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.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Mike Siroky's SEC Report: League Has One Rep While UConn Has Four in Next National Challenge

By Mike Siroky

Candace Parker, at age 29, will have an end of summer adventure.

She is the only SEC player on the roster of the team that will represent America in a European tour in October.

The Tennessee All-American plays professionally in the United States for the Los Angeles Sparks.

The WNBA is wrapping up its season and L.A. is already done.

The best-represented college is, of course, indomitable UConn with Sue Bird, Stefanie Dolson, Tina Charles and returning national college player of the year Breanna Stewart.

All the rest are paid by various professional teams in America and Europe.

Teammates include Brittney Griner, Candice Dupree, Courtney Vandersloot, Angel McCoughtry, Elena Delle Donne and Danielle Robinson.

Of them all Bird, a three-time Olympic Gold medalist and the most-decorated FIBA World Championship athlete in the world, is the team leader, at age 34.

Griner will miss 20 percent of the training camp as a result of her guilty plea in the domestic assault case. She had agreed her next camp would be the one in which the penalty would be applied.

Bird is shooting for her fourth U.S. Olympic Team in 2016.

The Women's National Team continues its preparations for 2016 this week with a European Tour from Oct. 2-10 that will feature games in Barcelona, Rome, Naples and Prague.

That’s what this tour is about, assembling players who undoubtedly have the inside track for the ‘16 Games.

Others will be added and some may be dropped, but this is the core talent for Team USA right now.

The team is selected and administrated by USA Basketball.

The 11 USA Women's National Team athletes have accepted invitations to participate in a training camp in Spain, and compete in four exhibition games in Spain, Italy and Czech Republic from Oct. 2-10.

The USA squad will train Oct. 2-3 in Barcelona, Spain, before taking on professional EuroLeague club Uni Girona on Oct. 4 in Girona, Spain.

Following a final practice in Barcelona, the team will travel to Italy to face the Italian National Team on Oct. 7 in Rome and the Dike Naples professional team on Oct. 8 in Naples.

The tour concludes with a game against 2015 EuroLeague champion USK Prague on Oct. 9 in Prague, Czech Republic.

"It's one of the obstacles that we have every Olympic year; the amount of time we get with our players," said USA National Team and University of Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma , who since being selected to coach the USA Basketball Women's National Team in 2009 has piloted the USA National Team to an overall 23-0 record and gold medals at the 2010 and 2014 FIBA World Championships and the 2012 Olympic Games.

He is UConn’s coach and has won more NCAA titles than any other.

"This is another example of that. We are going to have 10 days together, so we'll have a couple practices and a couple games but we are going to be missing some players.

"All the players that are playing in the WNBA Finals won't be there, which means some of our best players won't be there.

“That's difficult because it doesn't give you a great sense of everyone that is eligible for the team. But in the end, you have to do what you have to do and out of this maybe some younger players or some players that we really didn't know too much about show us something and put themselves in the mix."

Auriemma is being assisted through the 2016 Olympic Games by DePaul University's Doug Bruno, University of South Carolina's Dawn Staley.

University of Hartford head coach Jennifer Rizzotti – another Auriemma All-American while at UConn -- will serve as a court coach during the USA's European Tour.

The Minnesota Lynx' Cheryl Reeve is another Team USA assistant, but has team in the 2015 WNBA Finals and therefore will not be on the sideline during the 2015 European Tour.

The 2016 Olympic Games are Aug. 5-21 in Rio de Janeiro.

A total of 12 nations will compete in the Olympic women's basketball competition, including host Brazil and the USA, which earned its berth by virtue of claiming the gold medal at the 2014 FIBA World Championship.

Australia (Oceania), Canada (Americas), Japan (Asia) and Serbia (Europe) claimed their respective FIBA zone championship to earn a spot in the Rio field, while the African champion, which will be crowned on Oct. 3, will claim the seventh spot.

The remaining berths will be awarded to the top five finishing teams at the 2016 FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament (June 13-19, 2016).

