Sunday, September 30, 2012

U18 3X3 team wins the gold

Team USA's U18 women claimed the 3X3 gold medal today, with a 21-13 victory over Spain.

The team consists of Diamond DeShields, Kaela Davis, Erica McCall and Brianna Turner.

McCall, from Bakersfield, Calif., is the sister of the Phoenix Mercury's DeWanna Bonner.

Playoffs round 1, day 4: forced to a third game

Have you calmed back down yet after that double-overtime Storm-Lynx game? Seattle beat the Lynx 86-79, thanks to separate three-point shots from the veterans Lauren Jackson and Sue Bird. The series continues to three games on Tuesday, in Minnesota.

Key Arena IS the sixth woman of the WNBA.

The Fever also evened the series with Atlanta, whooping them 103-88 to force a game three.

Candace Parker and Allyson Felix forge a cross-sport friendship

When two (nice) super powers make friends, it's a cool thing.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Playoffs round 1, day 3: two sweeps complete

The Sparks staved off a Silver Stars fourth quarter comeback to win, 101-94. Candace Parker lead Los Angeles in their sweep of San Antonio with 32 points and nine rebounds. The Sparks advance to the Western Conference finals.

The Sun came from behind to beat the Liberty 75-62, and swept their series to advance to the Eastern Conference finals. Tina Charles lead Connecticut with 25 points and 14 rebounds.

In tomorrow's action, the Fever play Atlanta at 4 p.m. Pacific/7 p.m. Eastern, and the Lynx go at the Storm at 6 p.m. Pacific/9 p.m. Eastern. Unlike today, the first game will be on ESPN2 and the second, on ESPN.

Playoff schedule and results.

Sparks at Silver Stars post-game quotes:

Sparks coach Carol Ross:

(General thoughts on the game…)

“It was clearly a playoff game and we’re happy to close this out and to go against a very good, well-coached, tough team like San Antonio. It’s a shame this game came so early in the playoffs because both of the games were played at a high level. Both teams responded to big runs. We were just fortunate to make one that finished the games with wins both times.”

(On San Antonio forcing turnovers in the fourth quarter…)

“I think you have to give San Antonio a lot of credit. They forced us into some bad plays. Some of them were set but I thought San Antonio’s intensity; they turned us over, they knocked down some three point shots. They’ve been best in the league all season long in shooting around the arc. We just didn’t respond well when they went to it, but to their credit, they still had to put them in and they did. It was just a heck of a fourth quarter and we feel lucky that we played well enough in the first three that we had enough cushion to win.”

(On finishing the game…)

“We had no intention of going back to L.A. to play another game. Our focus was to finish it. Certainly, against a team as tough as San Antonio that wasn’t going to be an easy challenge, but we played very well at a very high level for most of the game. (In the fourth quarter) we didn’t play as well as we had been and they amped up their playmaking abilities. Really, give them a lot of credit for coming out and went small-ball. They have great shooters in four spots behind the arc. Of course you have Sophia Young who took importance out so it was a good strategy for the game with this team and we didn’t respond well to it.”

Candace Parker:

(When asked how does feel to be in the Conference Finals for this team…)
“It’s the first time for this team. It’s very special and I’m excited. This is just a stepping stone and we’re not satisfied. It’s a great step. We beat a great team on their home floor. I’m proud of our group.”

(When asked this time last year you were at home watching the playoffs, how does it feel to be where you are now…)

“I was at home watching the playoffs, this whole team was. But the silver lining was that we got the first pick in the draft. I’m just excited to be playing in October when a championship is on the line.”

(When asked if she likes to play point guard and if she’s confident in her point guard skills…)

“No, I’m confident in my point guard right sitting to the right of me (Kristi Toliver). I love her to death. That’s what so great about us, we run and it doesn’t matter who leads the break as long as we finish it. Today some of the time I was running the break and I was finding people. Then I would be receiving it the other times. That’s what so great about our team, our philosophy is rebound and get it out as quick as we can and beat the other team up the floor.”

Kristi Toliver:

(When asked about the rally by the Silver Stars in the second half…)

“At some point San Antonio was going to make their run. They’re too good of a team not to. Their season was on the line and they had to. They responded to adversity. We did the same thing right back. We didn’t fold or get to down on ourselves. We had to keep reminding ourselves that we still had the lead. Even though we were struggling and they were making three’s, transition buckets and getting to the free-throw line. We had to stay focus and stay together and just face it. I think it was a good challenge for us especially going forward in the conference finals. It’s better to have a battle then a blow out. We’ll continue to fight.”

(When asked how the Sparks got the lead…)

“We got out and ran. We got stops and we tried to win the battle on the boards and get out and run. We played inside out. We got our bigs going and that got our littles going. We wanted to penetrate and get to the rim, like in game 1. We didn’t want to settle for jump shots. We wanted to be aggressive and play good defense. That’s what happens.”


Note: It was cause for big pause to see a teary-eyed Tully Bevilaqua wave to the crowd and then leave the court for the last time after today's game. Thanks, Tully, for all you've given to the game, and to the fans. We'll miss you.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Some WNBA fans need to get over the college thing

This week several UConn fans were taking up for the Mercury after they won the first draft pick next year. Because Diana Taurasi is on the team, they were acting like the Mercury were the Huskies. They were giving the twitter virtual middle finger to anyone (most people) who were upset that Phoenix won first pick.

I've heard this before on the Tennessee-UConn spectrum. Vol fans are leary of the Connecticut Sun, as it's stacked with former UConn players. Husky fans don't seem to like teams with former Lady Vols on them.

The school from which an athlete graduated seems to matter much more to the fans than to the players themselves. Tonight I saw Swin Cash tweet to Candace Parker; yesterday I saw Ashley Robinson tweet to Cash; and Kara Lawson and Renee Montgomery stood next to each other yesterday upon receiving their respective awards, giggling.

The media does it too. After winning the gold medal at the London Olympics last month, reporters got Tamika Catchings, Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi together for an on-camera interview, as they've been on the last three Olympic teams together. The reporter made a crack about them getting along as Tennessee-UConn alumni, and all three laughed awkwardly. Catchings said "yeah," and then they seemed to be ready for the next question.

The whole thing was ridiculous, as Catchings graduated in 2001, Bird in 2002 and Taurasi, 2004 - a while ago. Undoubtedly each still has pride in their school, but maintaining the same intense rivalry feelings to this day? No.

