.

Brianne Traub, a sophomore, scored nine points, while Isabella Ross, a sophomore out of Central, scored seven points.

Individual Scoring Performances
(20 or more points)

35 pts. -- Sarah Fairbanks, Hunt. Grn(W) vs. Orange, July 17
31 pts. -- Jasmine Elum, Gold (W) vs. Maroon, July 1
27 pts. -- Samantha Stipa, Purple (W) vs. H.G., June 26
26 pts. -- Mariah Powell, White (W) vs. Red, July 17
26 pts. -- Courtney Brown, Maroon (W) vs. R. Blue, July 2
25 pts. -- Meghan Gibson, Gold (W) vs. Navy Blue, July 17
24 pts. -- Jasmine Elum, Gold (W) vs Hunter Green, June 24
24 pts. -- Erin Fenningham, Hunt. Green (W) vs. N.B., July 1
24 pts. -- Alexis Smith, Gold (W) vs. Maroon, July 1
24 pts. -- Brianne Traub, Pink (W) vs. Royal Blue, July 10
23 pts. -- Lexi Scrivano, Kelly Green (L) vs. White, June 24
22 pts. -- Mariah Powell, White (W) vs. Kelly Green, June 24
22 pts. -- Alex Smith, Gold (W) vs. Orange, June 26
22 pts. -- Brianne Traub, Pink (L) vs. Sky Blue, July 1
21 pts. -- Alex Smith, Gold (W) vs. Hunter Green, June 24.
21 pts. -- Jasmine Elum, Gold (W) vs. Orange, June 26
21 pts. -- Chelsea Woods,Nav Blu (L-OT),vs.Kelly Grn, July 8
21 pts. -- Amanda Fioravanti, Orange (L) vs. Maroon,July 10
21 pts. -- Natalie Stella, Pink (W) vs. Royal Blue, July 10
21 pts. -- Sarah Fairbanks, Hunt Grn (L) vs. White, July 14
21 pts. -- Ciara Andrews, Royal Blue (L) vs. Gold, July 14
20 pts. -- Brittany Sicinski, White (W), vs. R.B., June 26
20 pts. -- Lauren Crisler, Gold (W), vs. White, July 10
20 pts. -- Natasha Cloud, Gold (W), vs. Royal Blue, July 14
29 pts. -- Chelsea Woods, Navy Blue (W), vs. Black, July 22

Running Tracker for Playoff Seeds and Tiebreakers
Placements now reflect seeds (in front of team name) if the season ended today, which it doesn't

1-Gold (8-0): H.G. (W), Orange (W), Maroon (W), Purple (W), White (W), R.B. (W), N.B.(W), S.B. (W)

2-White (6-2): K.G.(W), R.B. (W), Purple (W), S.B.(W), Gold (L), H.G.(W), Red (W), Orange (L)

3-Hunter Green (6-3) Gold (L), Purp. (L), N.B. (W), Pink (W), Red (W), vs. Black (W), White (L), Orange (W), Maroon (W)

4-Maroon (6-3): Red (W), K.G. (W-F), Gold (L), R.B. (W), S.B. (L), Orange (W), N.B. (W), Pink (W), H.G. (L)

5-Black (4-4): Pink (L), Red (L), Orange (W), K.G. (W-F), R.B. (W), H.G. (L), Purple (W), N.B. (L)

6-Orange (4-4): Gold (L), Black (L), Purple (W-F), Pink (W), Maroon (L), S.B. (W), H.G. (L), White (W)

7-Sky Blue: (4-4) R.B.(W), Pink (L), White (L), Maroon(W), Purple (W), Orange (L), K.G. (W), Gold (L)

8-Purple (4-5): N.B.(W), H.G.(W),White (L), Orange (L-F), Gold (L), S.B. (L), K.G. (W), Black (L), R.B. (W)

9-Pink (4-5): Black (W), N.B. (L), S.B. (W), H.G. (L), Orng (L ), R.B. (W), Red (W-OT), Maroon (L), K.G. (L)

10-Kelly Green (3-5): White (L), Maroon (L-F), Black (L-F), N.B. (W-OT), Red (W), Purple (L), S.B. (L), Pink (W)

11-Navy Blue (3-5): Purple (L), Pink (W),H.G.(L), Red (W), K.G. (L-OT), Maroon (L), Gold (L), Black (W)

12-Red (2-6) Maroon (L), Black (W), R.B.(W), N.B. (L), H.G. (L), KG (L), Pink (L-OT), Gold (L)

13-Royal Blue (0-8): S.B. (L), White (L), Red (L), Maroon (L), BLack (L), Pink (L), Gold (L), Purple (L)

Standings (Thru Monday, July 21)

Team, W-L, Pct., G.B., Pts., Opp Pts.