Qualified for that tournament based on finishes in their respective zone championships: Argentina, Cuba and Venezuela from the Americas; China and South Korea from Asia; Belarus, France, Spain and Turkey from Europe; New Zealand from Oceania; and the two teams TBD from the AfroBasket Championship (Sept. 24-Oct. 3).

U.S. Olympic women's basketball teams have earned a record seven Gold medals, one Silver medal and one Bronze medal.

They are 58-3 all-time in Olympic competition. The 2016 U.S. team will enter Rio riding a 41-game Olympic winning streak that dates back to the 1992 Barcelona Olympics Bronze medal game.

Since the inception of the 1995-96 USA Basketball Women's National Team program, the USA National Team, in addition to its record five-straight Olympic gold medals, has captured four FIBA World Championship gold medals, one FIBA World Championship bronze medal and one FIBA Americas Championship gold medal, while compiling a remarkable 86-1 record for a .989 winning percentage in those events.

Further, USA National Teams in exhibition contests since 1995 boast of a 186-15 record (.925 winning percentage).

The final 12-player 2016 U.S. Olympic Women's Basketball Team will be selected from the 2015-16 USA National Team pool by the USA Basketball Women's National Team Player Selection Committee.

Chaired by USA Basketball women's national team director Carol Callan, the committee includes WNBA appointees Reneé Brown, WNBA chief of basketball operations and player relations; Dan Hughes, head coach and general manager of the San Antonio Stars; andChris Sienko , vice president and general manager of the Connecticut Sun; and three-time Olympic and two-time FIBA World Championship gold medalist Katie Smith, who played in nearly 200 games for USA Basketball from 1993-2008, and serves as the athlete representative.

Based in Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA Basketball, chaired by Jerry Colangelo , is a nonprofit organization and the national governing body for men's and women's basketball in the United States.

As the recognized governing body for basketball in the U.S. by the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) and the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), USA Basketball is responsible for the selection, training and fielding of USA teams that compete in FIBA-sponsored international competitions, as well as for some national competitions, and for the development of youth basketball initiatives that address player development, coach education and safety.

USA Basketball men's and women's teams between 2012-15 compiled a 151-6 win-loss record in FIBA and FIBA Americas competitions, the World University Games and the Nike Hoop Summit, and posted a 76-12 win-loss record in official FIBA and FIBA Americas 3x3 competitions.

USA teams are the current men's and women's champions in the Olympics; men's FIBA World Cup and women's FIBA World Championship; men's and women's FIBA U19 and U17 World Championships; men's and women's U18 FIBA Americas Championships; men's U16 FIBA Americas Championship; the FIBA 3x3 Women's World Championship; and the women's Youth Olympic Games. USA Basketball currently ranks No. 1 in all five of FIBA's world-ranking categories, including combined, men's, women's, boys and girls.

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

WNBA: Washington Looks to Spoil New York's 'Garden' Party and Move to East Finals

By Rob Knox @knoxrob1

This is it.

The Washington Mystics and New York Liberty meet in the decisive third game of the Eastern Conference semifinals Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden beginning at 7:00 p.m. on ESPN2.

The Mystics have won all three games at MSG this season, including last Friday’s pulsating, 86-83 double overtime triumph in the series opener.

They have also captured four of the six matchups between the two teams this season. The winner of the series will meet the Indiana Fever in the Eastern Conference Finals.

If New York wins it will host game one on Wednesday.

If the Mystics win they will travel to face Indiana in the opening game on Thursday night.

Washington won the season series with Indiana, which won its season series with New York, which does not have the luxury of looking ahead.

“We know this is going to be the hardest game that we played all year long,” New York head coach Bill Laimbeer said. “We are going to play in the Garden.

Last time in the Garden, the fans were unbelievable. It was a lot of fun to be there. The players enjoyed it.

"They really felt bad they missed an opportunity to connect with the fans in a wining environment so we had to come today, get this win, and go back there.” he said here on Sunday after the Liberty extended the series.

New York’s Tina Charles was personally responsible for bringing the Mystics and the series back to the Big Apple.

Her electric 22-point performance in Sunday’s 86-68 victory was special.

