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, August 29, 2013

Guru's WNBA Report: Washington Gets Monumental Win Beating Atlanta in Overtime

By Mel Greenberg

It was quite the monumental victory for the Washington Mystics Wednesday night with another upset of the Atlanta Dream, this time in Georgia, and the 85-80 triumph in overtime has put the Eastern Conference doormats of the previous two seasons on the cusp of the playoffs.

It also placed an absolute must-win situation in the hands of the New York Liberty Friday night when the fifth-place squad goes head-to-head with the fourth-place and defending WNBA champion Indiana Fever at the Prudential Center at 7:30.

"This team is learning to be resilent," said Mystics coach Mike Thibault, who after being bounced by the Connecticut Sun over the winter took up with Washington and has injected the first overall feel-good atmosphere aura over the Mystics since the glorious season of 2010 when they tied New York with 22 wins at the top of the East and claimed the No. 1 seed in the playoffs on the East side.

"A year ago, from watching them from afar, these are the games they couldn't win, but we found a way to win those this year," Thibault said.

A main reason is that while Washington (14-15), which won just 11 games combined the previous two seasons. had bad luck in the draft lottery by not landing one of the coveted top three picks, the Latta pick turned out to be decent compensation.

That would be former North Carolina star Ivory Latta, whom Tibault signed as a free agent and has been a key force in the Mystics renaissance.

And actually, landing the fourth pick was not all that terrible either, with former Ohio State star Tayler Hill making contributions such as Wednesday night when she and Latta joined former Duke star Monique Currie with 15 points each.

Two weeks ago this was going to be a tough stretch for Washington that had to play the Dream (14-12), which had bedeviled the Mystics two straight seasons, three times with a visit from the East-leading Chicago Sky also part of the mix.

But Washington has won 5-of-7 games and also Wednesday got help from veteran Crystal Langhorne, who had 10 points and 10 rebounds.

The Mystics also hooked up with Atlanta, which is now five games behind Chicago in second with a visit to the Sky ahead on Saturday, at as time the Dream are hurting big time.

Sancho Lyttle had missed 14 games, Tiffany Haytes' knee is acting up again and Armintie Herrington was sidelined with a concussion.

It got worst in overtime when Angel McCoughtry, who leads the WNBA in scoring, went to the sidelines with an injured right ankle.

She also9 got beat near the end of regulation when Currie fired a three-pointer to force the extra period with 6.4 seconds left.

Latta had 10 assists and also talked about the ability for her, Currie and former Rutgers star Kia Vaughn to shake off technical fouls assessed in the third period in the tightly-contested game that had 17 lead changes until Washington went ahead with 3:29 left in the overtime just before McCoughtry went down after scoring 23 points.

Jasmine Thomas, another former Duke star, had 15 points, while Erika DeSouza scored 15 points and grabbed 14 rebounds.

"In games like this, lead changes aare going to happen, tempers are going to flare up," Latta said. "But it's the teams that buckles down that will win, and that's what we did."

Lstta will be taking up a coaching career at her alma mater this winter assisting North Carolina's Sylvia Hatchell, who next weekend will inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketballl Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., along with South Carolina coach Dawn Staley, who is going in for her playmaking ability as one of the all-time point guards in the women's game.

Atlanta, which began the season red hot, has now lost its last three games and 11 of 15.

"That was a crazy game," Thibault said. "I don't know if anyone ever got control of it. We kind of let them off the hook early and we made plays at the end when we needed to."

Washington is 1.5 games behind Atlanta, one game in front of fourth-place Indiana (12-15) and 2.5 in front of fifth-place New York (11-17), which got hammered by Western leader Minnesota 73-47 at home at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., Tuesday night.

Thibault previously coached Connecticut all 10 years after the franchise moved from Orlando and rarely missed the playoffs.

But the Sun (7-20) have been decimated by injuries and are now on a Western swing that could put them into the lottery considering they are five games behind Indiana and the fourth playoff spot with seven remaining.

That includes Thursday nigt's visit to the Seattle Storm (14-14), which is closing in on a playoff spot in the West despite missing All-Stars Lauren Jackson and Sue Bird all season because of recovering from surgeries for injuries.

Washington's remaining games consist of two with Connecticjut, where the Mystics will be the favorite; one home with Chicago next Sunday, a visit to Indiana on Sept. 10 and a wrap up with New York on the final day of the season Sept. 15.

Indiana after New York on Friday, has two games with Connecticut, goes to Atlanta and Chicago, and hosts Washinjgton and New York.

So it will be a very steep slope to overcome for New York if the Liberty don't prevail Friday night even if coach Bill Lsimbeer on Tuesday night got philosophical saying his team could win its next set of games.

But it will do no good if Washington and Indiana can get wins to stop New York from making inroads.

Meanwhile, if Chicago wins oveer Atlanta, the Sky clinch a do-no-worse than series tie with Atlanta and would clinch the next tie-break for tops in the East by clinching the best record against the conference.

Reports from teams and the Associated Press were used to write this blog.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Guru's WNBA Report: New York Eclipses Connecticut to Stay in Playoff Hunt And Further Dim Sun's Hopes

By Mel Greenberg

Coming out of a loss to the Eastern-leading Chicago Sky two nights ago in suburban Rosemont, Ill., this was a game the fifth-place New York Liberty needed Sunday against the sixth-place Connecticut Sun to stay close in the postseason chase.

Yes, the banged--up Sun needed it also but considering that the Liberty (11-16) are just outside the playoff fence, now 1.5 games behind the third-place and idle Washington Mystics (13-15) and one behind the defending WNBA champion and also idle Indiana Fever (12-15) with seven games remaining, the New York pulse could beat a little more livelier with a win.

And that is what New York achieved heading into Tuesday night's visit from the Western-leading Minnesota Lynx (20-7) by beating its traditional nearby geographical rival 74-66 at the Mohegan Sun Arena in front of a crowd of 7,004 still trying to keep the faith.

Missing key players all over the place Connnecticut (7-19) fell to the most losses ever dating back to the franchise's existence prior to 2003 as the Orlando Miracle and is now 4.5 games behind Indiana and five behind Washington with just eight games left in the regular season.

That portion of the slate begins on the road this week with stops at the Los Angeles Sparks (18-8 prior to Sunday's late game with the Tulsa Shock) Tuesday, the Seattle Storm (13-14) Thursday, and Phoenix Mercury (14-13) Saturday meaning just as in real life but in terms of the playoffs the Sun may set in the West as far as their postseason hopes go for 2013.

Of course, it is a fate that has doomed first-year coach Anne Donovan for several months with the compilation of injuries that began before the WNBA opening tip in May when veteran Asjha Jones and Danielle McCray were unable to play this season.

Since then various players have missed major time such as Renee Montgomery, Tan White, and Kara Lawson and continuing through this past week when Allison Hightower along with rookie and former UConn star Kelly Faris, a first-round pick, had to be shut down for the remaininder of the season.

Connecticut made several thrusts during the game from the opening tip but could never get ahead and faded down the stretch as New York avoided some of the major meltdowns in quarters that have plagued the Liberty throughout the season.

"We talked about it and it was imperative on this road trip that we get one of these two games," New York first-year coach Bill Laimbeer said afterwards.

"We didn't play well in Chicago but we kept our composure (here) throughout the game. We feel good about ourselves even though we stiil have some things to do and we learned some things from Minnesota, even though we got blown out there. Our defense was solid tonight and that's what carried us."

Plenette Pierson. who played for Laimbeer when he coached the three-time champion former Detroit Shock, had another big game for New York, this time scoring a team-high 18 points.

Veteran and All-Star Cappie Pondexter, the former Rutgers standout who is recovered from a bruised left heel, scored 14, while another big factor was veteran Katie Smith, who also played for Laimbeer in Detroit, scoring 13 points.

"Katie has played very well lately," Laimbeer said. "She struggled early in the season but right now she's found her shot -- she's looking for her shot and it's tough to leave her open, she's going to make shots right now."

Smith, the former Ohio State star and Olympian, is retiring after the season but said the countdown to the end of her pro career isn't that much of a factor in her improved play.

She was 6-for-11 from the field against Connecticut and 1-for-3 on three-point attempts.

"It's good, it's fun," Smith said of the close of her career. "Part of it is sad but another part is, `Whew.' You're going to miss some of the little stuff and going to miss the people, but I'm enjoying it and we're going to battle and say where the cards land.

"This was huge. I think if we lose this game, our playoff hopes would be against all odds -- considering we're in the casino. It was a really, really big game for us to stay in the mix and also give us confidence and a big boost with Minnesota coming to our place and Indiana's coming (Friday) so we needed it. It doesn't get any easier."

New York was able to get help off the bench, such as rookie Kelsey Bone's seven points and six from Alex Montgomery to help outscore the Connecticut reserves 24-4.

"It was a good win," Pondexter said. "Chicago's one of the best in the league, obviously, but (Sunday) we competed and were able to win in a tough environment.

"Tonight was a team effort. I'm getting back in the rhythm of things. I don't want to force anything. I just want to let it come to me and make everyone else around me better."

New York's key is head-to-head matchups with Indiana and Washington if the other two struggle to make one of the three the odd team out and into the draft lottery quartet of four teams, two of which are likely to be the Tulsa Shock and San Antonio Silver Stars from the West, besides Connecticut likely to be at least one of the likely Eastern lotto hopefuls.

The Liberty have a home-and-home with Indiana and finish up the final day of the regular season at Washington. But New York after Minnesota's visit must also travel to Tulsa (9-18 prior to Sunday's L.A. game) and host the Atlanta Dream (14-11), currently in second place, and Phoenix from out West.

Connecticut continued to struggle but one of the bright lights Sunday was former Nebraska star Kelsey Griffin, who had 22 points and 10 rebounds, while All-Star and reigning WNBA MVP Tina Charles, the former UConn great, had 18 points and nine rebounds.

The 22 points surpassed Griffin's previous high of 17 while she she also set a pair of career marks in shooting 3-for-3 from beyond the arc.

“You see the fight all over Kelsey," Donovan said. "It’s hard to take her out of the game because she impacts every play at both ends.

"She’s somebody who has worked hard every day and that’s why she’s still playing this well at the end of the season. She hasn’t given up, not one bit,” Donovan said of Griffin's play.

Griffin related her motivation even in this time of despair after Connecticut won the regular-season East a year ago and came within a game of advancing to the finals for the third time in franchise history before former coach Mike Thibault was replaced by Donovan in the offseason and signed with Washington, where he has revitalized the Mystics into a playoff contender.

“You can’t take any game you’re given for granted," Griffin said.

" There are a lot of players that want to be playing in this league, and can’t, and aren’t, and I feel very privileged to be in this league and I go out and try to play every night with that respect for the game, and it was no different tonight. I’m trying to carry that through until the end of the season.”