Gold, 8-0, 1.000, --, 630 489
White, 6-2, .750, 2.0, 592 431
Hunter Green, 6-3, .667, 2.5, 558 581
fw-Maroon, 6-3, .667, 2.5, 496 349
w-Black, 4-4, .500, 4.0, 356 343
Orange, 4-4, .500, 4.0, 407 443
Sky Blue, 4-4, .500, 4.0, 513 446
fl-Purple, 4-5, .444, 4.5, 460 452
Pink, 4-5, .444, 4.5, 467 479
fl(2)-Kelly Green, 3-5,.375, 5.0, 334 397
Navy Blue, 3-5, .375, 5.0, 481 498
Red, 2-6, .333, 6.0, 444 537
Royal Blue, 0-8, .000, 8.0, 428 624

fw -- includes forfeit win, fl -- includes forfeit loss

Past Results

Tuesday (July 22) Results

Purple 72, Royal Blue 51
Orange 67, White (D2-West Chester) 58
Navy Blue 45, Black (D2-Phila. U.) 36
Hunter Green 68, Maroon 57
Gold 74, Sky Blue 63
Kelly Green 43, Pink (D2-USP) 37
Bye: Red

Thursday (July 17) Results

White (D2-West Chester) 102, Eed 62
Black (D2-Phila. U.) 56, Purple 39
Hunter Green 78. Orange 62
Gold 83, Navy Blue 83-62
Maroon 55, Pink (D2-USP) 36
Sky Blue 70, Kelly Green 55
Bye: Royal Blue

Tueaday (July 14) Results

White (D2-West Chester) 89, Hunter Green 37
Gold 79, Royal Blue 64
Pink (D2-USP) 64, Red 59, ovt.
Purple 62, Kelly Green 59
Orange 73, Sky Blue 72
Maroon 68, Navy Blue 61

Black (D2-Phila. U.), Bye

Thursday (July 10) Results

Maroon 53, Orange 47
Sky Blue 59, Purple 36
Kelly Green 59, Red 45
Gold 69, White(D2-West Chester) 47
Hunter Green 51, Black (D2-Phila. U) 43
Pink (D2-USP) 70, Royal Blue 50

Tuesday (July 8) Results

Black (D2-Phila. U.) 58, Royal Blue 56
Kelly Green 74, Navy Blue 70, ovt.
Orange 50, Pink (D2-USP) 49
Sky Blue 52, Maroon 47
Hunter Green 75, Red 60
Gold 77, Purple 57

Wednesday (July 2) Results

Hunter Green 51, Pink 47
Maroon 98, Royal Blue 48
White (D2-West Chester) 59, Sky Blue 48
Navy Blue 78, Red 52
Black 2, Kelly Green 0, forfeit
Orange 2, Purple 0, forfeit

Tuesday (July 1) Results

Hunter Green 69, Navy Blue 59
White (West Chester) 54, Purple 45
Gold 85, Maroon 68
Black (Phila. U.) 54, Orange 38
Pink (USP) 59, Sky Blue 56
Red 70, Royal Blue 57

Thursday (June 26) Results

Red 55, Black 54
White 84, Royal Blue 59
Gold 79, Orange 68
Purple 80, Hunter Green 50
Navy Blue 62, Pink 46
Maroon 2, Kelly Green 0 (forfeit)
Bye: Sky Blue

Tuesday (June 24) Results

Purple 69, Navy Blue 44
Maroon 48, Red 42
Sky Blue 93, Royal Blue 43
White (West Chester) 99, Kelly Green 44
Pink (USP) 59, Black (Phila. U.) 53
Gold 84, Hunter Green 59
Bye: Orange

Looking Ahead

Maroon (6-3) will be looking to stay in the upper part of the standings and Black (4-4) will be looking for an upset to move higher when the two meet at 7 p.m. on Court 2 on Thursday night.

Likewise the same situation on Court 1 at 8:15 for Hunter Green (6-3) and Sky Blue (4-4) as the opponents have the same records as the ones mentioned for the 7 p.m. game.

Orange, the third of the teams at 4-4, will bw trying to avoid being the first victim of the summer of Royal Blue (0-8) when the two meet at 7 p.m. on Court 3.

Gold (8-0) can clinch a playoff berth by staying unbeaten with a win over Kelly Green (3-5) or if Black loses because right now Gols can not lose more than four games the rest of the way and it already has tie-breaking head-to-head wins over Orange and Sky Blue if either ran the table with wins and Gold went winless over its final four gamea.

Upcoming Schedule

Thursday, July 24

7 p.m.

Kelly Green (3-5) vs. Gold (8-0), Court 1
Maroon (6-3) vs. Black (4-4), Court 2
Orange (4-4) vs. Royal Blue (0-8), Court 3

8:15 p.m.

Sky Blue (4-4) vs. Hunter Green (6-3), Court 1
Navy Blue (3-5) vs. White (6-2), Court 2
Purple (4-5) vs. Red (2-6), Court 3
Bye: Pink

Tuesday, July 29

7 p.m.

Red vs. Orange, Court 1
White vs. Maroon, Court 2
Hunter Green vs. Kelly Green, Court 3

8:15 p.m.

Royal Blue vs. Navy Blue, Court 1
Black vs. Sky Blue, Court Court 2
Gold vs. Pink, Court 3

Bye: Purple

Thursday, July 31

7 p.m.

Gold vs. Black, Court 1
Kelly Green vs. Royal Blue, Court 2
Maroon vs. Purple, Court 3

8:15 p.m.

Pink vs. White, Court 1
Sky Blue vs. Red, Court 2
Navy Blue vs. Orange, Court 3

Bye: Hunter Green

Tuesday, August 5

7 p.m.

Sky Blue vs. Navy Blue, Court 1
Purple vs. Pink, Court 2
Hunter Green vs. Royal Blue, Court 3

8:15 p.m.

Orange vs. Kelly Green, Court 1
Red vs. Gold, Court 2
Black vs. White, Court 3

Bye: Maroon

Regular Season Ends

Playoff Schedule

Quarterfinals

Thursday, August 7


7 p.m.
8th aeed vs. 1st seed, Court 1
6th seed vs. 3rd seed, Court 2

8:15 p.m.