Fans and some media need to get over it. This is the pros - not college. If former Tennessee and UConn players can be friends as adults and get along, then fans should too.

Playoffs round 1, night 2

Dream 75, Fever 66.

Lynx 78, Storm 70.

Tomorrow it's:

Sparks at San Antonio, noon Pacific/3 p.m. Eastern

Sun at Liberty, 4 p.m. Pacific/7 p.m. Eastern

College season is upon us

Practices can start Monday, and that's exactly what some teams are doing. That's what an Olympic year will do to a fan: run the WNBA right into the college season.

News:

A new California law will mandate financial protections for student athletes who suffer career-ending injuries at the state's top schools.

Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton is retiring from the WNBA to be a full-time assistant coach at Purdue.

Tennessee Coach Holly Warlick believes all 11 of her Lady Vols can help.

The Texas Longhorns will erect a bronze Jody Conradt statue inside their basketball arena.

New Illinois Coach Matt Bollant is building a support system.

Florida Gulf Coast is ready to work, as they have their first practice Monday.

VCU is facing a rocky road due to the departure of key players.

Tamika Catchings is Defensive Player of the Year

No surprise, the great Tamika Catchings has collected her fifth Defensive Player of the Year Award. Well-deserved.

Playoffs round 1, night 1

Sun 65, Liberty 60.

My story: Sparks 93, Silver Stars 86.

Pictures from pre-game of the Stars-Sparks game:


Candace Parker is serious as a heart attack when she shoots before a game.


When Parker misses, she's not happy about it.


Former WNBA great-turned-Silver-Stars-assistant-coach Vickie Johnson helps Shameka Christon with her pre-game shooting.


Becky Hammon works on her shot.

Kristi Toliver named most improved player


Kristi Toliver receives the Most Improved Player Award from Renee Brown, Chief of Basketball Operations and Player Relations.

No surprise on Sparks guard Kristi Toliver's most improved player award. She punctuated the honor by putting up 29 points last night in LA's first-round win over San Antonio. She was presented the award prior to tipoff.

(For this voter, choosing Toliver for this honor was a no-brainer)

Quotes complied my me:

Sparks Coach Carol Ross on Toliver's honor:

"Toliver is a workhouse. She’s working when people aren’t watching. She’s typically one of first ones in the gym. She really works on her game."

"(Earlier in her career) she was her own worst enemy; opponents had very little to do with her because she was always beating her own self up. By giving herself a break she’s enjoying the game more, which has allowed her to really flourish and blossom."

"Her mindset has created this outstanding basketball player, and I’m very happy that the people who voted on Most Improved Player were able to recognize how complete she’s become."

Forward Candace Parker on Toliver:

"It was a no-brainer. She put herself in this season for sure as one of the top players in the league. I know from the last 3 years, watching her every day in practice, how good she was capable of being and how good she is. When I was sitting with our GM and we were talking about the future of the Sparks and we were talking about needing a duo, we wanted her. I’m just happy she’s on my team and I don’t have to play against her."

Toliver on receiving the award:

"I’m honored to accept this award, and really what that award represents is hard work paying off. I’m constantly trying to get better, I want to be a great player. I know what it takes, it takes hours in the gym and in the classroom, and it didn’t just start this season. Earlier on in my career it was a struggle, but thru all these struggles, I’ve faced a lot of adversity, able to finally overcome and I’m proud of that and happy that I’m on my way to becoming one of the elite players in the league."

Toliver on the difference Ross has made to her:

"Coach Ross wants playmakers on her team, and that’s something that I’ve always been. Our relationship started really well. She’s really open, and she’s going to tell you the truth whether like it or not, and I like that. She’s just a very candid, straight forward coach. She’s a great communicator and that’s something that I value, that I need, and she’s challenged me to be a great offensive and defensive player, to be a complete player, and I take everything she has to say to heart. I couldn’t ask for a better coach and I think I finally landed myself a great coach for me."

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Playoffs: let's go!

The WNBA's second season begins tonight.

Candace Parker talks about facing San Antonio.

I will be tweeting live from the Silver Stars at Sparks game: twitter.com/hoopism

Tina Charles names WNBA's most valuable player

Connecticut Sun center Tina Charles has collected the WNBA MVP trophy for the first time in her career.

First of the WNBA awards: Kara Lawson and Renee Montgomery

Moments ago, the WNBA announced that this year's winner of the Kim Perrot Sportsmanship goes to Kara Lawson, and the 2012 Sixth Woman of the Year is Renee Montgomery.

Awards are given out prior to the first round of the playoffs, and the WNBA tries to present players on their home court. Tonight, Connecticut is hosting New York.

*Note: I was honored to have voted this year, and I did choose Lawson and Montgomery in the above categories. They are very deserving.

Ex-Lady Vols media director sues University of Tennessee, athletic director for discrimination and forced retirement

Debby Jennings, who was Lady Vols media director for 35 years until retiring last spring, is suing Tennessee and athletic director Dave Hart:

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Former Lady Vols media director Debby Jennings has filed a lawsuit against the University of Tennessee and athletic director Dave Hart alleging that age and sex discrimination led to her forced retirement from the school where she had worked for 35 years.

Hart and other athletic officials wanted to remodel the athletic department as a ''good ol' boys'' club while replacing her with a younger man, Jennings charges in the lawsuit filed Thursday with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee. Jennings was 57 years old when she left her job in May as the university worked toward consolidating the men's and women's athletic departments.

The suit also alleges that Hart forced former Lady Vols basketball coach Pat Summitt to step down at the end of last season. David Burkhalter, the lawyer representing Jennings, said the university retaliated against his client when she protested that Summitt's early onset dementia protected her under the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Summitt, who remains on staff as the Lady Vols' head coach emeritus, indicated during the April news conference announcing her retirement that the move was her own decision.

Although Tennessee officials declined comment on the other allegations in the lawsuit, they flatly denied the charge that Summitt was forced out.

''It's absolutely not true,'' university spokesperson Margie Nichols said. ''It was Pat's idea to become the head coach emeritus. I think she made that really clear at her press conference earlier this year.''


I am one of those who knew it was only a matter of time before this happened, but it is still sad to see it go down.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

WNBA veterans and coaches talk team chemistry

I had a great time talking to players and coaches for this story:

WNBA veterans, coaches say team chemistry is a complex but necessary formula for success.

I have much respect for the experience and wisdom of the vets, and for the approaches of each of the coaches: Taj McWilliams-Franklin, Lauren Jackson, DeMya Walker, Tammy Sutton-Brown, Mike Thibault, Carol Ross and Dan Hughes.