Rene Montgomery, another former UConn All-American, had 14 points for the Sun.

Donovan has not been pleased with her team's defensive effort the last two nights, including Thursday's loss here to Minnesota.

"The last two games here in this building, defensively, we have been non-existent, not bothering anybody at all," Donovan said. "It’s a great question that that locker room needs to answer.

“At this point, you approach every game, regardless of postseason or not and you have an element of pride to your game," Donovan continued. "Especially in this arena.

" People don’t just come in here and score at will. And tonight, we did a marginal job on Cappie – to walk out of here with 14 points, that’s pretty good when you can hold Cappie to 14 – and to have their bench just have a field day against us…it’s about pride. I don’t even entertain talk of postseason or not postseason. This is about pride…Defensively, we’re better than that.”

Donovan said if the remainder of the season evolves without the playoffs still a possibility that everyone is still going to be evaluated in terms of fixing things for 2014.

She noted how Charles, one of the Connecticut captains, recently made a speech to the team about playing better defense.

“You know, we’re missing our defensive sparks at times, not having All, not having Kelly Faris, she’s coming into her own, that’s a huge loss for us but we have others players that can play defense and are capable of stepping up and just being consistent,” Charles said.

As for missing the playoffs, if that happens, for the second time in her career and first since she was rookie of the year in 2010 when she was the number one overall pick by the Sun, Charles said:

“Like I said, you want to go out there and play for your teammates respect, for your coaches respect, just how you carry yourself off the court, how you carry yourself on the court. As long as I’m playing, I’m still going to do what I do and hold myself accountable, that’s all I can do.”

Guru's Predictions on East Race Mixed After Week One of Stretch

Next stop for the Guru is probably Tuesday at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., for the Liberty-Lynx game.

In terms of picking East team games the rest of the way that began with Tuesday's games, the Guru went 5-4 on the week with Atlanta being involved in three of the wrong guesses.

The Dream rallied to beat Minnesota, lost at Washington (though the Guru should have gone with his gut) and then lost at home to Chicago, whom the Guru thought would be dragging emotionally from clinching the Sky's first postseason playoff berth in eight tries the previous night at home with the win over New York.

But just like at Delaware back in college in the Colonial Athletic Association races, the Guru should have known better that Chicago roookie sensation Elena Delle Donne knows how to keep her team's focus on greater prizes than the first achievement.

The Sky have a great chance right now to win the East No. 1 seed and maybe even the overall No. 1 playoff seed.

The other bad pick was here at Mohegan where he thought New York might be dragging out of the Chicago game and Connecticut would rise to the rivalry situation.

Of course, it also seemed when the picks were made that Pondexter might be missing more time with her injury or be more limited.

You can see the blog on picking East games several posts below this one.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Guru's WNBA Report: Chicago Playoff Bound While Washington Upsets Atlanta To Enhance Bid

(Quotes from beyond here in Washington from team and wire reports.)

By Mel Greenberg

Of the two games played on the WNBA card involving Eastern teams Friday night both contests involved a piece of the race at the top of the conference and both involved the 3-for-2 scramble going on for what should complete next month's playoff field.

When the evening ended the dual-renaissance Chicago Sky and Washington Mystics helped each other with big victories.

Chicago thumped the New York Liberty 82-64 at home in the Allstate Arena in suburban Rosemont, Ill., to enjoy some sips of champagne in clinching its first-ever postseason playoff berth in eight tries since joining the WNBA as an expansion team in 2006.

The Sky (19-8), who missed the playoffs by a game to New York last season, resulting in being able to pick former Delaware all-American Elena Delle Donne overall number two, already made history here on Tuesday night when a win over Washington clinched a first-ever winning season.

Prior to this season the best Chicago had done in the win column was picking up 16 triumphs just once.

Meanwhile, over here Friday night the Mystics ended eight straight games of frustration to Atlanta dating back to September of 2011 by pulling away in the fourth quarter to beat the Dream 74-64.

The two decisions meant that Chicago, which is in first place, opened a 3.5 games lead over Atlanta (14-10) and could widen the differential further Saturday night when the Sky travel to Georgia.

Chicago is also gaining on the two-time defending Western Conference champion Minnesota Lynx (19-7), which is in first, for best overall record and home-court advantage throughout the entire playoffs if the Sky advance.

"Playoffs is the first step," former UConn star Swin Cash said. "Now we've put ourselves in the position where we could have the best record in the East, best overall record.

"I'd be lying to you if I didn't say (the best record) wasn't on the radar, but for us it's really about taking every game at a time."

The win by Washington and loss by New York (10-16) dropped the fifth-place Liberty two games behind the Mystics (13-15) and defending WNBA Indiana Fever (12-14), who are in a statistical third-place tie that would put both teams in the playoffs if the regular season ended right now instead of Sept. 15.

Indiana visits Minnesota Saturday.

The Mystics, with six games left, next play in Atlanta Wednesday.

New York heads to Connecticut Sunday to play the forlorn and injury-riddled Sun (7-18), who won the regular season conference title last season and came within a game of making the WNBA championship final.

Enduring their worst season ever, the Sun are now 4.5 games behind the fourth and final playoff spot and it is hard to see whether Sunday's matchup will feature two teams who didn't feel like showing up or two still striving to use whatever remains in the tank to attempt to make the playoffs.

New York hosts Minnesota and Indiana next week before finishing in September playing Atlanta and the Phoenix Mercury at home and visiting the Tulsa Shock, Indiana and Washington.

"We've got a big stretch of games coming up right here, there's a lot of games that we can win, and we have to win them," New York first-year coach Bill Laimbeer said. "If we don't, we're going to be in trouble."

The other element in Sunday's game is that the New York-Connecticut series is one of the better rivalries in the WNBA so from the pride factor, who knows what might unfold.

Pride is certainly something that has returned here to Washington with the arrival of coach Mike Thibault, who was let go in the offseason by Connecticut, which he coached for the Sun's previous ten years of existence after the Mohegan Indiana Tribe acquired the franchise that previously existed as the Orlando Miracle.

The Mystics recently surpassed their entire win total of 11 games the previous two seasons and considering they are in a stretch of four games of which three are Atlanta and the other was Chicago, to beat the Dream may loom as a signature triumph on the season.

After the Atlanta game, the remaining five games, all against the East, consist of two home-and-home encounters against Connecticut -- Thibault is 3-0 so far against his former employers -- one hosting Chicago, one visiting Indiana, which could be for playoff position or qualification, and wrapping up hosting New York, which could mean a playoff spot or seed situation, or have no value at all.

"Obviously, a terrific win, badly needed for a lot of reasons -- we only played two games here in a 16-17 day period and both against them so we don't play until we see them Wednesday," Thibault said.

"We could feel good for several days, it's miserable otherwise."

Monique Currie, the former Duke star, had a team-high 15 points and grabbed her 1,000th-career rebound on the way to collecting seven off the boards for Washington.

"That we are tired of losing to them, really," Currie said. "They're a really good team, but you can get them to make mistakes and that's what we did. We made them take a lot of outside shots, which isn't their strong point.

"It was our defense that won the game."

Former Rutgers star Kia Vaughn, who came here in a trade with the New York Liberty in the offseason, had her second straight prominent game with 12 points and 10 rebounds while Ivory Latta, the former North Carolina starbsigned as a free agent after being with Tulsa, had 14 points.

Rookie Tayler Hill, the fourth overall pick out of Ohio State in April, had 10 points off the bench for Washington.

Washington's defense resulted in Angel McCoughtry scoring just 17 points, while Erika DeSouza scored 14 points, and former UConn star Tiffany Hayes scored 10 off the bench and late in the game made the Dream's only three-point score out of 17 attempts.

Dream rookie Alex Bentley out of Penn State had four points and four rebounds and has been one of the better newcomers in the WNBA this season.

Washington committed only nine turnovers against the feisty Dream defense.

"They count on steals to win games," Thibault said. "We learned a valuable lesson last time on how to defend them. We forced them to take a bunch of threes and that's not their strength.

"We made them work for everything they got. The fact that they were in the teens in every quarter means we played better defensively than the last time we played them."

Latta spoke of the total effort, saying, "Everybody made big plays down the stretch -- defensive plays, everybody got big rebounds, we got big steals, so I think this whole team was determined to get the win and get to the playoffs."

It was a tough loss for Atlanta, which has three more games than Chicago, which the Dream see next.

"When you have a team thas has lost a few (two) in a row, they're going to regroup as a team," Atlanta coach Fred Williams said of the loss to Washington. "I thought they came out with some energy early and it kept up throughout the game.

"I felt that the team that was going to make the last run would get the (win). And they made the last run at us."

Meanwhile, in Chicago, the Sky used a balanced attack against New York to officially check in with their ticket to their first postseason appearance.

Delle Donne, who returned here Tuesday night after missing two previous games with a sprained foot, scored 11 points in 24 minutes, 49 seconds, while Sylvia Fowles had a team-high 14 points, Cash had 11 points, and Courtney Vandersloot scored 10.

Fowles has experienced the past frustration in Chicago since being the second overall pick in 2008 out of LSU, where Chatman had been her coach.

"I'm excited for her because she hasn't experienced this, and I have a personal connection just from the length of our relationship that goes way back," Chatman said. "So I'm happy for Sylvia, but also everybody and this franchise."

Cappie Pondexter, the Liberty All-Star and former Rutgers standout who missed her last game with a bruised left heel, played but could only score three points. She said she felt OK.

However, Plenette Pierson had a season-high 25 points for New York.

Western Action

Though most of the focus here on the blog is on the East for now, Friday night there were several West games of significance, considering the battle for the fourth and final playoff spot, though just the top two are locked up right now.

Idle Minnesota, the two-time defending Western Conference regular season and playoff champion, had previously got a spot and the idle Los Angeles Sparks (18-8), which is in second trailing Minnesota by a game, joined the field Friday night when the San Antonio Silver Stars fell to the Tulsa Shock 73-67.

San Antonio (9-17) trails the fourth-place and surprising Seattle Storm (13-13) by four games after Seattle took a key 81-73 road win late Friday night in Phoenix against the WNBA preseason favorite Mercury (14-13), which is in third place.

Liz Cambage, the second-year pro out of Australia, had another big effort for Tulsa (9-18), scoring 20 points, while veteran Shameka Christon scored 18 for San Antonio.

Both Seattle and San Antonio have been among the large number of teams missing key players with injuries. Prior to the start of the season All-Stars Lauren Jackson and former UConn standout Sue Bird announced bypassing 2013 to rcover from offseason surgeries, while Becky Hammon and Sophia Young have been sidelined in Texas all season with injuries.