7th seed vs. 2nd seed, Court 1
5rh seed vs. 4th seed, Court 2

Semifinals

Tuesday, Aug. 12


7 p.m.

Highest surviving seed vs. lowest surviving seed, Court 1

8:15 p.m.

Remaining quarterfinals survivors, Court 1

Championship

Thursday, Aug. 14


Semifinal survivors, Court 1

That's it for this report.

-- Mel


- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad

Monday, July 21, 2014

Rob Knox's WNBA Notebook: Washington Poised to Make Headway in the East

By Rob Knox @knoxrob1

When the dust cleared from their season-high five-game road trip, the Washington Mystics headed home across country smiling and full of swagger.

The Mystics finished an impressive and winning journey in style by edging the Los Angeles Sparks, 79-75, last Thursday night. In ending the Sparks’ three-game winning streak, Washington also completed a season sweep of L.A, which may have been too much for Sparks general manager Peny Toler to handle.

Three days later she fired coach Carol Ross and decided to guide the team herself from the bench despite not having any coaching experience.

Additionally, assistant coach Gail Goestenkors chose not to remain.

"i'm loyal," Goestenkors explained Monday afternoon on a teleconference held by the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame, located in Knoxville, Tenn.

The former longtime coach of Duke along with Sparks legend Lisa Leslie were announced over the weekend as part of the six -member 2015 induction class for June13.

Additionally the coaching carousel took a partial swing Monday when the Atlanta Dream announced Michael Cooper would miss several weeks from the sidelines to be treated for tongue cancer.

More on these items below.

Meanwhile, the trick now for the Mystics, who begin a crucial three-game homestand Wednesday morning against Connecticut at 11:30 a.m., is to build off of the momentum created from a 3-2 trip.

Sitting in third place in the Eastern Conference as the second half of the season starts, Washington has won three of its last four games. Poised to do some damage, the Mystics are a game behind Indiana in the race for the No. 2 seed and the all-important home-court edge in a possible playoff matchup.

Of course, the Mystics lead Connecticut by a half-game and New York by a game.

"We've all got 13 losses," New York coach Bill Laimbeer said Wednesday after the Liberty beat Atlanta before the break for the All-Stars. "Now the trick is we have to go out and win a couple of games."

The Liberty will have their hands full this week with a three-game Western swing.

As for the Mystics, six of Washington’s final 11 contests are against Connecticut and New York. They play each team three times beginning with a morning game Wednesday game against Connecticut at 11:30 a.m. at the Verizon Center. This will be Washington’s first home game since July 2. The Mystics were away so long; they may have forgotten what the building looks like.

Washington has already defeated the Sun twice and split a pair of games with the Liberty. After facing the Sun, the Mystics' remaining games during the home stand offer a treat for fans as they host Skylar Diggins and Tulsa Friday night (7 p.m). and All-Star Game MVP Schoni Schimmel and East leading Atlanta Sunday afternoon (4 p.m.).

Schimmel scored an All-Star Game record 29 points in the East’s 125-124 overtime win over Diggins and the West last Saturday. Diggins had 27 points and would have been the MVP had her team won.

Let’s get back to the Mystics.

“We just have to be consistent,” Mystic All-Star guard Ivory Latta said. “We all have to concentrate on the little things, go out there and play hard while playing the way we know we can play.”

The Mystics have been winning with balanced scoring as nine players average between 4.4 and 11.3 points, tough defense and believing in each other. The talented youngsters are starting to blossom and play with more consistency. As noted in last week’s column, it seems like somebody different has come through lately for the Mystics.

The win over the Sparks was no different as Tierra Ruffin-Pratt scored a career-high 18 points. The second-year guard from North Carolina made 7-of-8 shots for the Mystics. For Ruffin-Pratt, it was second game this season finishing with double figures as she scored 15 points against San Antonio.

Monique Currie added 16 points. Currie averaged 11.9 points during the five-game road trip. Latta scored 15 points and Kia Vaughn came through with 14 points for Washington, which is 10-13 overall.

Latta has been cool as a scoop of ice cream lately for Washington by reaching double figures in seven of its last eight games with the lone exception being a nine-point performance in the Mystics first win of this season-long excursion against the Chicago Sky on July 9. Latta leads the Mystics in scoring with an 11.3 point per game average and rookie Bria Hartley is second on the team in scoring (10.1)

“They're definitely a great team,” Latta said of the Sparks. “What we can take from this is the way we played against them is how we have to play in our own conference. We can't let up. The way we guard (Parker) is how we've got to guard the Cappie Pondexters, the Tina Charles, Angel McCoughty’s.”

Even in its 12-point loss to Phoenix on Tuesday, Wednesday made the Mercury sweat as Washington was within eight points early in the fourth quarter.

The second half of the season offers an opportunity for the Mystics to do some great things and surpass last season’s win total of 17. There are also rumblings that last year’s fourth overall pick Tayler Hill out of Ohio State could play before the season is done. Hill has not played this season as she recently gave birth to a son.

For fans envisioning a backcourt rotation of Hill, Bria Hartley, Latta, Ruffin-Pratt, and Kara Lawson, it’s as close to Christmas as you can possibly get during the summer.