She scored 17 points in the third quarter to help the Liberty gain the separation needed to extend its season.

The 18-point win was New York’s largest margin of victory on the road in a playoff game in franchise history. The Liberty outscored the Mystics, 36-10, in the paint.

Charles has been a thorn in the Mystics' side during this series.

She scored 22 points in each game and is shooting 41.7 percent from the field.

While this is her first playoff series as a member of the Liberty, performing well under the bright lights is normal for Charles, who in nine-career playoff games is averaging 18.0 points and 9.7 rebounds per game.

Ironically, in the other games she was playing for then-Connecticut Sun coach Mike Thibault, who has been in charge of the Mystics the past three seasons, including this one.

While Charles' playoff stats to date are nice, she is only looking forward.

“We just need to stay consistent with communication, defensive rotations, executing on offense, not settling for a shot, and defending the three better,” Charles said on the key to winning the third game.

Epiphany Prince is averaging 18.5 points per game in this series.

She set a new Liberty playoff single-game scoring record with 26 points in Game One against Washington.

She surpassed the previous New York record of 24 points, from Tari Phillips against Houston in game one of the WNBA Finals in 2000.

Prince shot 11-of-16 from the field and also had five rebounds and four assists.

Her previous personal best for a playoff game was 19 points against Atlanta last season when she was a member of the Chicago Sky.

Once Ivory Latta and Tayler Hill departed Sunday’s post-game press conference, the Game Two setback was a distant memory.

They were both around two years ago when the Mystics opened the playoffs with a win in Atlanta and then dropped the final two games, which included a loss at home in the second game.

The pair, who combined for 34 points Sunday, are looking to write a different ending.

Hill has been strong in the first two games. She scored 13 points in the opening game victory and delivered a playoff career best 19 points Sunday.

She also tied Latta’s franchise postseason record with six three-pointers made. She is averaging 16 points in this series while Latta is averaging 15 points.

The Mystics understand where they must thrive in order to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2002.

“Defense for sure.” Hill said. “That is most important for us.

"If we don’t play defense first we cannot generate our offense. Defense and rebounding is number one. Our offense will come.

"We can execute on offense if we can get stops and we are able to run. We are a deep team and we can run all 12 but it is hard when you are not getting any stops.”

In both games, the Liberty have shot over 40 percent while the Mystics have failed to crack that sacred shooting standard.

Washington could also use a better start offensively Tuesday other than the one where it started 4-for-22.

Another key for Washington is getting a better combined performance from All-Stars Emma Meesseman and Stefanie Dolson. They combined for 26 points and 19 rebounds in the game one victory.

In game two, the same pair combined for 14 points and 10 rebounds.

“We beat them on their court,” Thibault said. “They beat us on our court. It is 1-1. It is a one game series to advance.

"We have to let it all out there and not hold anything back. I thought we hesitated on shots and struggled with passing decisions.

"The biggest thing is to be positive about it. The series did not end today. It is 1-1.

"In tennis they say they held serve…but we broke serve. It is a one game series.”

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad

Sunday, September 20, 2015

WNBA: New York Rides Charles' Outburst To Even Series With Washington and Head Back Home

By Rob Knox @knoxrob1

Playing with purpose and passion, the New York Liberty kept its season alive by controlling Game 2 of its 86-68 wire-to-wire Eastern semifinals victory over the Washington Mystics at the Verizon Center Sunday afternoon.

Fueled by Tina Charles’ awesome show, the Liberty forced a decisive third game Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden on ESPN2 beginning at 7:00 p.m.

The winner will advance to the Eastern Conference Finals against the survivor of the Fever-Sky series. Game Three is Monday night in Chicago.

Charles scored 17 of her 22 points in the third quarter to help the Liberty stretch a 44-37 halftime lead into a comfortable 70-52 bulge entering the final quarter.

Charles outscored the entire Mystics team, 17-15, in the decisive quarter.

She faced up at the basket and drained jumpers like Steph Curry. Charles also made baskets while shooting off one foot. She was sensational, unstoppable and angry.