Can't wait for the playoffs to begin tomorrow.

WNBA draft lottery stunner

As seen on TV - at a later time than was advertised - Phoenix won the 2013 WNBA draft lottery. The Sky will pick second, the Shock third, and the Mystics, fourth.

The possibility of choosing Baylor center Brittney Griner first is a predicament Mercury Coach Corey Gaines is happy to be in. Carolyn Peck talks about the 6-foot-8 Griner's potential impact to a WNBA team.

What was magical for the Mercury was rough for the Mystics, says ESPN.

All of that is currently overshadowed, however, by the amount of fan outrage that sprang up on Twitter immediately following the draft lottery, which was done behind closed doors. A great many fans think that the Mercury purposefully lost a lot of games this year to have a better chance of winning first pick in the draft, including this columnist. The sheer amount of certainty on this fact among WNBA players, media and fans surprised even me. I feel for Mercury players, as they will undoubtedly hear a lot of "boo"s next season.

Aside from that, today's results bring up several questions that also relate to the other two big names in next year's draft - Elena Delle Donne and Skylar Diggins:

1. Will Phoenix pick Griner? Sparks play-by-play dude Larry Burnett said Corey Gaines told him last week that Griner doesn't fit their system - something Carolyn Peck echoed today.

2. If they take Griner, what will the Mercury do with superwoman DeWanna Bonner?

3. If the Mercury don't choose Griner, who would they pick? Logic says Delle Donne, as they don't need another point guard.

4. Though Delle Donne is arguably the most skilled player of the three, should the Sky choose her if Phoenix doesn't? Logic says that they'd try to get Diggins, an Indiana native, which would help sell more tickets.

5. Who would the Mystics pick in a thin-side draft?

6. Why do the Mystics and Shock have such bad luck?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

We've got it all

More end-of-the-regular-season stuff:

Cappie Pondexter and Candace Parker have been named Eastern and Western Conference players of the month for September.

Nneka Ogwumike is the rookie of the month for September. It's her fourth time this season winning the award.

Playoffs:

For the Storm, health remains a priority going into the playoffs.

Ketia Swanier and Tiffany Hayes are dreaming for the Dream.

Draft lottery:

The draft lottery is tomorrow at 3 p.m. Pacific/6 p.m. Eastern on Sportscenter. It will be a game-changer, as we will find out which team has the chance to draft Brittney Griner, Elena Delle Donne and Skylar Diggins.

NCAA:

The Duke Blue Devils will be using iPad digital playbooks this season, for the first time.

In honor of the reopening of remodeled Pauley Pavilion at UCLA, the Bruins will host "welcome back to Pauley Week" in late October. The women's team play the school's first game in the new digs on Nov. 10.

Notre Dame assistant coach Carol Owens has been chosen by the Black Coaches and Administrators as its new President.

Meet the USC Trojan freshmen.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Playoffs - here we go

Minnesota is the favorite going in, ESPN says.

Lynx vs. Storm preview.

Sun vs. Liberty preview.

Silver Stars vs. Sparks preview.

Fever vs. Dream preview.

Other WNBA business:

I'm smelling an MVP prelude.....Candace Parker and Tina Charles are Western and Eastern Conference players of the week.

Lindsay Whalen is the 2012 Peak Performer for assists for the second straight year.

Sophia Young has signed a multi-year contract extension with the Silver Stars.

Cappie Pondexter has signed for three more years with the Liberty.

Former Miami superstars Shenise Johnson and Riquna Williams will play overseas this winter.

The Seattle Times talks to the Storm owners.

Trudi Lacey finally fired

As Madea would say, hellelujayer!

Trudi Lacey was fired as Mystics coach and general manager today, after two seasons of single-digit wins.

President and Managing Partner Sheila C. Johnson said the franchise is looking for a fresh start. Assistant coaches won't be retained.

History of Lacey's hiring.

ESPN thinks this is a step in the direction of change for the Mystics. Personally, I'll believe it when I see it.

'Bout time Lacey got the boot. Should have happened a long time ago. I wonder why it took Mystics management so long to do it.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

WNBA regular season ends

Results from the last four games of the regular season today:

Silver Stars 99, Lynx 84. That means Minnesota lost two of its last three games.

Sun 92, Dream 72. Kara Lawson broke Connecticut's record for most three-point shots in a season with today's game; she has 74 on the year.

Fever 91, Shock 58.

Storm 71, Mercury 57.

Final standings:

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Connecticut 25-9
Indiana 22- 12
Atlanta 19- 15
New York 15- 19
Chicago 14-20
Washington 5- 29

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Minnesota 27- 7
Los Angeles 24-10
San Antonio 21-13
Seattle 16-18
Tulsa 9-25
Phoenix 7- 27

Playoffs start Thursday. Here's the schedule.

Vote on whom will win in the playoffs.

Fans can also vote on team rankings.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Milestones

Earlier this week, Storm veteran forward Tina Thompson put up her 7,000th point. Last night, her all-star teammate Lauren Jackson hit a milestone of her own, crossing the 6,000-point mark in Seattle's win over the Silver Stars.

Put those two together and it's 13,000 points.....amazing.

Also last night, the Lynx whooped the Mercury, 89-66. Phoenix has now tied their franchise record for most losses, with 26. Yikes.

In another losing milestone, the Mystics dropped their 12th straight in a 66-53 Fever win. Fire Trudi Lacey! It's shameful that Washington hasn't done so already.

Today the Mystics will be put out of their pain, playing their last season game at Chicago. This will be Ticha Penicheiro's last game.

Tulsa is at New York.

Other WNBA:

Ticha Penicheiro has left a huge mark on the WNBA.

NCAA:

Notre Dame recruits are embracing the school's move to the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Toledo freshman Cat Wells has been suspended from the team indefinitely for breaking team rules.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Sparks 92, Lynx 76


Erin Thorn gets the Candace Parker-Nneka Ogwumike treatment.

__________________________________________________________

Los Angeles - The Sparks dominated the defending WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx last night for a 92-76 victory.

Taking a commanding lead from the tip off, Los Angeles didn't allow the visitors to score until almost two minutes into the game. They never trailed and lead by as much as 21 points.

Candace Parker and Nneka Ogwumike each had 22 points and 11 rebounds; Parker also had five assists and four steals. Monica Wright lead the Lynx with 19 points, which rookie Devereaux Peters had 17 points and 13 rebounds.