You gotta have a lot of confidence whether you are playing a young or old team,” Latta said. “That's the great thing about our team. You know we're very strong in different areas whether we're young or old. We have a lot. We just have to go out and play hard.”

SCHIMMEL’S SHINING MOMENT: The WNBA is basking in the glow of a terrifically played All-Star Game that was decided in overtime by Indiana’s Tamika Catchings’ layup with six seconds remaining. It was fitting that in a game in which first timers Schimmel and Diggins combined for 56 points and put on a super show, that Catchings, playing in her record-tying ninth All-Star Game made the difference in the end.

The performances of Diggins and Schimmel were simply sick. At one point, they should have cleared the court and let the two scoring machines go one-on-one.

During the broadcast, ESPN commentator Rebecca Lebo accurately mentioned Schimmel was built for an All-Star Game. Raining jumpers like Jimmy Chitwood in “Hoosiers”, Schimmel delivered a treat for the fans, who selected her to the starting lineup. There was some immediate backlash about her being named a starter, but Schimmel more than made that selection look great.

Who knows where this will lead for Schimmel, who averages 7.1 points and has started twice for the Dream this season. Schimmel’s effort will definitely go down as one of the memorable moments in the WNBA’s 18-year history. She scored 24 of her 29 points after intermission. Thanks to her huge native American following, Schimmel leads the WNBA in jersey sales.

“Being Native American, it's a huge accomplishment to go out there and be in the WNBA,” Schimmel said. “To have the fans look up to me and to be a role model not only for my siblings but also the Native American fans, the Native American people. It's huge. I take on my shoulders because I enjoy it.”

COMMISH SPEAKS: WNBA Commissioner Laurel Richie provided her annual state of the WNBA address prior to Saturday’s All-Star Game in Phoenix. Here are some of her comments about viewership, the rookie class and potential expansion. Perhaps she knew that Schimmel and other young players would play spectacular on Saturday. She said during her address, “I think we are going to have a great game.”

On Schimmel: “Shoni Schimmel is with us. For those of you who haven't heard already, she was No. 3 in votes and she's also the proud recipient, I guess would be the word, of the most jersey sales of any WNBA player. So we are thrilled to have her with us today and with us in the league.”

On viewership: “In some ways this All‑Star reflects what I think has been a terrific season. Our viewership on ESPN2 is pacing ahead of year‑end last year by about 16 percent. Fans have been signing up in record numbers for Live Access – bringing in both more subscribers and more revenue for the league, so that is terrific, particularly as we look to bring the game to those who don’t live in WNBA cities.”

On the rookies: “We had 28 rookies make a WNBA team and seven rookies start in at least one game. So I think that really speaks well and bodes well for the future of the league. We have four rookies who are averaging 10 points per game; that's Tulsa’s Odyssey Sims, Hartley, San Antonio’s Kayla McBride, and Connecticut’s Chiney Oguwmike. So I'm very, very excited about where we are today.” I think we are going to have a great game.

On potential expansion: “I very much look forward to the day that we do expand, and based on what I have seen from those conversations, (Golden State/Oakland) would be very much in the top rung on the list. And the nice thing was during that process, there were others who expressed interest as well. So again, I don't have a time frame for it, but very excited about that as a possibility.”

COOPER TO TAKE LEAVE OF ABSENCE: Atlanta head coach Michael Cooper, who guided the East in Phoenix, has been diagnosed with early stage tongue cancer, and will take a temporary leave of absence the team announced Monday.

Cooper will undergo a surgical procedure this week at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University in Atlanta. Typical recovery time for the procedure is two weeks. A full recovery is anticipated following the surgical procedure. During Cooper’s absence from the team, assistant coach Karleen Thompson will assume head coaching duties.

“The doctors and staff at Emory have been tremendous, and I know I’m in good hands,” said Cooper. “I’m fortunate that my condition was diagnosed early, and this episode illustrates the importance of screening and early detection. I know the team will be in good hands with coach Thompson at the helm during my absence, and I look forward to returning to the court soon.”

Best wishes for a speedy recovery to Cooper, who has led the Dream to a 15-6 record and a first-place standing in the Eastern Conference in his first season leading the Dream. The two-time WNBA Champion head coach has the Dream in contention for its first Eastern Conference regular-season title in team history, as the team holds a five-game lead with 13 games remaining. He coached the East to a 125-124 overtime victory at the WNBA All-Star game on Saturday.

HOME NOT SO SWEET: Half of the league’s 12 teams have winning records at home (Atlanta 10-2, Phoenix 10-1, Minnesota 10-1, Connecticut 7-5, New York 7-5 and Seattle 5-4). Los Angeles is 3-7 at the Staples Center and has not won at home since June 24. Tulsa, which is 5-7 at home, recently lost all four games during a four-game homestand. Amazingly, despite losing records at home, Indiana (6-4), Washington (6-6), Los Angeles (7-6) and San Antonio (7-5) all sport winning records on the road.

LIBERTY ROAD: It’s essentially now or never for the New York Liberty, 1-8 from the friendly confines of Madison Square Garden. New York starts the second half of the season by playing six of its first seven games on the road. The Liberty have a pair of three-game road trips (Los Angeles, Seattle, Phoenix; Wednesday-Saturday) and (Chicago, Atlanta, and Washington; July 31-Aug. 5) sandwiched around a July 29 home date against the Mystics. So even in the congested East where everybody is alive, these next seven games will go a long way to determining if the Liberty’s three-game home stand in August (Connecticut, Indiana and Phoenix) will be meaningful.