“I just was not satisfied with the way I played the first half,” Charles said. “I thought I could have been smarter and more efficient. Once I saw a couple shots go in from 15 feet, I just got confident and I kept attacking.

"If there is one person that tells me not to settle, it is Tanisha (Wright). I just kept attacking, I was in the zone. I just played like it was my last. That is all I kept saying: I want to see Tuesday, we want to see Tuesday.”

During her third quarter burst, Charles hit three long jumpers consecutively, but with the lead still only at eight, she drained a pair of mid-range fade away 11-footers to push New York’s lead back into double figures.

She ended her third-quarter with a 3-pointer from the top of the key, just her second of the season and third of her career.

With Epiphany Prince and Carolyn Swords opening the game by combining for 17 points in the first10 minutes, the Liberty sprinted to a 23-15 lead after the first quarter.

Prince set the tone early, completing a four-point play on the very first possession of the game, and then finished an and-one opportunity to give the Liberty a 9-2 lead 94 seconds into the game.

Sugar Rodgers, who was scoreless in Friday’s double overtime loss to the Mystics, immediately got into the groove by making her first two baskets.

Rodgers, who starred here at nearby Georgetown in the mega wars of the old Big East, helped the Liberty open the second quarter with an 11-0 burst to take a 34-15 lead.

She finished with 15 points on 6-of-11 accuracy.

Overall, The Liberty scored 32 bench points on Sunday after getting just six points from its reserves in game one.

Essence Carson added nine timely points and Candice Wiggins was a factor defensively. The Liberty did plenty correct in evening up the series.

“We knew we didn’t play at the level we were capable of on Friday so today our goal was to give our team what we needed,” Rodgers said. “We wanted to defend and share the ball. When Tina got hot, it was definitely fun to watch.”

The Liberty outrebounded Washington 33-24 and outscored the Mystics in the paint 36-10.

New York turned it over eight times after committing 18 turnovers in Game One. The Liberty also made 47.6 percent of its shots. Swords finished with 12 points and Prince added 11 points for New York.

“I thought our team played focused,” New York head coach Bill Laimbeer, who entered the postgame press conference looking for a bite to eat. “We were focused last game. Unfortunately, we did not get the job done. Things did not go our way, but tonight we played a good solid mental game.”

The Liberty’s early surge rendered Washington’s dynamite 3-point shooting meaningless.

Led by a postseason career-high 19 points from Tayler Hill, the Mystics tied a franchise playoff record with 11 3-pointers.

Hill had five of her six triples in the first half. Her six 3-pointers also tied a Mystics franchise record for most by an individual in a playoff game.

Ivory Latta scored 15 points for Washington.

“We didn’t respond,” Washington head coach Mike Thibault said. “We got off to a bad start with the two and one plays on Epiphanny Prince.

"We fouled her on a three and a jump shot. Tonight we let Tina [Charles] get going for the third quarter. We called a couple time outs and kept doubling but, she stepped out every time and made shots that she didn’t make the same way.”

The Mystics are confident this game won’t linger heading back to New York as They will look to advance to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 2002.

“When I leave here this game is over with,” Latta said. “It’s a new day. We are going to come back here and watch film, correct the things that we need to correct, practice, get on the train or bus and head back to New York.

"It is a mindset. Like coach always tell us, 'next play.' It’s the next game for us now. Everyone has to stay focused and we have to lift each other up. It is not the end of the road. We still have a chance of moving on.”

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Opinion: ESPN-W Women's Bracket to Name All-Time Player Is Guilty By Omission

Guru’s note: All-Time great Teresa Edwards, a Naismith and Women’s Basketball Hall of Famer, who starred at Georgia, the Olympics, the ABL and WNBA, and is soon to launch her own blog, has submitted the following guest opinion piece taking issue with the newly started ESPN-W bracket contest for fans to name the all-time best player.

By Teresa Edwards


I usually stay out of the "Riff Raft" of the here and now postings as they relate to women in sports, let alone Women's Basketball Players...