Box score.

Full photo gallery.

Game notes:

- The Lynx were without point guard Lindsay Whalen, who was sick. Maybe that's the reason they looked lethargic from the jump.

The Sparks, on the other hand, were hyped beyond belief. They started on a 6-0 run - the last two points of which were scored on a Nneka Ogwumike mid-air, one-handed put back. The crowd went insane, and maintained the energy throughout the game. The excitement at Staples Center was palpable.

- The #1 Western Conference-seeded Lynx didn't seem to care that they lost, but for the #2 Sparks, it sure mattered to them that they won. They needed it mentally more than anything else. See Carol Ross and Candace Parker quotes below.

- Early in the game, referee Jeff Wooten declined to call a foul on Monica Wright after she hacked Alana Beard, sending the Sparks guard to the ground. Beard got up and was so angry she took a step toward the ref, but Kristi Toliver put her hand on her shoulder and walked her the other way.

- Candace Parker was so hyped that, during the second quarter as she was taking a break, she stood up and started yelling encouragement and instructions at her teammates.

Parker was also irritated by the Sparks' slow play in the second half, and she showed her displeasure. Then she took on a few extra duties as needed, like dribbling the ball all the way up the court a few times. She does it all.

- Devereaux Peters has been on fire since a group from Notre Dame came to Indianapolis last week to see her play.

- Track and field Olympians in attendance: Carmelita Jeter and Allyson Felix.

- Both the UCLA and USC women's basketball teams were in the lobby greeting fans as they arrived to the game, passing out schedules. Both teams were introduced (separately) during game timeouts.

- Alana Beard passed the 3,500-point mark in the game.

- The Sparks are 16-1 at home this year - pretty damned good.

- Parker and Ogwumike matched each other for points and rebounds. Oddly enough, they also each had 10 points at the end of the first quarter. And numerically, it was Parker's 18th double-double of the season, and Ogwumike's ninth. Hmmmm.

Which is a good time to mention this: at the last game, the Sparks put up a picture on the big screen during a timeout of Parker AND Ogwumike. Since Lisa Leslie retired, it's just been Candace's picture. But this rookie is no joke, so it looks like it will be a shared venture now.....

The Ross and Parker quotes are from me; the Lynx quotes are courtesy of Sparks staff.

Sparks Coach Carol Ross:

"I challenged the team to come out and swing first and see what happens. We were able to really establish ourselves in an aggressive fashion, and it just set a tone.
We wanted to slam the door emphatically on the regular season and make a statement.
Nneka’s got a little more power, Candace is more finesse, so it’s a good 1-2 punch.
We’ve gotta get better on both ends – we can’t stay where we are and keep playing very long. We’re in a good place, but the playoffs aren’t built for good – they’re built for great. We’re not great yet. We’ve knocked on the door of greatness a few times, but we keep slamming our finger in it. …..We need to find the ability to play that way for 40 minutes."

Sparks forward Candace Parker:

"We knew that this was a team that we’d possibly have to go through to win a championship, so I think everybody laid it out on the court and played with a lot of energy. It’s our last regular season game so we needed to wrap it up and make a statement."

"In spurts we were the best team in the league and in spurts we were the worst. Hopefully in the playoffs you see more of the best team than the worst.
We did a good job of protecting our home court. We are 16-1 at home and we split 2-2 with Minnesota. Our minds on San Antonio right now."

"I’ve sat at home the last four seasons, and to be honest with you, it sucks. But it prepares me for these things, for these moments."

We get complacent – all of us do – we relax, we don’t play defense as well, we turn the ball over, we don’t take good shots, we don’t rotate it after someone’s touched it. We can’t have spurts like that; if we’re going to be a championship team we’ve got to stay focused and not pay attention to what the score is. When we were up 11-2 we should have been thinking we were down 2-11. We were stuck on 35 for a long time. You can’t have spurts like that; you can’t win a championship like that, plain and simple.


Lynx Coach Cheryl Reeve

On the play of the Sparks…

"“We didn’'t play very well, we didn’'t defend. They came out and they did what they wanted. Parker and Ogwumike played great, and we provided very low resistance to what they were doing. We couldn'’t make a shot at times. They got separated early on, and we played behind the whole time, and we couldn’'t catch up.”"

Lynx Forward Seimone Augustus

On the mindset going into playoffs…

“"We’'re definitely going to take it to the next level. Tonight’'s not an inclination of the level we want to play at, but we have some more time to prepare for the playoffs. We’re going to come out better than we did tonight. We are going to come out defensively more aggressively than we did tonight.”"

On playing against Candace Parker…

“"She’'s a tough guard for other people because of her height and her size. She can shoot from anywhere, she can handle the ball. She is a lethal weapon. It’s difficult for any team. We haven’t found anyone to stop her, but God bless a team that can. I hope to see them in the Western Conference.”"

Playoffs are set

Despite the Shock's 78-66 defeat of the Liberty, New York clinched that fourth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot.

The Dream overcame the Sky, 75-66, leaving Chicago post-season-less yet again.

Standings.

Playoff schedule.

Though there are more regular-season games left, you can rank your playoff teams now.

I'm going to post my Sparks-Lynx recap with quotes and pictures later on today, when I get home.

Tonight it's:

Fever at Mystics
Lynx at Phoenix
Silver Stars at Storm

Now talking about the draft lottery:

The future is now.

All eyes are on the draft lottery, to be Sept. 26.

Other WNBA:

Can Tamika Catchings repeat as MVP?

The Mercury have signed Candice Dupree to a multi-year contract extension.

Kayla Pedersen has learned about the mental aspect of basketball in playing for the Shock.

Lisa Willis basketball academy

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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Race to the MVP tightening up

Week 12 rankings:

1. Tina Charles
2. Candace Parker
3. Tamika Catchings
4. Maya Moore
5. Kristi Toliver
6. Cappie Pondexter
7. Sophia Young
8. Seimone Augustus
9. Angel McCoughtry
10. Epiphanny Prince

Who will get it between Charles, Parker and Catchings? That's the real question. And these last few games will tell.

Other goodies (It's lookin a lil Sparky around the news world):

Kristi Toliver's move from controversial to unstoppable.

Sparks forward Delisha Milton-Jones has won August's WNBA Community Assist Award.

Clay Kallum talks plus and minus statistics.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Today, tomorrow, five years from now

Tonight's game: Sun 73, Fever 67.