FLYING SKYLAR: During a dizzying 24-hour sequence, Diggins was literally all over the map, flying close to 4,478 miles. On Wednesday, she scored 19 points in Minnesota against the Lynx before flying three hours to Los Angeles for the ESPY’s and participate in the Drake skit, which ended with her kissing the rapper on the forehead causing sparks to fly literally.

She returned to Tulsa for Thursday afternoon’s game against San Antonio and had 19 points and eight assists in a victory just before flying to the All-Star game. The only person busier than Diggins, the league’s second leading scorer, during that stretch was her travel agent. While her 27 points in the All-Star Game were noteworthy and exciting, many people wanted to know her reaction to all the attention she received from Drake leading up to the ESPYs via social media.

“It was just a way to clear the air and just have fun with everything,” Diggins told The Associated Press. “Just be light about it. He’s (Drake) a cool guy, and I thought it was a fun moment to lighten the mood. I was happy to be there, and I thought it went over well with everybody. We got great feedback from it.”

BENTLEY BALLING: Former Penn State standout Alex Bentley had a week to remember, averaging 21 points to help the Connecticut Sun split a pair of games.

She scored 22 points against Seattle in a surprisingly easy, 86-63 road win. Two days later in a 101-85 loss to Phoenix, Bentley scored 20 points. The former Penn State standout shot 51 percent in the two games (17-for-33). She will try to score 20 or more points in three straight games for the second time this season when the Sun visits Washington Wednesday morning at 11:30 a.m.

Between June 7-13, during the Sun’s six-game winning streak, Bentley scored 21 points against Indiana (June 7), 22 against Phoenix (June 12) and a season-high 24 against New York (June 13). For the season, Bentley is averaging 11.8 points and 3.5 assists per game. She has scored in double digits 15 times this season. Despite, dropping eight of its last 10 games, Connecticut enters the second half of the season in fourth place in the Eastern Conference.

MAGNIFICENT MAYA: Maya Moore finished with 32 points on 10-for-18 shooting in Minnesota’s 93-82 victory over the Shock Wednesday afternoon. It was the ninth-time this season, Moore has scored 30 or more points in a single game. The Lynx host Atlanta Tuesday in a WNBA Finals rematch. The Dream won the first meeting, 85-82, in Atlanta on June 13.

MERCURY UPDATE: Phoenix (18-3 overall) begins the second half of the season with a 12-game winning streak, three shy of the all-time WNBA winning streak of 15 established by the Houston Comets. Essentially, Phoenix can clinch a playoff spot if it beats Seattle Tuesday night on ESPN2. The Mercury are one win, or a Seattle loss, away from clinching a playoff spot, with a month left in the season.

COACHING CHANGE IN L.A.: The Los Angeles Sparks have relieved Carol Ross as head coach and named Sparks executive vice president and general manager Penny Toler as the team’s head coach for the remainder of the season. Ross joined the Sparks as head coach in 2012, amassing a 61-36 career record in two and a half seasons, including two playoff appearances (2012, 2013).

“I’d like to thank Carol for her contributions to the Sparks organization, team and Los Angeles community,” said Toler. “Carol is a tremendous coach, but we felt it was time to bring in a different energy to this team. Decisions like this are never easy, and we wish Carol the best.”

Toler has spent her entire WNBA career in Los Angeles, amassing 17 years as a player, general manager and executive vice president with the Sparks. The longest tenured general manager in the WNBA, Toler took over the reigns as general manager just prior to the 2000 season and compiled back-to-back WNBA Championship teams two seasons into her tenure, bringing Los Angeles titles in 2001 and 2002.

In her 14 seasons as general manager, Toler has guided the team to the WNBA playoffs 12 times (2000-06 and 2008-10, 2012-13), three conference championships (2001-2003) and two WNBA titles. As a player, she scored the first basket in WNBA history on June 21, 1997 vs. the New York Liberty, and finished the inaugural season as the Sparks’ second leading scorer with 13.1 points per game.

The Guru contributed to the Knox WNBA notebook

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Sunday, July 20, 2014

WNBA All-Star Report: Rookie Schimmel Leads East to Wild 125-124 Overtime Victory

By Mel Greenberg

PHOENIX --
Appropriately, in the Arizona desert the WNBA All-Stars brought some intense heat Saturday afternoon to the annual summer classic, resulting in a wild shootout that ended in a East squad 125-124 victory that took a first-ever overtime period to complete.

It might have been the most explosive afternoon in this state since the frontier days of the Old West in Tombstone near the Mexican border when the Earp brothers and members of the Cowboys such as the Clanton brothers went at on Fremont Street near the O.K. Corral.

As the torch begins to get passed again to a newer group, Saturday was especially a time for league youngsters.

The youth movement was highlighted by former Louisville star Shoni Schimmel, who became the first to gain MVP honors as a rookie.

Schimmel, the first Native American to play in the league, scored a record 29 points, including seven 3-pointers by the Atlanta Dream reserve point guard playing for the East.

On the other bench second-year pro Skylar Diggins of the Tulsa Shock in her first All-Star encounter also broke the previous scoring mark as the former Notre Dame all-American collected 27 points playing for the West.

But in the end, golden oldie Tamika Catchings, the former Tennessee great with the Indiana Fever, decided the issue by grabbing a missed shot by second-year pro Nneka Ogwumike of the Los Angeles Sparks out of Stanford and going length of court to score the winning layup with 6.9 seconds left in the extra period.