Seattle visits San Antonio Sunday and a win by the Storm would mean coach Brian Agler's team would be up five games and reduce the magic number to two to get to the postseason with each team having seven games left remaining on the schedule.

And believe it or not, Seattle stays in Texas to play the Silver Stars again Tuesday.

Besides being close to returning to the postseason, Seattle is now only a half-game behind Phoenix in the West.

In Friday's win, former LSU star Tameka Johnson had 23 points for Seattle, while Tina Thompson scored 18 points and former North Carolina star Camille Little scored 17.

DeWanner Bonner had 20 points for Phoenix, while former Temple standout Candice Dupree scored 17, former UConn great Diana Taurasi scored 16, and Brittney Griner, the overall No. 1 pick in April's draft out of Baylor, scored 12 points.

That's is. The Guu is contemplating hitting Sunday's New York-Connecticut game.

-- Mel


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Guru's WNBA Report: Delle Donne's Return Leads to Chicago Triumph at Washington and First Winning Season

By Mel Greenberg

Asked before her Chicago Sky met the Washington Mystics on the road Tuesday night here at the Verizon Center how come no grey hairs were showing after two straight wild escapes from deep deficits, coach Pokey Chatman politely smiled and said, "I have a good hairdresser."

It looks like it will be back to the beauty shop on Wednesday when the Sky return to the Windy City from yet another rally, this time 11 points, to beat the Mystics 79-73 as rookie sensation Elena Delle Donne returned to action and scored 24 points after missing both previous Chicago comebacks after suffering a sprained left foot in Los Angeles a week ago during a narrow loss to the Sparks.

Chicago owner Michael Alter was in the house as was part-owner John Rogers, a prominent donor to Princeton, to see a first since Alter bought the Sky into existence in the WNBA in 2006.

The triumph gave the Sky an 18-8 record and clinched its first winning season in eight tries.

"I'm happy to see this program go the way it can go," said Delle Donne, the former Delaware all-American still using college lingo to talk about the Sky franchise. "I'm thrilled to see that. We want to make history."

Chatman also spoke of the franchise history the team is making this season.

"Obviously, for the franchise, the fans, these players, it's huge," Chatman said.

A crowd of 6,471 watched the game, less than Delle Donne's last visit, a morning game that brought a slew of Delaware fans down the two-hour drive besides the camp crowd that was in the arena.

There was still a sizeable presence considering it did not become public knowledge until early Tuesday afternoon that Delle Donne made the trip and was listed as a probable starter.

On Friday night, an even bigger step looms for Chicago with the magic number reduced to one to make the playoffs also for the first time.

The math says that the next Chicago win or New York Liberty loss means draft lottery, barring some trade, will not be in the lingo of the Sky this winter.

Both can happen at the same moment since New York (10-15), struggling to make the playoffs, as is Washington (12-15), which fell into a statistical third-place tie with the idle Indiana (11-14) Fever, will be visiting the Sky at Allstate Arena in suburban Rosemont.

"I won't try to minimalize it, it won't change how we approach things (Friday night) ... It's huge and we just have to make sure we get it next time out," Chatman said.

Beyond even making the playoffs, the race at the top of the East remained tight since the Atlanta Dream (14-9) rallied at home Tuesday night to beat Minnesota 88-75 putting the Lynx (18-7) in danger of dropping out of first in the West if Los Angeles were to beat the Seattle Storm in a late game out west later Tuesday night.

But Seattle (12-13) prevailed 77-57 enabling Minnesota to stay a half-game over the Sparks (18-8) as the Storm helped their own cause in grabbing the fourth and final playoff spot in the West.

"It feels good," said former Rutgers start Epiphanny Prince, who went to the Sky in the first round of the 2010 draft about the team's success this season. "I look at the standings every day and we're 18-8 and it's like, `wow.' It's great to have a winning record."

Prince, a primary architect in the two recent comebacks, including the WNBA record-tying 25-point deficit rally at home Sunday over the Connecticut Sun, only had seven points against Washington.

Chicago has a 2.5 lead on Atlanta with eight games remaining but the Dream still have 11 games left. However the two will collide three times between now and the end of the season and two gam es will be in Chicago.

Former LSU star Sylvia Fowles, the number two overall pick by Chicago behind Tennessee standout Candace Parker, who went to Los Angeles in 2008, has seen most of the Sky futility through last season when they missed the playoffs by a game to New York, though that was to bring a reward when Chicago in the lottery was able to land a spot to grab Delle Donne.

Although she didn't have the 20-20 point-rebound game of Sunday, Fowles still came up big with 16 points and 15 rebounds.

It went better this time than on the prevous visit just before the All-Star break last month when Delle Donne banged her head on the knee of Mystics post player Kia Vaughn and missed two games with a concussion.

Delle Donne also missed the All-Star game after she had become the first rookie to collect the most votes in the fan balloting selecting the starters.

"Feeling good," she said afterwards about Tuesday's performance here. "Adrenalin takes over after a while and you don't feel any pain so I was happy to see I wasn't favoring my foot or anything like that."

Trailing 41-37 at the half, Chicago forged ahead courtesy of a 1-for-16 futility from the field by Washington, including 15-straight misses in the third quarter, not that the Sky offense could light the nearby U.S. Capitol shooting 4-for-15.

"We wanted to come out and make three straight defensive stops and I think we got seven," Delle Donne said. "It was just crucial that we play great defense. That was our focus. At halftime, we didn't speak about offense at all. It was all about defense."

While the talk is usually about Delle Donne in postgame coverage, a key to the win was third-year pro Courtney Vandersloot out of Gonzaga, who had a season-high 19 points and also dished seven assists.

"'Sloot was awesome tonight," Prince said. "She was looking for her shot. She ran the offense for us. She always comes up with a big defensive play."

Veteran Swin Cash, the former UConn standout, was eve more emphatic.

"Most improved player in the WNBA?" Cash responded to a question of Sloot. "She's got to be in the discussion. I know she'd be my choice."

In the final minutes Vandersloot hit a key three-point shot wiith 1:04 left to make the score 73-68 and also drew a charge on Washington's Monique Currie, the former Duke star, with 41.1 seconds left that brought the entire Chicago bench to its feet with cheers.

Chatman also praised Sloot, saying, "I think the person that stayed consistently strong was Courtney Vanderloot -- She hit a couple of big shots and did a lot to help us along the way.

"Obviously having Elena back and scoring 24 points was good for us."

For a while, it seemed that after Vaughn's knee inadvertently brought down Delle Donne last time as Washington rallied for a win from a 21-point deficit, Tuesday night she did a lot of early damage to Chicago with her shot from the outside and finished with 21 points.

Ivory Latta, who will be an assistant coach at North Carolina, her alma matter in the offseason, scored 12 points, including her 2,000th in seven season, but Crystal Langhorne, the former Maryland star from Willingboro, N.J., in suburban Philadelphia, was held to four points, but did grab nine rebounds.

"I think we're just not making shots," she said.

Wshington, with just seven games left, next hosts Atlanta Friday night and then is off five days until visiting Atlanta next week August 28.

On the Guru's picks over the weekend for games the rest of the way involving East teams, the Minnesota loss to Atlanta put him at 1-1 first night out.

Meanwhile, the news keeps getting more dire in Connecticut where the Sun will now be without Allison Hightower the rest of the season because of a knee injury while rookie Kelly Faris, the former UConn star and Sun first-round pick, will also be gone the rest of the way after re-injuring the left foot she suffered near the end of UConn's run to the Huskies' eighth NCAA title in April.

Down to eight players and Minnesota, looking for revenge off Tuesday night's meltdown to Atlanta, scheduled to visit in the Sun's next game Thursday night, Hartford Courant beat writer John Altavilla reported under WNBA rules coach Anne Donovan cannot get the emergency-allowed replacement player that quick.

However, Kara Lawson, who has been away on a family emergency but also has a slew of nagging injuries, is expected back at practice Wednesday, according to Altavilla on his twitter account.

League president Laurel Richie was here for an event besides the game and just rolled her eyes when told she was about to face more injury issues in the morning when the Connecticut media would likely be calling.

-- Mel

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Monday, August 19, 2013

Guru's WNBA Report: Your Guide to the Tight Eastern Playoff Stretch Drive

(Guru's note: Sunday night's action headlined by Chicago's 25-point plus rally is in the post directly under this one.)

By Mel Greenberg

Back in 2010 when the Seattle Storm won its second WNBA title, it spent most of the season along with most of the Eastern Conference getting fat on the Storm's Western opponents.

Remember the final regular season standings out West?

1. Seattle 28-6
2. Phoenix 15-19
3. San Antonio 14-20
4. LA 13-21
4. Minnesota 13-21
6. Tulsa 6-28

Meanwhile, everyone in the East but the Chicago Sky, heading for sunshine at last, had a better record.

The one thing notable, which has been part of the Guru's lore here, was the tiebreak at No. 4, established in the final days of the season when the Minnesota Lynx seemed to have the game won with four seconds left, only to lose to the Los Angeles Sparks on a length-of-the-court score by the soon-to-be-retired Tina Thompson (now with Seattle) after this season.

Several months later, however, Minnesota got the last laugh because relgated to the lottery, the Lynx got the top pick, which led to the selection of UConn great Maya Moore, which in large part but not all, led to a WNBA title in 2011 and return to the finals in 2012.

The Guru mentions this as precursor to what follows because now it's the East to play the mediocre game, though perhaps at this hour a little less severe.

However, just like 2010 out West five teams are in a tussle for next month's four conference spots in the playoffs, though the Atlanta Dream's stabilization over the weekend has Angel McCoughtry and her teammates closer to fighting Chicago for first than emeshed in the gridlock below.

One interesting thing in the mire is that if the Washington Mystics, the surprise team in the conference under former Connecticut Sun Mike Thibault, extends their season it will be due in large part to going 7-5 against the West.

But a glance at the schedules for each seems to indicate a multiple backslide into the hunt and while the losers get to the lottery, the next draft will have quality, but it won't be on the order of the last time around that had Brittney Griner (Baylor-Phoenix), Elena Delle Donne (Delaware-Chicago), and Skylar Diggins (Notre Dame-Tulsa) at the top of the pile.

First, here's the standings in the East after Sunday's games:

1. Chicago 17-8, --, Games Remaining: 9
2. Atlanta 13-9, 2.5, Games Remaining: 12
3. Washington 12-14, 5.5, Games Remaining: 8
4. Indiana 11-14, 6.0, Games Remaining: 9
5. New York 10-15, 7.0, Games Remaining: 9
6. Connecticut, 7-17, 9.5, Games Remaining: 10

While it will be genuine sort of bumper cars against each other, some games against the West will still be factors.