Indiana was without Shavonte Zellous and Briann January, who both sustained head injuries Monday in the team's loss to Minnesota. Zellous has said publicly that she has a concussion.

Tomorrow night's action will feature:

Atlanta at Chicago
New York at Tulsa
Minnesota at Los Angeles

NCAA:

Coach Coquese Washington has signed a five-year extension contract at Penn State.

Get to know UCLA senior forward Jasmine Dixon.

Ticha Penicheiro to retire at the end of the season

Legendary point guard Ticha Penicheiro will retire at the end of this WNBA season, after 15 years.

A photo gallery of her career.

Her retirement letter.

Sparks announce playoff dates

This just in:

Los Angeles Sparks Announce Western Conference Semi Finals Times and Dates

Sparks Will Host Game One of First Round at USC Galen Center Sept. 27

Los Angeles – The Los Angeles Sparks today announced the schedule for the first round of the WNBA Playoffs. The Sparks will host the San Antonio Silver Stars on Thursday, September 27 at 7:00PM at the USC Galen Center. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN2.

With their 101-76 win over the Phoenix Mercury on Tuesday, the Sparks clinched second place and home-court advantage in the first round of the Playoffs.

The schedule for the first round of the WNBA Playoffs is as follows: (all times Pacific)

Round 1 / Conference Semi-Finals (best of three)
Sept. 27 at 7:00PM - Sparks vs Silver Stars at USC Galen Center - ESPN2
Sept. 29 at 12:00PM - Sparks at Silver Stars at AT&T Center - NBA TV
October 1 at 7:30PM - Sparks vs. Silver Stars at STAPLES Center - NBA TV

Following the first round, the Western Conference Semifinals is also a best-of-three series. The WNBA Finals is a best-of-five game series. Times and dates are to be determined.

Tickets for the first round of the Playoffs will go on sale on Thursday, September 20 at 10:00AM Pacific. Fans can call 800.745.3000 or visit LASparks.com to purchase playoff tickets.

Los Angeles remains at home to close out the season on Thursday when they host the defending champion Minnesota Lynx at 7:30PM at STAPLES Center.

Tina Thompson scores 7,000th point

The Storm defeated the Sky, 75-60 last night. But the real story was that Seattle forward Tina Thompson - the lone player from the WNBA's first season in 1997 - crossed the 7,000-point mark for her career.

It is an amazing achievement, and one that surpasses all female pro basketball players.

In other action last night, the Silver Stars stepped on the gas in the last period to beat the Liberty, 77-66.

This week's power rankings:

1. Lynx
2. Sparks
3. Sun
4. Fever
5. Dream
6. Liberty
7. Sky
8. Silver Stars
9. Storm
10. Shock
11. Mercury
12. Mystics

Other WNBA:

In the wake of yesterday's White House visit, Lynx guard Lindsay Whalen reflects on winning a title.

Sparks 101, Mercury 76


- Photo by Donald Barnat

Candace Parker puts one up over DeWanna Bonner. Parker finished with 26 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists and four blocks. She shot for 11-18.

The Sparks never trailed in last night's 101-76 win over the Mercury.

Mercury Coach Corey Gaines said after the game that Diana Taurasi, who didn't make the trip with the team, will not play anymore games this season due to the same hip flexor injury she battled the first half of the season.

With the win, Los Angeles secures second place in the Western Conference, and home court advantage in the playoffs, which begin next week.

The game marked breast cancer awareness night, and the Sparks wore pink uniforms.

Post-game quotes:

Sparks Coach Carol Ross

On securing home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs…

I'm really proud of this team for positioning themselves through a long season for protecting home court and securing it in the playoffs. The only team that came in here that slapped us was San Antonio. We're very respectful of what they bring, and couldn't be happier for the team.

On the Sparks 15-1 home record…

The home record is something we talked about before the season started. We wanted to make Los Angeles a hard stop and protect the city. We wanted to make sure that we take care of our home first. It's been something we've focused on.

On Breast Cancer Awareness Night…

Like I told the team before the game, this game isn't about Phoenix. This is one game where we really shift our attention away from ourselves and our opponent, and it's about representing the survivors. When you put on that pink uniform and those pink sneakers, it's all about the people who have gone through breast cancer.

Sparks forward Candace Parker

On playing in the playoffs...

I don't think you ever breathe easy in the playoffs. I don't want to go home, especially in the playoff format, you don't really have any time to stumble. We have a lot of confidence coming forward, and we have a lot of momentum going forward.

Sparks forward DeLisha Milton-Jones

On third quarter play for the Sparks…

We've improved our third quarter performances. That was a thorn on our side all year long. Every time we would play a team and we'd have a nice lead at half, come out in the third quarter and disintegrate. I think in the last few games we remedied that problem.

Mercury Coach Corey Gaines

On the third quarter play of the Mercury…

We ran out of juice a little bit, and they kept on scoring. We hit a couple shots, and got some momentum going into it, but we just couldn't stop their momentum. I could only play three starters per quarter, and had to play subs, and we kind of dropped off a little bit.

Mercury forward DeWanna Bonner

On the play in the third quarter…

We made a couple turnovers. They were bad turnovers in transition, which led to their easy buckets. When you're trying to come back on a team, you can't afford turnovers.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Pre-season Wade Trophy watch list

It's that time again, and here are your pre-season Wade Trophy candidates:

Player Institution Position Year

Alex Bentley, Penn State, Guard, Senior
Heather Butler, UT Martin, Guard, Junior
Carolyn Davis, Kansas, Forward, Senior
Elena Delle Donne, Delaware, Forward, Senior
Skylar Diggins, Notre Dame, Guard, Senior
Stefanie Dolson, Connecticut, Center, Junior
Christina Foggie, Vanderbilt, Guard, Junior
Chassidy Fussell, Texas, Guard, Junior
Angel Goodrich, Kansas, Guard, Senior
Chelsea Gray, Duke, Guard, Junior
Brittney Griner, Baylor, Center, Senior
Bria Hartley, Connecticut, Guard, Junior
Tayler Hill, Ohio State, Guard, Senior
Jordan Hooper, Nebraska, Forward, Junior
Maggie Lucas, Penn State, Guard, Junior
Anna Martin, DePaul, Guard, Senior
A’dia Mathies, Kentucky, Guard, Senior
Lindsey Moore, Nebraska, Guard, Senior
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, Connecticut, Forward, Sophomore
Chiney Ogwumike, Stanford, Forward, Junior
Sugar Rodgers, Georgetown, Guard, Senior
Shoni Schimmel, Louisville, Guard, Junior
Odyssey Sims, Baylor, Guard, Junior
Alyssa Thomas, Maryland, Guard, Junior
Elizabeth Williams, Duke, Center, Sophomore

Lynx honored at White House ceremony

President Obama honored the Minnesota Lynx for their 2011 championship in a White House Ceremony today.