"I looked up and in the course of the moment it's like -- 'Okay, you got two decisions, either pass or take it all the way.'

"The coach (Atlanta's Michael Cooper) said during the timeout that whoever got the rebound, to just go with it and keep playing. I got the ball and was able to go coast-to-coast with a free lane to the basket."

Diggins then lost the ball on the ensuing possession and Catchings took possession to preserve the East triumph.

"Our roookie class, we were made for this," Schimmel, with the nickname 'Showtime', said of the way so many recent newcomers have quickly adjusted to the pro game. "We're a solid rookie class and it's not just one, two or three of us, it's our whole class.

"...You go out there and strive to be the best and play against the best and you got to go out there and beat the best."

Atlanta teammate Angel McCoughtry, who also starred at Louisville and scored 13 points Saturday for the East, talked about Schimmel.

"I already knew she was a great shooter," McCoughtry said. "I was just waiting for it to come out and it did. It was just amazing to watch.

"Hopefully, tonight, we took the women' game to a whole new level. So that means that Atlanta needs more ESPN games."

It was the most exciting All-Star game by the league in all 12 that have been held and the five minutes more of additional time needed to determine a winner was a special treat for the nearly building-filled crowd of 14,685 in the USAir Arena.

All of them, most of whose Phoenix Mercury have been enjoying one of the WNBA charter franchise's best seasons and are currently on top of the standings in the West, were on their feet down the stretch as if the WNBA title was about to be decided.

Three Mercury stars were on the West squad with second-year pro Brittney Griner, who missed last year's game as a rookie due to injuries, scoring 17 points and additionally she became the third All-Star to throw down a dunk in the game.

However, unlike the previous two that came in sort of set-up plays, the throw-down by the former Baylor All-American and two-time national player of the year came in the flow of the action.

Lisa Leslie, whose WNBA career was spent all in Los Angeles, scored the first dunk in an All-Star game -- she also had the first WNBA regular season dunk -- nine seasons ago while the Chicago Sky's Sylvia Fowles had the other in 2009.

"That's big," Griner said of her slam. "When they clear the court and let you dunk, that's cool, too, but being able to do it in the midst of the game just shows, you know, the progress of the league.

"Before, you know we had to set things up. Now, you just tell 'em 'Hey, we should try to get a dunk,' and we know we can do it now."

Former Temple star Candice Dupree of the Mercury scored 12 points off the bench to complete all the points in double figures by West players but Phoenix's Diana Taurasi, another former UConn star who is one of the world's top players, added four points to the West attack.

Dupree talked afterwards of Griner's improvement after a rookie season in which she had been hampered by injuries.

"She's gotten a lot better. I was curious in the offseason, coming back to see how much she had developed while playing overseas," Dupree said.

"She looks good. She's a lot more poised on the block. She's got moves with her back to the basket. She's playing really well."

All-Star records fell during the 45 minutes of action like a midafternoon cloudburst in these parts.

One of them won't appear in the books but the first do-over balloting for a potential recount of votes cast by a panel of selected media representatives who were to choose the Most Valuable Player had to be held when in the final three minutes of the fourth quarter the West erased an 11-point deficit with a 13-2 run to tie the game on Diggins' layup with 26.3 seconds left.

The re-count may have been unecessary.

The votes seemed to be heading in Schimmel's direction when the East had the big lead and if she was about to land a trophy in regulation, her six points in the overtime preserved her latest hardware acquisition.

At the end of regulation with the teams tied 112-112, Diggins had already edged the previous scoring mark of 23 points set a year ago by MVP Candace Parker of Los Angeles out of Tennessee playing in her first game after missing several previous All-Star clashes due to injuries.

Schimmel, who has the top-selling jersey in the league, had matched that former scoring mark of Parker's in regulation, but with the game's five-minute extension, former UConn great Maya Moore of the defending champion Minnesota Lynx also topped the mark with 24 points.

Moore was the overall vote recipient in the fan tabulations to select starters.

One spectacular play involving Schimmel, who had 24 of her points after halftime, saw her make a circus shot over Griner.

It was Schimmel's Louisville squad that short-circuited Griner's collegiate career in 2013 with an upset in the NCAA Sweet 16 that denied Baylor a repeat NCAA title.

Schimmel Saturday also set new marks for made treys with the seven scored and attempts with 16 from beyond the arc.

She also set records for made field goals with 11 and attempts with 24.

"That's the reason we drafted her because she was a three-point threat," said Atlanta's Cooper, who made Schimmel the eighth overall pick in the first round in April.

Schmimmel, who had her whole family here to watch her play, was the third WNBA reserve to start as an All-Star, the Associated Press cited STATS, and she was also the third overall vote-getter.

There were 11 other team records set or tied and one of them included fewest fouls in which the West tied the 2009 East mark of five. In fact, the East on Saturday was a meager 1-for-1 from the charity stripe for the entire game and did not get to make an attempt in the first half.

Parker talked about Schimmel erasing her All-Star mark that lasted just one year.

"Man, she showed out. She played on my overeas team when she was younger and she was amazing then," Parker recalled. "So I wish she would have went to Tennessee."

In terms of the performances by the rookies both on the All-Star squads and elsewhere throughout the league, Parker noted, "I thought everybody did a great job, just coming out and showing how the game's changing. We got a dunk for the fans, we were able to get some nice moves. Obviously, Shoni played well. It's good for the future of our game."