Of course, what is not known is how many more injuries or other issues deprive teams of able rosters and though the Guru took a guess at probable records, the reality is there are many tossups, which might delight teams'
fans though the total performance is not to the liking of purists, or those in the state of Connecticut where winning in the pros in Uncasville or college in Storrs and Hartford have been a way of life.

Some key multiples left on the slate, Chicago has three with Atlanta, but two are at home. Washington has two with New York and two with Atlanta, while New York has two with Indiana, as well as much-recently-tougher Tulsa, Phoenix and Minnesota in crossover games.

The Guru calls it like this but again it is a very tenuous call:

Chicago 6-3
Atlanta 9-3
Washington 3-5
Indiana 4-5
New York 3-6
Connecticut 3-7

If that occurs the final standings will look like this:

Chicago 23-11
Atlanta 22-12
Washington 15-19
Indiana 15-19 (not listed in as tie-break result)
New York 13-21
Connecticut 10-24

Here now the East games the rest of the way, but to be conservative games there are tossups in reality that will be mentioned that way outside what the Guru thought, even though he isn't given you his picks in every game. :)

Actually, which might change some of the forecasts, he will note the obvious or at least comment under the initials GP for Guru pick.

East Playoff Push Till End of Season

Tuesday, Aug. 20
Chicago at Washington -- GP: Chicago
Minnesota at Atlanta -- GP: Minnesota

Wednesday, Aug. 21
San Antonio at Indiana -- GP: Indiana

Thursday, Aug. 22
Minnesota at Connecticut -- GP: Minnesota

Friday, Aug. 23
Atlanta at Washington -- GP: Atlanta
New York at Chicago -- GP: Chicago

Saturday, Aug. 24
Indiana at Minnesota -- GP: Minnesota
Chicago at Atlanta -- GP: Tossup shade to Atlanta, both of back-to-back

Sunday, Aug. 25
New York at Connecticut -- GP: Connecticut (driven by rivalry)

Tuesday, Aug. 27
Minnesota at New York -- GP: Minnesota
Connecticut at Los Angeles -- GP: Los Angeles

Wednesday, Aug. 28
Washington at Atlanta -- GP: Atlanta: Homecourt advantage

Thursday, Aug. 29
Connecticut at Seattle -- GP Seasttle: Storm still fighting for playoffs in West

Friday, Aug. 30
Indiana at New York -- GP: Tossup slightly favoring Indy.

Saturday, Aug. 31
Atlanta at Chicago -- GP: Potential first-place showdown favoring Chicago
Connecticut at Phoenix -- GP: Phoenix on homecourt with playoffs push.

Sunday, Sept. 1
New York at Tulsa -- GP: NY barely won first time and Tulsa better now

Monday, Sept. 2
Los Angeles at Atlanta -- GP: Los Angeles. Maybe Sparks East champs :)

Wednesday, Sept. 4
Indiana at Atlanta -- GP: Tossup favoring Atlanta

Friday, Sept. 6
Washington at Connecticut -- GP: Washington still in playoff hunt
Atlanta at New York -- GP: Atlanta but we've seen one upset already
Indiana at Chicago -- GP: Chicago homecourt but closer to tossup

Saturday, Sept. 7
Connecticut at Indiana -- GP: Could be tossup but homecourt to Indiana

Sunday, Sept. 8
Phoenix at Atlanta -- GP: Tossup but homecourt Atlanta though who knows
Chicago at Washington -- GP: Chicago but playoff implcations could factor

Tuesday, Sept. 10
Phoenix at New York -- GP: Phoenix slightly but playoff factors could alter
Washington at Indiana -- GP Indiana on homecourt but this will be big

Wednesday, Sept. 11
Atlanta at Connecticut -- GP: Atlanta but Conn tries to affect race for others
Phoenix at Chicago -- GP Chicago but could be tossup. Sky won in the desert

Friday, Sept. 13
Connecticut at Washington -- GP: Washington going for sweep
New York at Indiana -- GP: Indiana at its scoreboard watching night
Atlanta at Chicago -- GP: Chicago and could decide top seed

Saturday, Sept. 14
Chicago at Minnesota -- GP: Minnesota wants a little revenge

Sunday, Sept. 15
Indiana at Conn. -- GP: Pride game for Connecticut but Indy may need it.
New York at Washington -- GP: Washington could be fight for fourth
Atlanta at San Antonio -- GP: Atlanta but tossup if Stars still alive in West

East Remaining Opps Team by Team
(C) -- East/West Crossover Game
This List In Order of Sked

Chicago: at-Wash., vs. N.Y., at Atl., vs. Atl., vs. Ind., at Wash., vs. (C) Pho., vs. Atl., at (C) Minn., Total West 2=1 Each H-H, Total East: 7= 3R-4H -- 9All

Atlanta: vs. (C) Minn.., at Wash. vs. Chi., vs., Wash., at Chi., vs.(C) LA., vs. Ind., at NY.; vs. (C) Pho., at Conn., at Chi., at (C) San Ant. Total West: 4=1R-3H, Total East 8=5R-3H -- 12All

Washington: vs. Chi., vs. Atl., at Atl.., vs. Conn., vs. Chi., at Ind., vs. Conn., vs. NY. Total West - None, Total East 8=2-6 8All

Indiana: vs. (C) San Ant., at (C) Minn., at NY.,, at Atl., at Chi., vs. Conn., vs. Wash., vs. NY. at Conn. Total West: 2=1R-1H. Total East: 7=4R-3H 9All.

New York: at Chi, at Conn.,, vs. (C) Minn.,, vs. Ind., at (C) Tulsa, vs. Atl., vs. (C) Pho., at Ind., at Wash. Total West: 3=1R-2H. Total East 6=4R-2H 9All

Connecticut: vs. (C) Minn., vs. NY., at (C) LA, at (C) Seatt., at (C) Pho., at Wash., at Ind., vs Atl., at Wash., vs. Ind. Total West: 4=3R-1H. Total East: 6=3R-3H. 10All.

East Remaining Games vs. Opp Teams
This Counts Opposition Team

Chicago: vs. West (2) Pho (H), Minn. (A). vs. East (7) vs. 2-Wash (2A), vs. 1-NY (1H), vs. 3-Atl. (1A-2H), vs. 1-Ind. (1H),

Atlanta vs. West (4) Minn (H), LA (H), Pho (H) , Snn Ant. (A). vs. East (8) vs. 2-Wash (1A-1H), vs. 3- Chi (1-H, 2A), 1-Ind. ( H), 1-NY (A), 1-Conn. (A)

Washington vs. West (None). vs. East (8) 2-Chi (2H), 2-Atl (1-A, 1-H), 2-Conn (2H), 1-NY (1H), 1-Ind. (1A).

Indiana vs. West (2) San Ant. (H), at Minn (A). vs. East (7), 2-NY (1A-1H), 1-Wash (1H), 2-Conn. (1A-1H), 1-Atl (1A), 1-Chi (1A).

New York vs. West (3) Minn (H), Pho (H), Tulsa (A). vs. East (6) 1-Chi (1A), 1-Conn. (1A), 1-Wash (1A), 2-Ind. (1-A, 1-H), 1-Atl (1H).

Connecticut vs. West (4) Minn. (H), LA (A), Seattle (A), Pho (1A). vs. East (6) 2-Wash (2A), 1-NY 1H), 1-Atl (1H), 2-Ind. (1A. 1-H),

That's it for now.

-- Mel

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Guru's WNBA Roundup: No Delle Donne No Problem as Chicago Erases Conecticut 25-Point Lead

(Gur's note: A look at the East race the rest of the way is right above this post.).

By Mel Greenberg

Big deficit -- again. No. Elena-again. No problem-again.

That was the way it went in Chicago Sunday night, technically in the suburban town of Rosemont, where the Eastern-leading Sky tied a WNBA record by rallying from a 25-point deficit that existed late in the first half to to heap more indignities on the no-longer regular-season defending conference champion Connecticut Sun with an 89-78 triumph that completed a four--game sweep.

The comeback this time made the weekend rally from 16-down in the second half to win at Seattle the last time out seem like small potatoes.

Chicago (17-8) was able to main its 2.5 lead over second-place Atlanta (13-9), which put a crimp in the playoff hopes of the Washington Mystics 76-58 earlier in the afterrnoon in Georgia, though the muddle below the Dream is such that the other four teams fighting for two spots will probably have contest over the next month over who can do the best job backing into the postseason.

The Sky have now clinched their first .500 season for the first time since joining the WNBA as an expansion team in 2006. That can quickly change to first winning season by emerging victorious Tuesday night when they visit Washington (12-14).

The last visit to the nation's capital did not go so well in the final game before the All-Star break last month when leading rookie-of-the-year candidate Elena Delle Donne, the former Delaware All-American who was the second overall pick in April's draft, suffered a concussion in the third quarter and the Sky blew a 14-point lead.

Delle Donne, the first rookie to win the overall All-Star fan balloting to select the starters, went on to miss the next two games.

Now Chicago has found it can also do things when in deep trouble without its prized roookie, who has been sidelined in both recent wins with a mildly-injured left foot that got stepped on last Tuesday night during a narrow loss in Los Angeles to the Western Conference red-hot Sparks.

Connecticut, beset with injuries and other situations causing abscenes, was without veteran Kara Lawson, who is tending a family situation, and Allison Hightower, who had been as strong candidate for most improved player in the WNBA.

Chicago's Courtney Vandersloot is also a candidate for the award.

The Sky comeback tied previous WNBA-record rallies from 25-points down set by the former Detroit Shock, now in Tulsa, at home against Los Angeles on June 26, 2005, reversing a 35-10 score to a 79-73 win, while last season the then-defending WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx at home on Sept. 7 came from a 50-25 deficit to win 97-93 in double overtime.

Washington several season ago set the record of coming from a 22-point halftime deficit to win 88-85 in overtime in Los Angeles.

Meanwhile, Sky coach Pokey Chatman said after Sunday's win that Delle Donne may play in Tuesday night's game, which if confirmed with enough leeway might send another crush of Delaware fans to the Verizon Center, which will delight the state of Maryland, which last month jacked up the tolls on bridges and tunnels on its roads in the Northeast corridor.

However, the Guru's pipeline hears from other quarters caution is being preached so Delle Donne is in good shape for the playoff run.

Speaking of the postseason, Chicago's rally also enabled the Sky, who have yet to make the playoffs in seven previous tries, to reduce their magic number to two over the fifth-place New York Liberty (10-15), which lost to the Minnesota Lynx, 88-57, in an East-West crossover game in Minneapolis.

The Liberty played without former Rutgers standout Cappie Pondexter, who is struggling with foot problems, though first-year coach Bill Laimbeer is hopeful of getting his All-Star back in action when the Liberty travel to play Chicago on Friday.