However, Today, I'm compelled to have my say and to be done again so here goes;

The ESPNW Bracket of the best WBB players ever truly sets us back yet again.

You are women representing women, Do your homework Ladies!!!

The Trouble with the bracket, Any Bracket, without Lusia Harris and Katrina McClain is already Flawed!!!!

Come On...

I’M NOT EVEN GONNA ASK HOW YOU RATED US but let’s compare our old school group against the new school players in your bracket:

... (Read on)

A) Old School vs New School Theory - No contest People! (Seriously... Heart vs TV Appearances).

B) Game Stats & Performances (Check it out... 3 Point line was painted in 1986-87) And Old School Players still averaged more points.

C) Equipment: That small ball (In my opinion) is for kids.

D) Forget what your Team did... New school, What Skills pays the Bills? Old School... What Part of your Game, Made your Name!

E) This is not a popularity contest or latest is the greatest Fan festival!


Let's squash this and create 2 Brackets:
My Top Picks for Old school Players Bracket in no particular Order because we were so good, it depended on what day of the month it might be to have an off day.

1. Kim Mulkey, Louisiana Tech
2. Teresa Edwards, Georgia
3. Cheryl Miller, Southern Cal
4. Lusia Harris, Delta State
5. Latanya Pollard, Long Beach State
6. Joyce Walker, LSU
7. Anne Meyers, UCLA
8. Lynette Woodard, Kansas
9. Anne Donovan, Old Dominion
10. Janet Harris, Georgia
11. Carol Blazejowski, Montclair State
12. Katrina McClain, Georgia
13. Janice Lawrence, Louisiana Tech
14. Nancy Lieberman, Old Dominion
15. Cindy Brown, Long Beach State

Footnote to really knock your boots... Cynthia Cooper belongs here to complete the field, but not because she was great as a youngster.

Coop was a Great Pro Player in which she garnered her acclaim abroad.

As timing can be everything, Cooper was in the right place at the right time and over due for her stage here in America in the WNBA. (There are more names...)

BEST INTERNATIONAL EVER: Brazilian, Hortencia could also be here.

And don’t get me started about Dawn Staley!

My only regret for her comes in her timing, because Dawn's game was so solid at the point, she changed the standard and the one dimensional play out top. (Athletic, scorer and poised to control tempo at all time.)

She can be place in both, the old school or the new school bracket. But, don't even think about rating her below top 5! Are you kidding me?

Now make your New School Bracket.

Lastly, It’s nearing 20 years of Professional Basketball here in America for women, it's high time we tell the stories of the ladies written above. It's our true history and we will never grow forward without acknowledging them properly.

Now... I gotta get back to the Grind of life... Stop wasting words.

--T. Time


Teresa Edwards, President
Dream Faith Productions, LLC

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad

Thursday, September 17, 2015

WNBA: Youth Has Served Washington Well to Send Mystics to Three Straight Playoff Appearances

By ROB KNOX (@knoxrob1)

Natasha Cloud’s memorable 2015 is about to get better as she prepares for her first taste of playoff action when the fourth-seeded Washington Mystics meet the top-seeded New York Liberty Friday night at Madison Square Garden in the first game of a best of three Eastern Conference semifinal.

The game starts at 7:00 p.m. on NBA-TV.

This will be the team’s third straight trip to the playoffs under the leadership of general manager and head coach Mike Thibault.

It is also the first playoff meeting between the Liberty and Mystics since a thrilling 2002 Eastern Conference final series won in three games by New York.

Cloud made an immediate impact on the Mystics success this season.

With the Saint Joseph’s product leading her rookie class and finishing second on the team in assists per game (3.4), the Mystics set franchise records for most assists in a season (606), assists averaged in a game (17.82) and most assists in a game (30) against the San Antonio Stars on July 31.

Other franchise records for the Mystics this season included fewest turnovers in a game (five) against the Chicago Sky on August 2 and most blocked shots per game (4.8).

Cloud led the Mystics in assists in 13 games this season which included a career high 11 in their matchup against the Los Angeles Sparks on September 3.