Props: "You don't see them (female athletes) on SportsCenter doing stupid stuff," Obama said.

Obama also joked with Maya Moore about her frequent trips to the White House, including during her time at UConn.

One downside, though: former Lynx team members Charde Houston and Alexis Hornbuckle weren't invited.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Lynx prevail over Fever in all-out contest

Tonight's lone game was a very physical one. The Lynx rallied in the fourth quarter to take down the Fever, 86-79. Maya Moore lead Minnesota with 29 points, which included six three-point shots. Indiana's Shavonte Zellous and Briann January were injured during the game, and according to the Fever's twitter feed, both are being evaluated for concussions.

The Fever is locked into the Eastern Conference's second spot.

ESPN says that it's Katie Douglas who has got Indiana ready for the playoffs. I don't know the it could be laid on one player, but Douglas is spectacular, to be sure.

Earlier:

Nneka Ogwumike and Cappie Pondexter are the West and East players of the week.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Entering.....the last week of regular-season play

Tonight's results:

Hey, the Shock won again - defeated the Silver Stars 80-70. And what's up with San Antonio? They seem to be falling apart.

The Liberty rallied for a win over the Mystics, 75-68, behind Cappie Pondexter's 30-point explosion. And Trudi Lacey still has a job.

The Sky clobbered the Mercury, 86-55. Diana Taurasi didn't play, of course.

The Sun squeaked one out over the Storm, 60-58. Seattle didn't play Sue Bird or Lauren Jackson, due to injuries.

Tomorrow, Indiana is at Minnesota.

This is the last week of play before the playoffs begin.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Last night's quintuple-header

Lindsay Whalen delivered in the clutch again, lifting Minnesota over Indiana, 66-64. Here's the photo gallery.

The Mystics lost their tenth straight, and the Dream clinched a playoff spot as they took the 82-74 victory. And somehow, Trudi Lacey hasn't been fired yet. Appalling.

The Silver Stars squashed the Jackson- and Bird-less Storm, 90-66. Photos.

Diana Taurasi sat out again, as did DeWanna Bonner. This helped the Shock upend the Mercury, 92-84. And Phoenix still won't issue a statement as to whether or not Taurasi will sit out the remainder of the team's games this season.

(Can you tell that the Mystics and Mercury higher-ups aren't impressing me this season?)

And the Sparks withstood a late-game Sun run to pull out a crucial 93-82 home court win.

Game quotes:

Sun Coach Mike Thibault

On the second half…

“I don’t have a feel for where the game got away from us. Think it started more with our bad offense than our defense. We don’t have the size to handle all the length of LA right now. Hopefully we’ll be healthy enough to win if we get the chance to play them again.”

On the post play of Tina Charles and Nneka Ogwumike…

“That had to be an entertaining game for everyone else out there. Tina battled Nneka on the defensive end and she kept fighting because that’s just how she plays. There’s a reason why she’s an MVP candidate, I’m just getting used to it because I get to see her play every night.”

On the defensive strategy…

“We tried to make Toliver uncomfortable and ran people at Parker, but they’re a deep team all the way through. They have a lot of veteran players who know how to win.”

Sun center Tina Charles

On the late Sparks run…

“The fourth quarter definitely put us in a hole, but a couple years ago we were always down 15 or so and could come back from it. Now the next step is containing the loss and not getting turnovers.”

On the effect of the road trip…

“I don’t think the road-trip has had any effect on us. We were just on a 10-day road-trip before this and we won three out of our four games, so I think we’ve definitely matured as a team.”

Sparks Coach Carol Ross

On Parker guarding Tina Charles in the second quarter…

“When I told her she was guarding Tina, she said it was about time. That’s the response you want. Parker certainly asserted herself on defense.”

On Kristi Toliver…

“Toliver wants to win. If we needed to get 30, she would do that. If we needed her to distribute, she’d do that. Toliver is at her best when she’s scoring and assisting.”

On the play of the Sparks bench…

“It’s been a work in progress, a lot of injuries and change. They’re coming around, and I think they’re getting more comfortable in their roles, especially getting them in during the first half.”

On the play of Candace Parker...

“She’s a competitor and competitor’s love challenges. She’s going to rise up. And tonight’s a great example of a player who can actually do that.”

Sparks forward Candace Parker

On the play of the team…

“We knew we had to win this game to clinch second place. We just want to continue to get better going into playoffs. I know myself, I haven’t played extremely well since the break, so my teammates have done a good job of motivating me, continuing to believe in me. Today, coming into halftime we made more of an effort to really try to get post touches, so I think Nneka did a good job of carrying us in the first half, and the second half I really tried to step up my game.”

On the Sun…

“We might play them in the Finals. Connecticut’s a great team. Tina Charles is a fantastic player, and she’s putting up great numbers night in and night out.”

On fatigue...

“I don’t like to admit weakness but, I think everybody’s a little tired, honestly. I started playing basketball last October, and it’s almost been a year. You hit that wall and you have to build your way back up, so hopefully I’m on my way up.”

Sparks guard Kristi Toliver

On possibly playing the Sun again…

“We could easily see them in the Finals. We definitely wanted to make a statement beating them twice. If it comes to that, they can remember that they can’t beat us.”

On her own play tonight...

“For me personally, I wanted to be more aggressive tonight, especially after last game where I didn’t assert myself as much. We wanted to dominate the paint tonight and get to the rim and control that area.”

Sparks forward DeLisha Milton-Jones

On the Sun…

“I hope that we’ll meet them again. They’re a great team, very well coached. They’re fun to play against because you can always expect a good matchup. We were battling bucket for buckets in the first half, and I didn’t expect anything different in the second half."

No games today, which is the first I can recall such an occasion on a Saturday. It's a blessing, though....players need rest.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Sparks over Sky; WNBA and NCAA news

Last night:

Sparks rookie forward Nnemkadi Ogwumike lead her team to an 86-77 victory over the Sky with a career-high 30 points. She also had 11 rebounds, and Delisha Milton-Jones added 19 points. Swin Cash exploded in the second half for Chicago and finished with 23 points.