Former UConn star Maya Moore had 28 points and hit six three-pointers for the Lynx (18-6), who snapped a three-game losing streak with the win over New York iand stayed a half-game aheasd of Los Angeles in the West.

In the Sky win All-Star and Olympian Sylvia Fowles, who has had her way in the post with Connercticut, set a WNBA record with 20 points and 21 rebounds, the second time this season she has hit 20 or more in both categories in the same game.

Both efforts have come aagainst Connecticut.

Chicago owns the tie-break in already winning the season-series with New York if the two finish fourth and the best Connecticut (7-17) can do with Chicago is get a tie, but the Sky would get the nod off the season sweep.

Technically, Connecticut, on the way to what would be the worst record in combined franchise history as either the Orlando Miracle or current afilliation, is still alive for the playoffs, trailing the fourth-place and defending WNBA champion Indiana Fever (11-14) by 3.5 games.

But the reality says something else, especially after zipping to a 15-0 start in Chicago and building what used to be an insurmountable 43-18 lead by Connecticut, only to be outscored 62-35 in the second half.

First-year Sun coach Anne Donovan, the Hall of Famer and former Old Dominion great who has won Olympic gold medals as a player and coach, as well as a WNBA title when she was guiding Seattle apparently has not seen it all.

"... And 62 points in a half is pretty amazing." Donovan said. crediting Chicago's effort and expressing frustration at another poundimg, especially being in control in the first half.

The Sky closed out the win with a 25-5 run in the fourth quarter.

Former Rutgers standout Epiphanny Prince who keyed t he fourth-quarter rally in Seattle, had 21 points against Connecticut.

"We were fortunate," Chatman said, initially expressing dismay at the Sky's tough start. "But at least I can take some true basketball clips that were from blue-collar areas of the game: defense, deflections, rebounding, getting out in transittion -- that got us the win."

In Atlanta's win over Washington, which was coming off a tough triumph on the road against New York Friday night, former UConn star Tiffany Hayes tied a career high with 23 points after recently returned from surgery.

-- Mel

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Friday, August 16, 2013

Guru's WNBA Report: Chicago Storms Seattle With Fourth Quarter Rally

(As a public service to those yet to follow the Guru on twitter @womhoopsguru, he has put together some late night tweets in a packaged story post below.)

By Mel Greenberg

The crusading Chicago Sky used a deluge of shots in the fourth quarter Thursday night in the only game on the WNBA schedule to erase a 16-point second-half deficit to rally and beat the host Seattle Storm 79-66 in the second of the two East-West matchups between the teams.

The Storm won the previous game in Chicago.

The Sky's 32-6 wipeout in the final period triggered by former Rutgers star Epiphanny Prince was appropriately a key win in Key Arena for the Eastern Conference-leading Chicago team that was without rookie sensation Elena Delle Donne, who could be sidelined for as much two weeks with a foot sprain the Delaware all-American suffered during Tuesday night's narrow loss in Los Angeles to the rivitalized Sparks when someone stepped on her.

Ironically, Delle Donne, who might have been a Seattle player had she opted to leave college last season when her enrollment class at Delaware graduated, did not play in the first Seattle game either.

That was one of two Delle Donne missed recovering from a concussion suffered in the third quarter of Chicago's final game before the All-Star break, which was played in Washington, where the Sky blew a 14-point lead to the Mystics.

Because of the injury Delle Donne was unable to play in the All-Star game hosted by the Connecticut Sun after becoming the first rookie to be the overall vote recipient by the fans who chose the starters.

When WNBA coaches paraded through Delaware's Bob Carpenter Center during Delle Donne's junior and senior seasons, they often referred to her as a young Lauren Jackson, the Australian with All-Star stature on Seattle who is one of the best of the best in the WNBA.

So while there was much anticipation toward a matchup between Jackson, a former overall No. 1 pick, and Delle Donne, the overall No. 2 in April's draft, the confrontation would have been postponed even if Delle Donne was healthy because Jackson is sitting out this season to recover from a previous injury.

Former Connecticut star Sue Bird on Seattle is also doing likewise, absences which seemed to doom the Storm's playoff hopes but coach Brian Agler has the squad very much in the running, with the current 10-13 record helped in part elsewhere in the West because fifth place San Antonio at 8-15 behind the Storm also has season-long absences due to injuries to Sophia Young and Becky Hammon.

Thursday's win in a sense cancels the Washington loss when the shoe was on the other foot for the Sky, though if Chicago loses out first in the East by a game or tiebreak Sky coach Pokey Chatman won't buy this notion.

But the comeback did many things for Chicago, which has not been to playoffs in seven previous attempts since joining the WNBA in 2006.

The Sky missed by a game to New York last season though Chicago struck it rich in the lottery landing the No. 2 position to be able to pick Delle Donne behind Baylor star Brittney Griner, who was taken by the Phoenix Mercury.

Chicago's win over Seattle makes them 16-8, matching the best win total in franchise history achieved just once before.

It also opened a three-game lead over the reeling Atlanta Dream, who at 11-9 have lost seven of their last eight due to injuries and a tough July on the road.

The Chicago triumph furthermore reduced the Sky's magic number to make the playoffs to five, which could drop more over the next several days due to the Eastern Conference collisions by other teams just ahead.

Chicago, which is a leading 10-4 in Eastern Conference games, for its part hosts Connecticut Sunday and then visits Washington Tuesday night.

The magic number to finish first is 10 since just making the playoffs is no longer the Sky mantra of previous seasons.

If Thursday was relatively quiet on the WNBA slate, an intriguing storyline in the East is budding for Friday's card.

Connecticut in last place meets Atlanta for the second straight night, this time in Georgia trying for a two-game sweep for the week on the Dream, especially because the Sun need to mount a run and let the others pick each other apart to get to at least the fourth and final playoff spot.

Passing the New York Liberty alone won't do the trick.

Meanwhile New York is hosting Washington already holding two wins on the Mystics with the two teams a half-game apart in the 4th-5th playoffs or lottery slots.

Out West, the WNBA defending champion Indiana Fever, which has suffered the same injury decimations as others, including Connecticut, is at Los Angeles.

Now, should Atlanta lose to Connecticut, Washington to New York, and Indiana to Los Angeles the five teams in the East behind Chicago wouldn't all be tied because of different number games played by each to date.

However, they would each have 11 wins.

The Guru will be at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. for the Wasington-New York showdown, with Washington looking to atone for its recent 14-point meltdown in the fourth quarter of last week's visit, while the Liberty will be trying to create momentum off Sunday's upset win in Atlanta after being handle at home the previous afternoon by Los Angeles.

Just keep those seatbelts fastened because the bumpy ride will continue down to the wire.

-- Mel

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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Guru's WNBA Report: Delle Donne Makes Good on Destiny's Reservation For Her In The Pros

By Mel Greenberg

Back in in her formative years heading into Wilmington's Ursuline Academy in Delaware, the youngster Elena Delle Done with her basketball skills was drawing raves and great predictions for her future.

She was deemed capable of making an early jump to the WNBA in the manner of the consistent leaps that occur on the men's side from college and high school, though such moves are not welcomed by the women's pro league with limited exceptions.

"I was telling Pat Summitt about Elena when she was in the seventh grade," Delaware volleyball coach Bonnie Kenny, who has educational ties to Tennessee, once related.

Then after Delle Donne made powerful Connecticut the winner in the recruiting war for her prized talents but leaving campus within 48 hours never to return due to major homesickness for family and enrolling at nearby Delaware, the comments about Delle Donne all began flowing the other way.

Too soft. Not tough enough. What a waste.

Even after the year off and spending part of the time playing volleyball, where, by the way, she made the all-freshman team playing for Kenny in the Colonial Athletic Association, her return to basketball with the Blue Hens continued to draw negativity.

No value. No challenges. No passion.

Except while Delle Donne worked her way back to the promise of her younger years, Delaware women's basketball coach Tina Martin worked on building supporting pieces on the court with players and off the court with scheduling and emphasizing leadership skills.

The result has since been well chronicled -- Delaware became a nationally-ranked team, drew sellouts nightly, made it to the NCAA Sweet 16 Delle Donne's senior year when she finished as one of the all-time scorers with overall 3,000 points, even though she missed 22 games primarily due to a battle with Lyme disease and dealing with a few other nagging injuries.

"We worked a lot on leadership skills and being a team when we had to deal with Elena's health issues," Martin said earlier this summer. "And each year she became more vocal."

For those that bemoaned the loss of passion, they might have looked at Exhibit A -- Following Delle Donne's rehabilitation from the illness in the spring of 2011, she worked herself back in shape and tried out for USA Basketball's World University Team competiting against most of the top collegiate talent in the country.

Delle Donne made the squad and then was credited by many of her prestigious teammates as being the key force in winning the gold medal in China.

That was the first sign that apparently Destiny did not toss away the page with Delle Donne's name in the notebook during that fateful summer of 2008.

Of course on the other side, Connecticut did not need any sympathy for Delle Donne's departure because all the Huskies did in her absence was zip to two straight unbeaten NCAA championship and went to two more Final Fours, losing close at the finish in the semifinals to former Big East rival Notre Dame.

Still, even though ESPN made her part of the "Three To See" promotion with sister seniors Brittney Griner of Baylor, which won the 2012 title, and Skylar Diggins of Notre Dame, one got the sense that Delle Donne was given the least attention -- in part because of being at Delaware, relegated in competition speak as a Mid-Major. and networks weren't exactly sending the trucks to the Bob Carpenter Center on Delaware's campus in Newark to televise games.

No big deal, Delle Donne would say as she went about her business.

Apparently Destiny had Chicago written long in advance of Delle Donne's formal arrival to the WNBA in April when the Sky made her the overall No. 2 pick.

Seattle Storm Brian Agler one night over dinner earlier this season was whimsically looking back to a year ago when Delle Donne could have opted for the draft because her orginal enrollment class at Delaware graduated in 2012.

"Yeah, we might have had a pretty good shot at her," he said of owning a high pick courtesy of a trade Chicago made to land former UConn star Swin Cash.

"But if she was coming out, Chicago probably would not have made the trade."

Then last summer the Sky seemed ready to break their lifetime 0-for-making-the-playoffs since joining the WNBA in 2006 but Chicago went into a spiral when former Rutgers star Epiphanny Prince got injured.

Late in the season Chicago squandered leads in two games that ultimately resulted in just missing the playoffs finishing below the New York Liberty.

Destiny went back to work on lottery night when Chicago drew the second pick behind the Phoenix Mercury, whose bad deed of appearing to tank last summer was rewarded with the shot at taking Griner, considered the top prospect, though in several quarters some felt Delle Donne might be a better fit for the Mercury system.

Now the only question was would Chicago take Diggins of nearby Notre Dame for local marketing or go with Delle Donne, leaving Tulsa to grab the Irish stellar point guard.