Her court vision and play-making ability will be crucial as she’ll be matched against experienced guards Tanisha Wright out of Penn State and Epiphany Prince out of Rutgers during the next few days.

“We’re looking forward to Friday night,” Cloud said Sunday afternoon following the Mystics regular season finale against the Dream. “We just have to put all of the pieces together.

"It’s been a surreal feeling to be able to contribute this season. We have to stick to what we do best as a team if we’re going to get past New York.”

During the season, Cloud handed out at least five assists in a game seven times.

One of her best stretches of basketball was during the Mystics five-game winning streak in late July where she had 28 assists against one turnover.

That’s a pretty impressive number even for a seasoned veteran, but for a rookie to do that says something special about the six-foot Cloud, who started 22 games and averaged 19.3 minutes.

Cloud, a Cardinal O'Hara grad from Broomall, Pa., in the Philly western suburbs also demonstrated her Delco toughness when she had a tooth knocked out of her mouth during a game against Seattle.

She missed a few minutes of game action, but eventually returned to the contest.

Cloud, who has been thankful to contribute and play a critical role in the Mystics success this season, is one of the few players who have played every game since arriving in D.C. after being picked in the second round.

Washington is still relatively young as it features seven players who have three or fewer years of experience.

“We’re the youngest team in our conference in the playoffs,” Thibault said. “So hopefully playing in some of these (close) games we’ve played in this season will help prepare our young ones.

"It’s a little scary sometimes as a coach to look out there and see four players out there with three years or less of experience. Then you’re looking at teams that have had players play in the WNBA Finals and know how to do that.”

The Mystics rookie class of 2013 – Emma Meesseman, Tayler Hill and Tierra Ruffin-Pratt – had standout seasons this year.

Meesseman was the only player for the second consecutive year to start in all 34 regular season games.

An All-Star, Meesseman finished second on the team in scoring with 11.6 points per game and first in rebounds with 6.3 per game along with three doubles-doubles.

She posted a career high 24 points in the Mystics matchup against the Tulsa Shock on June 19.

Hill posted a career high of her own with a 20 point performance against Connecticut on August 9. She saw action in 32 games this season and finished fifth on the team in scoring (7.5 points per game). She scored in double figures nine times this season.

Ruffin-Pratt started in 31 out of 32 games played and also had a career high performance scoring 20 points in their victory over the Los Angeles Sparks on June 23.

A candidate for all-defensive team, Ruffin-Pratt averaged 23.9 minutes per game and 7.4 points per game in the regular season.

“That’s part of the growing up process,” Thibault said. “You have to go through it to be prepared and be better at it.

"I hope that last year’s playoff experience will help Emma, Stef and TRP be more prepared. I remember going through that at Connecticut with young players. You just have to go through it a couple of times. Now we may be more ready for it now than we were a year ago.”

Hill played sparingly in last year’s playoff series against Indiana.

Ruffin-Pratt left Game Two early with a shoulder injury in a contest the Mystics dropped in overtime.

Second-year players Bria Hartley and Stefanie Dolson, both UConn products, saw significant action against the Fever in last season’s playoff series.

“The last two years we have been in the playoffs but, we have not gone as far as we’ve wanted to,” Dolson said. “We want the team to go far this year.

"With the chemistry we have as a team, we are excited for the playoffs and we know we can do well as long as we play our game. I think we are all just ready and anxious for practices and the games to start.”

The Mystics will have a full roster heading to New York.

Kara Lawson, who missed the final eight regular season games, is expected to play.

She’ll be able to provide leadership and experience along with Ivory Latta, the Mystics’ leading scorer at 11.2 points per game. Latoya Sanders and Arminite Herrington also provide experience for the Mystics.

The second game of the series will be at the Verizon Center Sunday afternoon at 1:00 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPN with Pam Ward and Carolyn Peck on the call and LaChina Robinson reporting.

If a third game is needed, it will be back in New York on Tuesday night on ESPN2.

“Playoff basketball is completely different than the regular season,” Dolson said. “It is more physical. The stars on each team are going to be on the ball way more. We just have to be ready and go in mentally prepared for what they are going to throw at us. We just have to be focused on every possession.”