My game photos, which include these:


Kristi Toliver's new found MVP candidate status comes at a price: she was double-teamed all night in this game, but managed her to get off a shot.


Courtney Vandersloot and Swin Cash guard Alana Beard and Candace Parker.

Post-game quotes:

Sparks Coach Carol Ross

On Nneka’s 30 point performance…

“She played tremendous. Her energy was super, and she kept battling in the paint. She created a lot of plays being aggressive. She was clearly the ‘sparkiest’ of the Sparks tonight.”

On game without Sylvia Fowles in the lineup…

“No, they just beat Minnesota and Connecticut without big Syl. They are a very good team, they actually move the ball a little bit better without her, and I think that they’ve proven they’re not just the big Syl show.”

On Kristi’s performance…

“Everybody’s game plan is to stop her. That’s fine, because then you get great performances out of Nneka, DeLisha, or somebody else. That’s the good thing about being a team. You don’t always have to be front and center, throwing up big numbers; there’s other ways to contribute and she found those ways tonight.”

Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike:

On plan after tough third quarter…

“I think that we just keep each other focused. Obviously there were some lapses in the third quarter, but Coach Ross really fired us up, and Alana got us fired up too, saying we need to practice what we preach. Our third quarters have been weak, but I think we did better at maintaining control tonight.”

Winning at home after a tough road trip…

“The road trip wasn’t easy, so it’s great that we got this win, and hopefully it will roll over in the next three games.”

On post play without Sylvia Fowles…

“It was still tough inside. Swin Cash played great defense, so it’s tough no matter what. They have a lot of other threats as well.”

Sparks guard Kristi Toliver

On teams game plan double-teaming her…

“I’ll take it as a compliment that teams are throwing 3 or 4 different people at me at a time. Right now it’s about mental toughness. I’ll be fine, I’ll get through it. I have teammates who can make plays and have my back.”

Sky Coach Pokey Chatman

About playing catch up after the first quarter…

“It was that first quarter, 27-18. It’s difficult to beat anybody when you give up 27 points. We gave them a lot of momentum, they were in attack mode, and we were always climbing back.”

On the absence of Sylvia Fowles…

“She’s a tremendous player, both on the defensive end and offensively. But we’ve gotten over the fact that she’s not going to be with us and we’ve had to play Connecticut a couple of times without her, Minnesota, and now L.A. We’ve played a little bit of a different way, a little more jumpers, a little bit more attack the basket and kick. It’s just the nature of sports in terms of injuries, but yes, it does impact you, especially with the bigs they had here tonight.”

On Ogwumike’s 30-point, 11-rebound performance…

“She’s a tremendous player. She’s got those volleyball hops. She is quick off her feet. She runs the floor, she gets 10 from the line, she gets six on the put-back, she gets four because she can jump over somebody. She’s not a rookie anymore, and she has some good, savvy vets around her.”

Sky forward Swin Cash

On shooting five for nine from the three point line…

“We were doing a good job of penetrating. They were in rotation and I had a good rhythm and just took the open shot.”

On the absence of Sylvia Fowles

“They scored a lot of points in the paint. We have to protect inside and make them take more outside shots. But they’re a really big team. We have what it takes in this locker room. We understand that and we’ll just go back to the drawing board and get ready for Sunday.”

WNBA features:

Briann January leads the Fever into the playoffs, and Glory Johnson leads the Shock by example, Dishin & Swishin finds.

New Phoenix Mercury guard Briana Gilbreath's long journey.

More for the WNBA's upcoming breast health awareness week:

Tina Charles talks about the call that changed her life.

NCAA:

Michigan State ballers Kiana Johnson and Akyah Taylor have been suspended for the first nine games of the season for "receipt of extra benefits." Coach Suzy Merchant said the two are ''good student-athletes that made a bad decision this summer.''

TCU Coach Jeff Mittie's contract has been extended for an undisclosed length of time.

Alana Beard hosts kid's fitness clinic with Jamba Juice

As part of the “Team Up For a Healthy America” partnership, the WNBA and Jamba Juice hosted a FIT clinic Wednesday at the Santa Monica Boys and Girls Club.

Los Angeles Sparks star Alana Beard joined the WNBA FIT team to lead more than 120 local youth in a basketball clinic focused on healthy, active living. Jamba Juice and Bananaman helped the kids stay hydrated with Berry UpBEET™ and Mega Mango™ smoothies.

The event also included a donation of 114 new basketballs to eight community centers throughout Los Angeles. The donation was part of Jamba Juice’s “Team Up for A Healthy America” initiative, which is dedicated to making a difference in the health of children. Jamba Juice donates $1 toward the purchase of fitness and athletic equipment for each person who joins the Team by pledging to make small changes in his or her daily health and fitness activities.

Pledges can be made at: www.myhealthpledge.com.


Sparks guard Alana Beard opens Wednesday's fitness clinic in Santa Monica.


Beard and supporting cast, including Jamba Juice District Manager Charlie Landon, far left.


Jamba Juice representatives serve smoothies to participants after the clinic.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

MVP race

The WNBA's MVP watch has Candace Parker taking a tumble in the rankings, and Tina Charles and Tamika Catchings on top:

1. Tina Charles
2. Tamika Catchings
3. Candace Parker
4. Maya Moore
5. Kristi Toliver
6. Seimone Augustus
7. Cappie Pondexter
8. Sophia Young
9. Angel McCoughtry
10. Sylvia Fowles

Yet, the league also says Parker is back in the groove.

*shrug*

Only two Eastern Conference teams have clinched playoff spots.

Tonight the Sky are at the Sparks, and an LA victory means the Dream would clinch a spot.

I will be covering the game, and you can follow me at twitter.com/hoopism for updates.

Other WNBA:

The draft lottery will be broadcast on ESPN Sept. 26.

The WNBA begins breast health awareness week on Sunday.

For Katie Douglas and Krystal Thomas, the battle against breast cancer is personal.

I wonder why the Lynx are just now being honored at the White House for last year's championship, almost a year later.

Will Diana Taurasi sit out for the rest of the Mercury's season?

In Phoenix last night, Diana Taurasi sat out as her Mercury played visiting Connecticut. Phoenix Coach Corey Gaines said Taurasi needed the rest. But rumors on twitter surrounded this:

The Mercury planned to sit Taurasi the rest of the season, but Alexis Hornbuckle was ejected from Wednesday's game for a "flagrant foul-penalty 2" and might be suspended by WNBA President Laurel Richie. Per WNBA rules, the Mercury will need to dress at least eight players for a game. The Mercury have just nine healthy players, as rookie guard Samantha Prahalis (right shoulder) was out for the third consecutive game.