It was never a tough choice for Sky coach Pokey Chatman, who envisioned the many options Delle Donne's skills would fit in with an already talented roster containing Prince and Olympic center Sylvia Fowles.

On draft night, as the three stars were trotted through the paces at ESPN headquarters where the draft originated in Bristol, Conn., the Guru got the sense that if the basktball on the court kicked in quickly for Delle Donne, she might be the one who would finally arrive at her day in the spotlight.

Sure enough, from the get-go Delle Donne and the Sky quickly took off.

"You know people don't understand that what they're seeing of Elena is only scratching the surface," Chatman said in a conversation back in June.

"We know how great she really can become."

Time after time the Guru has heard colleagues on press row at Chicago's games in the East ready to eat crow when saying they had not predicted Delle Donne to do this well, at least not this quick in the league.

In other cases, he's had pre-game conversations with people anxious to see Delle Donne play in person and afterwards hearing them say, she was everything they had expected.

Meanwhile, after becoming the first rookie to receive the overall top vote by the fans for the All-Star starters, misfortune struck when in the final game befure the All-Star break in Washington, Delle Donne went went down in the third quarter suffering a concussion.

But though that cost her an appearence at the game in Connecttcut, she did get a long week plus a few days off, which was helpful after coming into the league weeks after her collegiate career ended -- a move that occurs for most rookies.

Delle Donne missed a few games beccause of the injury but after being cleared to play she was a little uneven in the loss to Indiana.

However, then came last weekend when she helped zap Connecticut on the road Friday night and then had the great moments Sunday night when her trey forced overtime and then Chicago at home upset Minnesota, which holds the best record, as Delle Donne had a career-high 32 points.

The reward for the weekend was Delle Donne's third Eastern Conference player of the week from the league and she already holds one rookie of the month citation.

In Connecticut, Friday night, in the postgame lockerroom, players were no longer talking about making the playoffs, per se, but rather holding first in the East, which the Sky has never done this late in the seaason.

"We're still taking this one game at a time because anything can happen and wse've seen it happen," Fowles said.

The magic number appears to be six to reach the postseason since Chicago already holds tiebreakers over both New York and Connecticut, which are likely to take more hits than the Sky as the East down below beats each other up.

Tuesday night, the Sky begin a Western swing visiting the revived Los Angeles Sparks, whom they beat at home earlier this season.

As far as what's left the rest of the way after the Sparks' game, Chicago in its final 11 games has against the East 1 home game with Connecticut, 2 road trips to Washington, 1 home game each with New York and the defending WNBA champion Indiana Fever, 2 games home-and-home against the second-place Atlanta Dream, while the West oppositions will be a visit to the Seattle Storm, one to Minnesota, and one home game with Phoenix.

Atlanta, which is 1-7 after a hot start, has home-and--home games with a desperate Connecticut squad this week.

Unlike many rookies coming into the league, Delle Donne has said nothing has surprised her in terms of pre-conceived notions coming out of college.

That said, despite the adversity and everything else, Delle Donne is right where her original friends and family predicted she'd be a long time ago.

-- Picking Up Chatter

New York might have helped itself picking up veteran DeLisha Milton-Jones off waivers to compliment the youngsters on the Liberty.

"They might have been forced to do it because someone else was going to make that move," according to a league source.

Sounds like Washington was thinking that way.

Right now what is predictable is things will remain unpredictable judging by recent events.

Washington got battered in four games, gave up a 14-point lead at New York and then turned around, winning at Minnesota, and then beating Connecticut at home.

The Sun, after getting Rene Montgomery and Tan White back from injuries, seemed ready to make a move but then lost two straight to Chicago and Washington and are now in a must win situation with back-to-back games against Atlanta just ahead.

Los Angeles, with superstar Candace Parker missing most of the trip, recovered from a losing road start at the Tulsa Shock and then blitzed Connnecticut, Washington, Indiana and New York.

With Minnesota losing back-to-back against the two East lottery teams of last season in Washington and Chicago, there's suddenly a race in the West with Los Angeles, with Phoenix possibily making a late run after changing coaches.

Indiana, which began to get back to cohesion after being decimated by injuries, in its final ten games has a diet of West ahead visiting Phoenix, Los Angeles, Seattle, hosting San Antonio, then off to Minnesota, before finishing the East with New York home-and-home, a visit to Atlanta, a visit to Chicago, a home game with Washington, and a home-and-home with Connecticut.

-- Mel

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Friday, August 09, 2013

Philly Summer League: Kerri Shields Leads Hunter Green Rally Over White To Title

By Mel Greenberg

Former Saint Joseph's star Katie Kuester is going out on top once again in thePhiladelphia/Suburban Women's NCAA Summer Basketball League and this time she says it's for real.

"I'm just happy I was able to come back," Kuester said Thursday night after Hunter Green, the top seed, rallied from an early 10-point deficit and also rode from a 28-28 halftime tie to defeat second-seeded White 58-50 to claim the league title, the fourth straight summer she has been on the championship squad.

"We just had a great group of kids, everyone worked hard and had a blast," said Kuester, who last summer thought she was saying adios for good as a player when she went on to the next phase of her basketball life as director of basketball operations on the Lehigh women's team in Bethlehem, Pa., about an hour from here, that competes in the Patriot League.

But in finding she could still play after checking several places, Kuester was back again to terrorize the league on the court.

"The only thing I missed was I wish I could be with Ted Hagedorn again but this is my last hurrah. I'm officially retiring. You can mark that down. Got to go out with a bang."

Hagedorn, whose daughter Elle is a recent Harvard grad, coached the third-seeded Gold team that went 9-3, handing Hunter Green it's only loss which kept the squad out of first for a week, but Gold lost to White Tuesday night in the semifinals.

Kuester was on the championship squad Hagedorn coached in previous summers, two of which went unbeaten in 2011 and last summer.

Unlike the last several titles she helped acquire, this time Kuester was player and coach and had to be more of the latter Thursday night after getting in early foul trouble.

Her father, John Kuester, has coached in the NBA and was on a past 76ers staff.

Both Hunter Green and White went 11-1 but Hunter Green's 66-60 win in the regular season matchup at Kelly Bolish Gym, home of the AAU Renegades in Willow Grove Industrial Commons, gave Hunter Green the top seed.

Throughout the summer Kuester was akin to Captain Kirk on the Starship Enterprise in this case navigating the arduous 12-game schedule with one night off from the Tuesdays and Thursdays slate by being able to deploy an array of Shields to combat teams with active players from NCAA Divisions I, II, and III and some others who were stars of the recent past.

Besides Kuester, the weaponry on Hunter Green included the Shields sisters -- Saint Joseph's incoming senior Erin, recent Boston College grad Kerri, and incoming University of San Diego sophomore Shannon.

Ironically, back in May on draft night when Kuester submitted her original roster request, officials denied her a few players so the league might be more competitive.

When Hunter Green and White met during the regular season it was Erin Shields doing the honors with 29 points in the win. Counting the season and playoffs, she led all players with six nights in which she scored 20 or more points and just missed several times scoring 19 points.

On Thursday it was older sister Kerri, who is headed for the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland, who was the big offensive threat with six 3-pointers and 20 points while Erin scored 10 points in the Hunter Green attack. Additionally, Lauren Krisler, an incoming freshman at American University, scored seven points.

Villanova junior Emily Leer got White going early as it built an 18-8 lead before Hunter Green began hitting three pointers to fuel a 16-0 run and take control before White came back to tie at the half 28-28.

"I told our players going in, `Listen, We had a great year, this is going to be a tough game, but we'll see what happens.' You know what? They're a great team. We got lucky because they play great offense and great defense but we won."

Kuester had an early 6:30 a.m. flight scheduled for Friday morning to visit her parents in North Carolina, where they moved to Cary, which is near Raleigh and is headquarters home to the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, named for the late great North Carolina State coach who earned Hall of Fame accolades in Springfield, Mass., and Knoxville, Tenn.

Meanwhile, back re-capping the game, Hunter Green fell behind by three early in the second half before going ahead by as much as 14 points and then with eight minutes left and no shot clock in the league rules the newly-crowned champs began chewing up time.

"I thought it was a great game," White coach Keith Wood said. "We missed some key shots. They made some key shots. It came down to defending the three -- I thought we did a decent job the first half. Second half, I think I counted maybe eight threes in a row (by Hunter Green) and that's what did us in."

Leer finished with 15 points, former Division II Holy Family star Catherine Carr scored 12, while former Division II West Chester star Allison Hostetter and Carr's former Tigers teammate and classmate Meghan Gibson each scored seven points.

"I was hoping we might do it," Leer said. "This might be my fourth year in a row I lost in the championship."

When Leer returns to campus, the year at Villanova will be different than the past with the Wildcats being one of the seven Catholic schools that broke away from the old Big East but will compete in the new Big East with the additions of Xavier, Butler and Creighton joining Villanova, DePaul, Marquette, Providence, Saint John's, Georgetown and Marquette.

Gone from the slate are such difficult opponents as NCAA champion Connecticut and runnerup Louisville along with Rutgers and South Florida.

"We'll miss playing them but maybe we'll get a few more wins," Leer said.

Erin Shields' Hawks will also have an altered life with the Atlantic 10, which they won last season, losing Temple, though the Owls will still play Saint Joseph's as part of the Big Five slate.

Also gone are Xavier, Butler and Charlotte, while George Mason is making its A-10 debut.

Wrapping up the season league commissioner David Kessler, who has been at the helm for 20 years, observed:

"It went well because of the terrific cooperation I get from everyone -- from the Renegades, the players, the parents, my scorekeepers, the officials, I really think that makes a difference," Kessler said.

"Special thanks, as I said in the newsletter, to Steve Flynn, Meg Baum, and Pam Walker," he said.

"We got rid of the best-of-three format (in the championship round) because by next week we start losing people going back to school or taking their last shot at vacation," he continued.

"I was disappointed by some of the injuries -- we had a few stitches, which weren't too serious, but we also had an ACL (Jenna Swopes of Division III Gettysburg on Purple)," Kessler said.

"Other than that, it was another successful season and I'm looking ahead to next summer."

If the trend continues look for Division III Scranton, perhaps Division II University of the Sciences of Philadelphia, besides the Division I trio of Villanova, Lehigh, and Saint Joseph's to do well this winter, though other whole teams that competed such as Division II Holy Family, West Chester, and Philadelphia University, could also succeed.

Several years ago Drexel players did well in the league and went on in 2008-09 to win their first Colonial Athletic Association title.

Last summer Saint Joseph's players, particular Shields, played well and went on to win the Atlantic 10 title while Shields earned most improved player awards from the Big Five and Atlantic 10.