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

WNBA: Hartley Healthy for Washington Heading to New York for Playoff Opener

By ROB KNOX (@knoxrob1)

Bria Hartley has her swagger back.

Not that the ultra-confident second year Washington Mystic guard ever lost confidence or anything like that, but the year hasn’t gone as expected for Hartley, who had a terrific training camp following a strong season playing in Hungary.

Unfortunately for most of the 2015 season, Hartley was grounded by a stress fracture in her right foot that limited her effectiveness and time on the court. Her patience was tested.

As the fourth-seeded Mystics prepare to open the WNBA Playoffs Friday night against top-seeded New York at Madison Sqaure Garden (7:00 p.m. NBA-TV), those struggles are a thing of the past.

Hartley is playing her best basketball of the season at the most important time. Over the Mystics final nine regular season games, she averaged 6.2 points off the bench.

“I feel good and haven’t had any problems as of late so that’s good and positive,” Hartley said Sunday night following the Mystics 73-71 loss to the Atlanta Dream at the Verizon Center. “I hope it keeps going like that.”

She was solid during the recent four-game road trip where she scored a season-high 11 points against the Los Angeles Sparks and 10 points against the Atlanta Dream in her next game.

However, more important then her scoring has been watching The former University of Connecticut standout demonstrate her trademark explosiveness on drives to the basket and locking up opponents on the defensive end.

The Mystics had five days off between games against Chicago and Phoenix in late August, which could have contributed to Hartley’s getting healthier.

“I didn’t do anything different,” Hartley said of the break. “We had a day off like we normally do. I just tried to stay in my same routine and stay in shape. Fortunately during our practices, we’re able to go at each other and stay in game shape.”

Hartley is excited for the playoffs to begin. Her first experience of playoff action lasted three days last year as a rookie. The Mystics were eliminated by the Indiana Fever in two intense games.

This year it’s even better that she’s opening the playoffs on Broadway in shadow of her Long Island home.

Of course, Hartley’s not exactly focused only on the storyline of defeating her hometown team in the playoffs.

“It’s cool,” Hartley said. “It’s good for my family to come and see me play in both New York and Washington during this series. Our main focus as a team is to go out and play well and do what we need to do to earn the win.”

Hartley played in two of the four meetings against the Liberty this season.

She scored five points in 15 minutes in 79-76 overtime loss to the Liberty on July 9 and then dropped seven points last week in an 82-55 victory in Madison Square Garden.

Overall, the Mystics won the season series 3-1 against the Liberty, but that statistic is useless now with each team being 0-0 in the best-of-three series.

“This is a position that we wanted to be in at the start of the season,” Hartley said. “To make sure we keep going forward, we have to go out and give everything we’ve got. We also have to do the little things, take care of the ball and rebound.”

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad

Monday, September 14, 2015

WNBA: Washington Upbeat Despite Pre-Playoff Loss to Atlanta

By ROB KNOX (@knoxrob1)

For the first time since 2002, the Washington Mystics will meet the New York Liberty in a playoff series.

The Mystics cemented their trip back to the Big Apple by dropping a 73-71 decision to the Atlanta Dream Sunday afternoon at the Verizon Center.

Washington, which finished the regular season with an 18-16 record, is in the playoffs for a third consecutive season, all which have come since Mike Thibault was grabbed as coach following the Connecticut Sun ousting him after a decade of success but devoid of a title.

For the Mystics, it's the first time in franchise history that they have qualified for the playoffs in three straight seasons.

They will be the No. 4 seed.

The Liberty finished with the WNBA’s best overall record with 23 being their most-ever total wins in the regular season.

In 2010 Washington with its best total at 22 tied New York and won the deadlock to gain the East's top seed, only to be eliminated in the first round by Atlanta.

Game one of the New York-Washington best-of-three series starts Friday at Madison Square Garden at 7:00 p.m.

The Mystics will host the second game Sunday afternoon at 1:00 p.m. in a game that will be televised on ESPN.