In WNBA president Laurel J. Richie's pre-game press conference, she noted 28 rookies made WNBA rosters -- the team size was increased by one slot to 12 in the new CBA agreement made in the offseason -- and that seven had started in at least one game.

Richie also said among other things that the New York Liberty's return to Madison Square Garden after three summers of across the Hudson River in the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., because of renovations, has resulted in an increase of revenues at 26 percent for the franchise housed in the WNBA's largest market.

Meanwhile, during the 13-2 run, Moore and Diggins, who were collegiate and national rivals for two seasons in the Notre Dame-UConn series in the former Big East configuration, accounted for all the points with Diggins scoring eight and Moore collecting five.

"We're competitive, that's what happened," Diggins said. "Ir turned into a real game and not an All-Star Game and we played defense, finally.

"But we're all competitors and we knew we were going to turn up the heat," Diggins continued.

"When you got players like (Griner) and Nneka out there you can make things happen quickly, and you can score in bunches.

"We had Sue out there with the young legs tonight," she said of Seattle Storm veteran Sue Bird, another UConn great, who was picked by league president Laurel Richie as a replacement when reserve Seimone Augustus of the Lynx was unable to play because of an injury that has had her sidelined in recent weeks.

"I thought we did a great job of making the comeback and tying it up, making it go into overtime and that was a show," Diggins said. "That was a show for the fans and they got extra. Everybody got their moneysworth tonight and it was fun to be a part of."

The West would not yield its momentum at the start of the overtime and when Moore hit a trey for a 124-117 lead with 1 minute, 59 seconds left in the extra session, it seemed the West would rule again.

"Well, I'm glad we were the ones coming from behind, so it was a great push," Moore said. "We scored ... points in a couple of minutes and had a lot of momentum going into OT. But it was a fun game. I'm sure everyone enjoyed it."

The East, who had erased a 12-point deficit in the second quarter for a 57-53 lead at the half, was not done, just as the West had not hung it up at the close of regulation.

Katie Douglas of the Connecticut Sun hit a trey, then Catchings grabbed Diggins' miss and then Schimmel nailed another 3-pointer to cut the deficit to one before Catchings' heroics put the East in possession of the trophy.

Neither team topped the one-squad mark set by the West in 2009 in a 130-118 win at the Mohegan Sun Arena, home of the Connecticut squad.

But with the overtime, the combined 249-point total is also a record in that category.

Catchings, who finished with 14 points but is also one of the defensive stars of the league, was one short of a game-record on the rebounding end with her 13 falling just behind the 14 achieved by Los Angeles' Leslie in 2002 and Yolanda Griffith of the former Sacramento Monarchs in 2005.

Leslie was here as part of the weekend events and during the game the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame released word that she will be part of the next six-member induction class to be enshrined June 13 of next year.

A separate Guru post on the announcement is just under this report.

Griffith was one of the six inductees who entered the Women's Hall a month ago and is also currently an assistant coach with Lafayette of the Patriot League.

Threes were easy to come by for many players though the overall combined team mark of 29 was just missed by one 3-pointer as Douglas connected on five from beyond the arc, Briann January of Indiana who starred at nearby Arizona State over in Tempe, connected on three; and New York Liberty star Tina Charles, another former UConn great, hit one trey for the East as part of the combined 28 total.

Charles also scored in double figures with 19 points, Douglas finished with 15, and McCoughtry, as previously mentioned, scored 13.

"You can tell (the West) had the home court and everybody thought the West was going to blow us out," Douglas said of the game in which for a time she was reunited with Catchings with whom she had played in Indiana in recent seasons prior to this summer.

"I'm happy for the East," Douglas said. "We had a lot of first-timers and it was a lot of fun."

Three-pointers were also made on the West by Moore with four, Parker and Griner with one each -- "it'a an All-Star game, why not?" Griner said of her make -- and former UConn star Bird of Seattle, here as an injury replacement for Minnesota's Seimone Augustus, also hit a trey.

Jessica Breland, a cancer survivor who is with the Chicago Sky, grabbed 12 rebounds for the East and Ogwumike was the West's top rebounder with 11.

Her younger sister Chiney of Connecticut, who also played for Stanford, represented the East and scored eight points as did Nneka.

"When you play with 'Showtime Shoni' it's so much fun, Chiney said. "Honestly, as rookies, we feel really blessed to be here.

"We were like, 'let's make the most of it, and honestly we're like, 'Shoni, your job today is to shoot the ball everytime you get it.'

"You cannot guard her when she is in the open court. She's a perfect player for an All-Star game. So just to have her on my side as rookies together, in the East, getting the win, ideal for an All-Star game -- we're lucky."

It was a first to have two sisters in the game and they met for the first time a week ago when Los Angeles visited Connecticut and will meet again when Chiney and the Sun go West to play the return game.

"Before, after, halftime, during, we're always talking," Chiney said of being on opposite sides from Nneka after two seasons together at Stanford before Nneka's graduation in 2012.

Both of them were the first sisters to also become the top overall draft picks as Los Angeles picked Nneka in 2012 before Connecticut took Chiney in April.

"We were just having a lot of fun. We just played a week ago or so in Connecticut and that was really serious. So this time it was just a lot of fun being on the same court in this atmosphere," Chiney smiled.