Shields' mother Renee is a former Saint Joseph's player who is now the Hawks' senior women's administrator and is a member of the Big Five Hall of Fame.

Down below are additional data and satistical information but the Guru summer league coverage concludes here. Special thanks to Katie Kuester for the fine tweet and good luck catching the 6 a.m. flight.

Now the Guru moves full steam to the rest of the WNBA season beginning with a three-day back-to-back-to back where tweeting will occur first Friday night from Connecticut where the Chicago Sky and rookie sensation and Delaware alum Elena Delle Donne visit.

Then coming back down the seaboard, it's on to a Saturday 1 p.m. game at the Prudential Center where in Newark, N.J., the Los Angeles Sparks finish their Eastern swing visiting the New York Liberty.

Finally, on to Washington Sunday afternoon for a 4 p.m. game with visiting Connecticut.

Hunter Green Roster

1 Shannon Shields, U. of San Diego '16 5-6 tall.
3 Erin Shields, Saint Joseph's '14, 5-5
4 Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Saint Joseph's '17, 5-7
10 Kerri Shields, Boston College '13, 5-10
13 Lauren Crisler, American U. '17, 6-2
15 Katie Kuester, Saint Joseph's '12. 5-9
22 Lauren Rothfeld, Salisbury '17. 5-9
23 Brooke Muller, Dickinson College '10, 5-4
24 Courtney McManus, Salisbury, '15, 5-7
25 Jessica Pongonis, Saint Joseph's '17. 6-1
34 Dana Wieller, Bloomsburg '13, 5-6
35 Ginny Edwards, Wilkes '15, 5-9
Coach: Katie Kuester

White Roster

1 Allison Hostetter, West Chester '12, 5-7
3 Courtney Jade Hinnant, Millersville '17, 5-10
4 Mashira Newman, Millersville '13, 5-7
5 Caroline Coyer, Villanova '16, 5-10
10 Tysha Britten, Manor '14, 6-4
14 Ashley Wood, Kutztown '13, 5-6
15 Jasmine Elum, Bethune-Cookman '12, 5-6
20 Meghan Gibson, Holy Family '11, 5-9
22 Catherine Carr, Holy Family '11, 5-11
24 Kira Ogden, Manor '14, 5-8
35 Nya Daley, Holy Family/Georgia Southern '10, 5-9
55 Emily Leer, Villanova '15, 6-1
Coach: Keith Wood

Playoffs Results and Schedule


Thursday, Aug. 1
1-Hunter Green defeated 8-Kelly Green 85-64.
4-Mauroon defeated 5-Red 60-48
2-White defeated 7-Sky Blue 61-39
3-Gold defeated 6-Purple 57-46


Tuesday, Aug. 6
1-Hunter Green defeated 4-Maroon 60-54.
2-White defeated 3-Gold 70-64.


Thursday, Aug. 8
Court 1

1-Hunter Green (11-1 regular season) rallied for a 58-50 win over 2-White (11-1 regular season) to claim the championship.

Extra Tidbits From the Commissioner

David B. Kessler, now in his 20th season as commissioner of the league notes that this time around there were 156 players representing over 60 collegiate programs and the average player height is 5-foot-9 and the average age is 20.5.

Looking ahead to next season, the 2014 draft will be May 29, the season will open June 17, the entry deadline for registration form, player information sheet, and fee is May 24th,

Additionally, in the newsletter for the semifinals, Kessler reported 2012 La Salle grad Michelle McCaughren, who was on Gold this summer, has received a scholarship through the Sports Changes Life Foundation and will attend National University of Ireland in Galway where she will play and go for her masters degree in international management.

McCaughren, who was an assistant at Division III Swarthmore, helping the Garnet to a 23-7 record and firsst ECAC Division III championship this past season, will also coach and mentor at-risk teenage girls. She leaves Sunday and expects to be back in time to play in the league next summer.

Kerri Shields of Hunter Green and a recent grad of Boston College received the same scholarship and will play and study at the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland.

Kathryn Stockbower, a 2011 Swarthmore grad who holds the NCAA Division III record for career double doubles and played on Heather Grey, will enter her second year of medical school at Temple University.

Gold's Madeline Ross, a recent Swarthmore grad, reports that after an exhaustive application process, she will be commissioned a 2nd lieutenant in the United States Air Force. She is one of nine females accepted and will first undergo OCS training in Montgomery, Ala., and will probably be deployed to an air base in Wyoming, Montana, or North Dakota where one of her duties will be to oversee missile weapons systems.

Explaining the Final Standings

Hunter Green and White tie for first and Hunter Green is the No. 1 seed off a head-to-head win.

Gold is alone in third.

Maroon and Red tie for fourth and Maroon has head-to-head win.

Purple, Sky Blue and Kelly Green are 6-7-8 alone at each slot and finish the group of playoff qualifiers.

Black is alone in ninth.

Navy Blue and Heather Grey tie for 10th with Navy Blue winning the head-to-head matchup between the two teams.

Orange is alone in 12th and Royal Blue finishes the standings alone in 13th.

The running grid is in proper order to look at tiebreakers for seeding and making the eight-team field.

Also, continued special thanks to Tom Utescher for providing pictures that will enable this report to switch over to being housed in PhilahoopsW and a duplicate of Thursday's report of 7/18 here is now over at http://philahoopsw.com to see what the future of coverage may be.

The Guru will tweet @womhoopsguru when photos and coverage at philahoopsw are in play.

Final Standings

Team, Won-Loss, Pct., GB, Pts., Opp. Points

z%x-1-Hunter Green, 11-1, .917, ---, 759, 661
w%x-1-White, 11-1, .917, --- 738, 552
%x-3-Gold, 9-3, .750, 2.0, 605, 562
$%x-4-Maroon, 8-4, .667, 3.0, 650, 639
%-4-Red, 8-4, .667, 3.0, 744, 652
%-6-Purple, 7-5, .583, 4.0, 693, 678
%-7-Sky Blue, 6-6, .500, 5.0 , 753, 744
%-8-Kelly Green, 5-7, .417, 6.0, 726, 728
9-Black, 4-8, .333, 7.0, 671, 740
10-Navy Blue, 3-9, .250, 8.0, 666, 766
10-Heather Grey, 3-9, .250, 8.0, 695, 713
12-Orange, 2-10, .167, 9.0, 584, 690
13-Royal Blue, 1-11, .091, 9.0, 455, 614

%-Clinched playoff spot
x-Advanced to semifinals
w-Advanced to championship
z-Advanced to championship and won title.

Running Grid
This is the tracking tie-breaker and seeding guide for the eight-team playoffs, which began after the regular season ended July 30.

1-Hunt. G. vs. Red (W), vs. Orange (W), Maroon (W), vs. Kelly G (W), vs. Gold (L), vs. Black (W), vs. White (W), vs. Purple (W), vs. N.B. (W), vs. Sky B. (W), vs. Heath. Grey (W), vs. R.B (W-Forfeit).

1-White vs. Red (W), vs. Orange (W), vs. Maroon (W), vs. Kelly Green (W), vs. Gold (W), vs. Hunt. G. (L), vs. R.B. (W-Forfeit), vs. Purple (W), vs. N.B. (W), vs. Sky Blue (W), vs. Heath. Grey (W), vs. Black (W).

3-Gold vs. Purple (W), vs. N.B. (L), vs. Sky B. (W), vs. Heath. Grey (W), vs. Hunt G. (W), vs. White (L), vs. R.B. (W-Forfeit), vs. Orange (W), vs. Maroon (W), vs. Kelly G. (W), vs. Black (W), vs. Red (L).

4-Maroon vs. Sky B. (L), vs. Heath. Grey (W), vs. Hunt G. (L), vs. White (L), vs. Red (W), vs. Orange (W), vs. N.B. (W), vs. Kelly G. (W), vs. Gold (L), vs. Black (W), vs. Royal Blue (W), vs. Purple (W)

4-Red vs. Hunt G. (L), vs. White (L), vs. Orange (W), vs. Maroon (L), vs. Kelly Green (L), vs. Heath. Grey (W), vs. vs. Black (W), vs. R.B. (W), vs. Purple (W), vs. Navy Blue (W), vs. Sky Blue (W), vs. Gold (W).

6-Purple vs. Gold (L), vs. Black (W-OT), vs. R.B (W), vs. N.B. (W-OT), vs. Sky B. (W), vs. Kelly G (W), vs. Hunt. G (L), vs. White (L), vs. Red (L), vs. Orange (W), vs. Maroon (L), vs. Heath. Grey (W).

7-Sky B. vs. Maroon (W), vs. Kelly G (W), vs. Gold (L), vs. Black (W), vs. R.B. (W), vs. Purple (L), vs. Orange (W), vs Heath. Grey (L), Hunt G. (L), vs. White (L), vs. Red (L), vs. N.B. (W).

8-Kelly G. vs. N.B. (W), vs. Sky B, (L), vs. Heath. Grey (W), vs. Hunt G. (L), vs. White (L), vs. Red (W), vs. Purple (L), vs. Maroon (L), vs. Gold (L), vs. Black (L), vs. R.B. (W), vs. Orange (W).

9-Black vs. R.B. (W), vs. Purple (L-OT), vs. N.B. (L), vs. Sky B (L), Heath. Grey (W), vs. Hunt. G (L), vs. Red (L), vs. Orange (W), vs. Maroon (L), vs. Kelly Green (W), vs. Gold (L), vs. White (L).

10-N.B. vs. Kelly G. (L), vs. Gold (W), vs. Black (W), vs. R.B. (L), vs. Purple (L-OT), vs. Maroon (L), vs. Heath. Grey (W), vs. Hunt. Green (L), vs. White (L), vs. Red (L), vs. Orange (L), vs. Sky B. (L).

10-Heath. Grey vs. Orange (W), vs. Maroon (L), vs. Kelly G. (L), vs. Gold (L), vs. Black (L), vs. R.B. (W), vs. Red (L), vs. N.B. (L), vs. Sky Blue (W), vs. Hunt. Green (L), vs. White (L), vs. Purple (L).

12-Orange vs. Heath. Grey (L), vs. Hunt G. (L), vs. White (L), vs. Red (L), vs. Maroon (L), vs. Sky B (L), vs. Gold (L), vs. Black (L), vs. Royal Blue (W), vs. Purple (L), vs. N.B. (W), vs. Kelly G. (L).

13-R.B. vs. Black (L), vs. Purple (L), vs. N.B. (W), vs. Sky B. (L), vs. Heath. Grey (L), vs. Gold (L-Forfeit), vs. White (L-Forfeit), vs. Red (L), vs. Orange (L), vs. Maroon (L), vs. Kelly G. (L), vs. Hunt. G. (L-Forfeit).