Should a third game be necessary, the Liberty will host it on Tuesday, Sept. 22 on ESPN2 at a time to be determined.

Washington will be looking to advance past the first round.

In recent times, the Mystics lost to the Dream in three games in 2013 and to the Indiana Fever in two games last summer.

The other opening series in the East has Indiana meeting No. 2 Chicago, which won the Eastern playoffs a year ago despite being the fourth seed.

This past season, the Mystics won three of the four New York matchups, including 82-55 last Friday night.

In that game, the Liberty’s top players saw limited action so that result will probably matter little.

“Going into playoffs, everybody is 0-0,” Washington guard Ivory Latta said. “Those games against New York this season don’t mean anything now. It is what I call the ‘money time.’

"You have to get ready. It is an exciting time," the former North Carolina star guard said.

"We worked hard to get to this position and we are not going to get complacent just making it to the playoffs. We have to be focused. They are a great team so we just have to be ready.”

Thibault experimented and tinkered with his lineups throughout Sunday’s regular season finale against the Dream.

Yet he still was slightly annoyed following the game after watching the Mystics waste a 16-point second quarter lead, a 10-point halftime bulge and allow 49 points to the Dream after intermission.

“We have a lot of work to do before we get to a playoff game on Friday night,” Thibault said. “I hope that our players are not fooled by what happened in New York the other night.

"New York is going to be a little bit of a different team come Friday night than they were the other night. Hopefully we will be better too.”

Thibault added: " I had already made up my mind that I had a minute limit on some of our players too.

"I decided to go with the group that was out there but our turnovers were just terrible. That led to a lot of points for them. Twenty-eight or thirty percent of their points came off of our 16 turnovers.”

Three Mystics players scored in double figures led by Latta, who scored 14 points, shooting 5-for-13 from the field, 2-for-5 from three-point range and 2-for-2 from the free throw line.

Latta enjoyed a couple of highlights in which she broke a pair of Dream ankles with nice moves that resulted in made baskets.

Mystics guard Tayler Hill added 12 points along with center Kia Vaughn who scored 11 points.

Natasha Cloud handed out four assists and she’s looking forward to her first playoff experience after being drafted in the second round out of Saint Joseph's in Philadelphia.

“We’re looking forward to Friday night,” Cloud said. “We just have to put all of the pieces together.

"It’s been a surreal feeling to be able to contribute this season. We have to stick to what we do best as a team if we’re going to get past New York.”

Meanwhile, the Dream finished with a 15-19 record.

Veteran forward Angel McCoughtry ended her season with a flourish by scoring 13 of her game-high 24 points in the fourth quarter. She made 10-of-20 from the field.

Carla Cortijo (13 points), Reshanda Gray (10 points before being ejected after committing a flagrant foul with 8:11 remaining) and Tiffany Hayes (10) all reached double figures for the Dream.

Atlanta center Sancho Lyttle pulled down a game-high 12 rebounds and collected a game high four steals.

The Dream, who were eliminated from playoff contention following the Mystics overtime win over Indiana on September 8, completed a 4-0 sweep over the Mystics in the regular season.

Atlanta now enters the WNBA Draft Lottery and is assured of no worse than the fourth overall pick.

Joining the Seattle Storm, San Antonio Silver Stars and Copnnecticut in the lottery, the Dream will learn if Lady Luck smiles down on the night of September 24 when the draw of the four teams will be announced live on ESPN2 from the ESPN campus at halftime of the opener of the Easstern Conference final.

Barring a blockbuster trade involving the rights to the number one pick, the lottery winner will most likely choose University of Connecticut senior and two-time reigning national player of the year Breanna Stewart, who is considered the grand prize and one of the more lucrative talents available in the history of the draft.

The Dream, off a series of trades, will also have four of first 16 selections in next spring’s selections.

“We didn’t want to end the season on a bad note especially when we know we’re a better team than our record,” Hayes said.

“We’re just giving teams a little taste of what they’re going to see next year because we turned it on at the end of the season and it was too late for us.”

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