"It's one of those things when we're old ladies, we're going to talk about -- 'well, this was really cool,' you know? But we had a lot of fun and she was definitely the first one to start talking trash.'"

Former Delaware star Elena Delle Donne of the Chicago Sky, the second best overall vote-getter this time around and tops in the East, was not here and is back home dealing with a recurrence of Lyme Disease that sidelined her for a portion of her collegiate career with the Blue Hens.

She also missed last year's classic in a season in which she was rookie of the year and top overall All-Star vote-getter but suffered a concussion in a game just before the event at the Mohegan Sun.

A year ago the focus was off the "Three to See," promotion focusing on Griner, Delle Donne, and Diggins, who arrived as the overall 1-2-3 picks in the draft, but the hype, according to Chiney, became motivation for the next group of seniors who are this year's WNBA rookies.

"I don't know if we took it personal, but our class was like we all put it on our own selves to come in and do well," Cbiney explained.

"I think it's amazing. We have Shoni here at the All-Star game. We have (former Baylor star) Odyssey Sims doing great things, Natasha Howard, Kayla (McBride) in San Antonio, so we're all spread out but I think we all have this competitive spirit that you saw today from Shoni.

"We just love to play -- love to uplift each other. We've known each other for a long time. A lot of people don't know that we started off in Nike skills camps like when we were 12 or 13 years old and that sort of set the foundation for us to play against the older women," Chiney said.

"Today was an opportunity for us to get our feet wet in this scenario and obviously, Shoni, MVP, she's a real MVP for all reasons so I just think we're blessed and fortunate to be here as rookies but at the same time we're very hungry.

"Our whole class is hungry."

Atlanta's Cooper became the first to coach winners as well as East and West teams in general in both divisions after previously coaching the West in 2002 and 2003 after the former NBA Lakers star had guided Los Angeles to its two titles the previous summers.

Fred Williams was gone from the Dream after last season's East title and is now head coach of ther Tulsa Shock in the West.

So with Cooper's Dream leading the East in the regular season at the cutoff point to select the All-Star coach in the division, he got the job.

"Boy, what a wonderful basketball game," Cooper said. "This was so wonderful to be a part of -- this is what the WNBA is about.

"Spectacular moments, spectacular games. But for our game to put 249 points on the board between two teams really showed we can put the ball in the basket and hopefully this attracted a lot of people who questioned whether they liked the WNBA as far as watching it or attending it -- I think they can come out and be a part of it.

"But it was fantastic. I told our team to just go out and wow the crowd and have fun and boy they did that."

Minnesota's Cheryl Reeve, who coached the West after three straight West Division playoff titles and two of them translating into WNBA crowns in 2011, Moore's rookie season, and 2013, talked about the almost tennis-like back-and-forth by play between Schimmel and Diggins.

"It was fun. Shoni, once she got going, everytime it left her hand, it had a really good chance of going in, even when she was off balance, kicking her leg a little bit, but she was feeling it, the All-Star game, no question, is right in her wheelhouse.

"That's her game, her style, and I was really happy her college coach Jeff (Walz) could be here.

Obviously, Michael Cooper, he's got big decisions to make. He's got the MVP of the All-Star game so I suspect when we see him (against Atlanta) on Tuesday (when the regular season resumes) that Shoni might be in the starting lineup. I don't know."

Reeve was asked about the uniqueness in the WNBA All-Star event where unlike similar games in other sports both sides really start engaging as if the game was more than a display of the league's best talent.

"Fourth quarter, we're trying to win the game," Reeve said. "Our players just took it upon themselves to try to get back into the game. I thought Skylar was terrific in that stretch.

"Playing off our defense in that stretch. I told Sue Bird, she had the legs of a 22-year-old out there. Maya started making some shots Nneka was getting rebounds.

"It's that fine line All-Star game. The fans want to see a show. Obviously we don't want to give 100 percent where they're going crazy but I thought our balance was really good of just playing really good basketball, playing hard for the most part but not playing hectic where everybody's getting hurt.

"I thought the officials did a good job, don't think I've ever said that before," Reeve quipped. "But the vibe of the game, a lot had to do with the fans were engaged in the game, we just kind of fed off their energy.

"I think you have certain players, they're All-Stars for a reason and they've got that competitive fire in them and it gets to the point where you're trying to get separation to win a game and that's what you see."

Reeve is also an assistant to UConn coach Geno Auriemma, in charge of the USA Senior National Women's Team, for this September's FIBA World Championship in Turkey.

All-time great Dawn Staley, currently coaching South Carolina since leaving Temple in 2008, is also on the staff, making three Philly people because Auriemma grew up in Norristown after arriving as a baby with his parents from Italy.

The other assistant is DePaul's Doug Bruno in Chicago.

The USA squad will train in Annapolis, Md., in early September with one game to be played on the way overseas in Bridgeport, Conn., against Canada in a friendly on Sept. 15.

Not announced yet, but after leaving the training site, another game is expected to be played prior to Bridgeport in Delaware's Bob Carpenter Center where a sellout crowd in May saw Delle Donne's Chicago squad beat the Washington Mystics in a preseason game.

Of the 23 Americans, counting the replacements and stars with injuries, on the combined rosters here -- Atlanta's Erika de Souza is a Brazilian -- 10 have played on Olympic gold medalists squads for USA and most besides a few others here are likely to be at training camp when the final members of the FIBA tournament squad are being determined.

And that is everything.

-- Mel












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