Top Individual Peformances (20 or more points)

32 Pts.: Kerry Kinek, Heather Grey (W), vs. Sky Blue, July 16
29 Pts.: Erin Shields, Hunter Green, (W) vs. White, July 10
27 Pts.: Kathryn Stockbower, Heather Grey (W) vs. Orange, June 18
26 Pts.: Brittany Sicinski, Sky Blue (W) vs. Black, June 27
26 Pts.: Erin Shields, Hunter Green (W) vs. Navy Blue, July 16
26 Pts.: Jasmine Elum, White (W) vs. Heather Grey, July 25
25 Pts.: Erin Shields, Hunter Green (W) vs. Red, June 18
25 Pts.: Erin Shields, Hunter Green (W) vs. Orange, June 20
25 Pts.: Brittany Sicinski, Sky Blue (W) vs. Royal Blue, July 2
25 Pts.: Liz Sharlow, Purple (W) vs. Orange, July 23
25 Pts.: Kerry Kinek, Heather Grey (L), vs. White, July 25
24 Pts.: Ciara Andrews, Navy Blue (L) vs. Maroon, July 10
23 Pts.: Katie Kuester, Hunter Green (W) vs. Red, June 18
23 Pts.: Catherine Carr, White (L) vs. Hunter Green, July 10
23 Pts.: Liz Sharlow, Purple (L) vs. White, July 16
23 Pts.: Kara Bonenberger, Royal Blue (L) vs. Maroon, July 23
23 Pts.: Brittany Sicinski, Sky Blue (W) vs. Navy Blue, July 30
23 Pts.: Geena Gomez, Navy Blue (L) vs. Sky Blue, July 30
22 Pts.: Alyssa Bonenberger, Royal (L) vs. Purple, June 25
22 Pts.: Kelsey Watson, Royal (L) vs. Sky Blue, July 2
22 Pts.: Jasmine Elum, White (W) vs. Black, July 30
22 Pts.: Maggie Serratelli, Kelly Green (L) vs. Hunter Green, Aug. 1 qfinals
22 Pts.: Erin Shields, Hunter Green (W) vs. Maroon, Aug. 6, semifinals
22 Pts.: Sarah Fairbanks, Gold (L) vs. White, Aug. 6, semifinals
21 Pts.: Kendall Benovy, Sky Blue (W), vs. Black, July 2
21 Pts: Ashley Wood, White (W) vs. Kelly Green, July 2
21 Pts.: Erin Shields, Hunter Green (L) vs. Gold, July 2
21 Pts.: Ciara Andrews, Navy Blue (L-OT)., vs. Purple, July 2
21 Pts.: Brittany Wood, Kelly Green (L) vs. Purple, July 10
21 Pts: Liz Sharlow, Purple (L) vs. Hunter Green, July 11
21 Pts: Kerry Kinek, Heather Grey (L) vs. Navy Blue, July 11
21 Pts: Emily Leer, White (W) vs. Sky Blue, July 23
21 Pts.: Jacqueline McCarron, Black (W) vs. Kelly Green, July 23
21 Pts.: Sarah Fairbanks, Gold (W) vs. Purple, Aug. 1 qfinals
20 Pts.: Ciara Andrews, Navy Blue (W) vs. Black, June 25
20 Pts.: Camille McPherson, Maroon (W) vs. Red, July 2
20 Pts.: Brittany Sicinski, Sky Blue (L) vs. Purple, July 9
20 Pts.: Brittany Sicinski, Sky Blue (W) vs. Orange, July 10
20 Pts.: Catherine Carr, White (W), vs. Black, July 30
20 Pts.: Ciarra Andrews, Navy Blue (L) vs. Sky Blue, July 30
20 Pts: Catherine Carr, White (W) vs. Gold, Aug. 6, semifinals
20 Pts.: Kerri Shields, Hunter Green (W) vs. White, Aug. 8, final

Last league report but the blog continues henceworth primarily with WNBA matters the next several months along with as becoomes necessary NCAA and local matters.

-- Mel

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Wednesday, August 07, 2013

WNBA Report: New York Rally on Washington Highlights Key Matchups

(Guru note: The Philly summer league semifinals report is under this post.)

By Mel Greenberg

Holding court during warmups in Washington Sunday before the Mystics hosted the Los Angeles Sparks in a WNBA East-West crossover game, first-year coach Mike Thibault offered his synopsis of the current state of affairs involving the 12 teams.

"The league is really funny," said Thibault, who is new to Washington but not to the WNBA after coaching the Connecticut Sun for all previous 10 years of its existence after the franchise was acquired from its previous identity as the Orlando Miracle.

"There's one really great team," Thibault said, alluding to the Western leading Minnesota Lynx. "There's a few other really talented teams," which could probably include Los Angeles, the Phoenix Mercury despite its inability to leave up to expectations, and the Chicago Sky.

"Then there's the rest of us that are just muddling through."

Some are doing a decent job of muddling like the Seattle Storm, which beat Phoenix 80-65 Tuesday night to stay in fourth in the Western Conference sa be afloat despite having to play the entire the season without its two All-Stars in Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson, who are recovering from injuries.

Seattle solidified itself a little more in the West after the fifth-place San Antonio Silver Stars, missing Sophia Young and Becky Hammon with injuries, became the 10th straight team to knuckle under Minnesota Tuesday night as the Lynx prevailed 93-80.

"I hope we can make the playoffs," Seattle coach Brian Agler said last month when Seattle was making a piece of its Eastern crossover visits. "Because I really like what they've been doing."

Indiana, likewise, which is one of several other teams gashed by injuries with little to use for remedies under the league's stiff rules regarding rosters, is holding its own as the 64-58 win Tuesday night over the East front-running Chicago Sky in the Windy City would suggest

Connecticut is starting to stir from its injury situation but the Sun fell short 74-72 at home to Los Angeles, which was again without Csndace Parker. and gained no ground on getting closer to the playoff slots.

And then there's the other types as displayed here Tuesday morning at the Prudential Center in which depending who you were cheering for Washington squandered a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter or the New York Liberty made a stirring rally to land on the winning side of a 93-88 outcome.

The win put New York (9-12) inside the playoff loop in fourth place by a half--game over Washington (9-13), which fell out to fifth after losing its fourth straight, including two to New York.

Alex Montgomery off the New York bench had a career-high 21 points, including a career-best three 3-pointers, while Plenette Pierson dealt a career-best 10 assists.

"We finally put forth the energy and the effort that's necessary for us to win basketball games," said New York first-year coach Bill Laimbeer, back in the WNBA for the first time since 2009 after guiding the former Detroit Shock to three league championships.

"When we do that, we have some good offensive weapons. I think we had great individual performances tonight from Alex Montgomery to Plenette Pierson," Laimbeer said.

He also noted that center Kara Braxton, his former Detroit post star who had 16 points, is playing a pretty good stretch right now.

"But the star of the show continues to be Cappie (Pondexter) and her learning of how to lead this time from the lead guard positiion," he said of the former Rutgers All-American who had 21 points and dealt eight assists.

"Eight aassists and three turnovers -- that's pretty solid. If we play like that, we'll be OK. We have to win every game before the playoffs."

But Laimbeer was as uneven as his team has been in his assessment of the Liberty.

With Los Angelss next on the docket with a visit Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m., Laimbeer looked ahead, saying, "They beat us pretty good out in LA, but we're a different basketball team today then we were then. I think we're going to put on a good show for them."

But at the same time Laimbeer was reaady to buy into calling the win a building block.

"We have to put together a couple of games. We go to Washington and get a nice win and then we came baack here and lost to Connecticut."

Veteran Katie Smith, who, by the way, is on the committee to pick the next USA Basketball Women's Olympic Coach, added 11 points to the Liberty attack.

New York has rallied five times this season in the second half to win games.

With Chicago heading to be on track for its first playoffs since joining the league as an expansion team in 2006 and Atlanta perhaps having a leg up off a fast start before losing Sancho Lyttle until next month because of an injury, it's a four-team chase for the other two spots.

Position in the standings is one thing but also important is collecting the kind of wins that might be tie-breackers on the final day of the regular season in the middle of next month.

New York, which also has a membership card in the key injury club in the league this season, is now 2-0 on Washington with two games remaining in this season's series with the Mystics.

On the other bench however, Thibault was totally frustrated after Washington lost its fourth straight and let a game get away that would have shored things up for the moment.

"I feel awful," Thibault said. "I feel terrible. We had a 14-point lead.

"We made every mistake you could make in the last six-seven minutes. We turned the ball over five times. The game was there to be won and we didn't win it. We had a 14-point lead and we gave it away."

All-Star Crystal Langhorne had 24 points and 11 rebounds for Washington, while Matee Ajavon, another former Rutgers star, had 13 points in her first homecoming visit of the season. Ivory Latta scored 11 points out of the starting lineup while rookie reserves Nadirah McKenith out of nearby St. John's on Long Island had nine points and former Ohio State star Tayler Hill, the fourth overall pick in April's draft, scored sseven points.

Thibault guided Connecticut to the regular season East title but he was let go last fall after the Sun missed the finals losing in the deciding conference playoff game to eventual WNBA champion Indiana.

He was relatively scooped up by Washington, which won just five games last season.

He knew the Mystics were going to be a work in progress but drew praise in WNBA circles for getting Washington to a 9-9 start before the current slide.

"This is not something I'm used to," Thibault said of games that have been squandered.

Meanwhile, though All-Star Candace Parker hass not been with Los Angeles on the current swinfg, the Sparks are lighting up the scoreboard despite her absence.

"It was a great win. It was a great battle," said Sparks coach Carol Ross, whose team now heads to Indiana for a Thursday visit before dropping by the Prudential Center Saturday against New York.

"It's always fun to blow people out, but it's also fun to know that your team can dig down deep and weather runs and fight it out."

Former Maryland star Kristi Toliver had 19 points and a career-high nine rebounds for Los Angeles, while former UConn star Tina Charles had 25 points and 14 rebounds, her 77th double double to pass Seattle's Jackson and go into fourth place on the all-time career list.

Out in the Southwest Tina Thompson and former Penn State star Tanisha Wright each had 19 points in the win over Phoenix, which got 18 points from former Temple star Candice Dupree.

Rookie Brittney Griner suffered an ankle injury and left the game on a night Phoenix was promoting a bobblehead giveaway in Griner's likeness.

In Chicago former Delaware star Elena Delle Donne, the No. 2 overall pick in April's draft and top vote getter from the fans for the starting All-Star lineup, had 12 points in her return to action after being sidelined for two games and the All-Star game with a concussion suffered just before the All-Star break.

But the Sky fell to Indiana for their second loss to the Fever this season.

Chicago travels to Connecticut Friday night, while Washington will be hosting Connecticut Sunday afternoon.

-- Mel

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