A message to Phoenix Mercury media relations today to confirm whether or not Taurasi would sit out the last five games was not returned.

But I don't remember Team USA having this much trouble readjusting to league play in 2008. Here's how our gold medalists have fared over the last month:

Sue Bird - Had the flu upon returning and missed two games. Missed last night's game for rest.

Lindsay Whalen and Maya Moore - Playing for the Lynx just fine.

Seimone Augustus - Has missed the Lynx's last two games with a strained foot.

Tamika Catchings - In MVP form.

Diana Taurasi - Missed several games upon return due to dental surgery. Now may miss the rest of the season for rest.

Tina Charles - In MVP form.

Angel McCoughtry - Slow returning to the Dream, then suspended by new coach Fred Williams before returning to high-scoring form.

Asjha Jones - Out with an Achilles strain.

Sylvia Fowles - Out with a calf strain.

Candace Parker - Visibly tired, possible knee issues, is scoring significantly less.

Swin Cash - So far so good.

Fans always lament that female ballers should rest more, but the opportunities they have at the times of the year that their leagues play doesn't afford that.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Notre Dame to the ACC

Notre Dame is moving to the Atlantic Coast Conference.

ESPN says the move is good for the conference, but a blow to the Big East, which they leave.

Tonight's WNBA action:

Fever 72, Storm 48.

Liberty 75, Mystics 62. And somehow, Trudi Lacey still has a job.

Silver Stars 78, Shock 67.

The Sun and the Mercury are playing right now, but this reporter will be in bed by the time it's over.

Sadness:

The father of top high school recruit Tyshell King, of Baltimore, was killed Saturday night. Tyshell has committed to Georgetown. A memorial fund has been set up.

Team USA gear update

Remember Erica Mauter's survey to gauge interest in Team USA basketball gear? Here's today's update from her:

RESULTS

After 2+ weeks, we've got 320 survey-takers who've pledged $31,886. Remember, dollar amount was not a required field, so there's actually more money waiting to be spent by survey takers on Team USA gear.

The most requested players are:

Maya Moore (177)
Seimone Augustus (161)
Lindsay Whalen (146)
Tamika Catchings (119)
Sue Bird (118)
Diana Taurasi (111)
Candace Parker (103)

These are the names I will present to USA Basketball.

Survey link.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

It's the little things

Phoenix Mercury staffer and writer Ben York has seven random things about the Mercury. #1 doesn't surprise me and I already knew about #5.

As I already told Ben, it's the little things about their players and teams that true fans of the game appreciate the most. So in that spirit, here are random observations of the Los Angeles Sparks:

1. Delisha Milton-Jones and Alana Beard never stop bantering back and forth. They are like twins on crack. Both are hilarious. So is Ebony Hoffman, who jumps in sometimes too.

2. Candace Parker's daughter Lailaa is very tall for her three years. Projected to be 6-foot-5? My only question is, by what age? 11?

3. Coach Carol Ross never shies away from any questions - even when her team has taken a pounding. She unflinchingly looks reporters in the eyes and gives her take on what just happened.

4. Kristi Toliver is a monster on court, but off the hardwood, she's a bit shy. Marissa Coleman and Nicky Anosike don't say much at all.

5. The Sparks are having fun this year. They like each other, enjoy playing together, and the mood is light.

6. The entire Sparks staff are a team, and they work hard. They act like a family.

Tonight's WNBA results:

The Sky did the improbable and beat the Lynx, 83-70. In doing so, they grabbed the East's fourth and final playoff spot.

Atlanta, with the third Eastern playoff position, whooped the Storm 77-61.

Before tonight's match ups, though, there was this great story about how the Lynx offer a look into the winner's psyche. Perhaps this evening was a mental lapse.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Who will get Griner, Delle Donne and Diggins?

The guru says the draft lottery will be announced Sept. 26.

That's nice of them to get that suspense over with, if true.

Other WNBA:

Fan votes can help select this year's MVP.

Western and Eastern Conference players of the week are Maya Moore and Lindsey Harding.

Candace Parker talks about why Pat Summitt is her inspiration.

Honorees:

Team USA and other WNBA players were honored at the league's "inspiring women" luncheon today in New York City.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Let the seeding begin

The Lynx took down the Silver Stars today, 81-62, and claimed the top playoff seed in the Western Conference.

The Fever dropped the Mercury, 89-83. Phoenix's loss gives the Storm the fourth and final playoff spot in the West.

The Dream cruised past the Mystics, 93-68. And somehow, Washington coach Trudi Lacey still has a job. (I truly don't get it)......

The Sun came from behind to ice the Sky, 82-77.

Inexplicably, the Liberty beat the Sparks, 73-71. It's the Sparks' fourth loss in five games, and the culprit seems to be free throws: Los Angeles was only 8-16 from the charity stripe.

Sparks at Liberty quotes:

Liberty Coach John Whisenant

On today's game

“Today was a good win. I thought our team played with great effort and intensity; even though in the first couple of quarters we broke down defensively and gave up some easy baskets. I told them at halftime to just keep plugging and doing what you're doing and let's not make these mistakes. They were running bigs down the court and beating us. We stopped that in the second half, holding them to seven points in the third quarter. The defense got us back in the game. We all played hard and played together.”

On the playoffs

“We have the more favorable schedule between us and Chicago. Chicago is playing very well. Just because we have a more advantageous schedule on paper, that doesn't mean anything until you win or lose them. I think Chicago is going to play it out. We've got to play like we have to win every game. If we get into the playoffs with a three game series and we play as hard as we did tonight, there won't be anybody more athletically gifted like we did played tonight.”

On Cappie Pondexter

“We had a super game from our Captain (Cappie Pondexter), she had 12 rebounds, 21points, and eight assists. That's a pretty good game and with good leadership.”

Cappie Pondexter

On tonight's win

“I'm happy for a lot of different reasons. I think we fought hard. I think at one point we were down almost 16 points. I told the guys at halftime that if we fight back and be victorious, it's going to feel even better than winning. It shows our hard work and dedication and our fight. I think we displayed that especially in the third quarter. We had so much energy. We held them to seven points, which might be a season low for them in a quarter. I think we did a great job containing Candace (Parker) and I credit that to our defensive players, Alex (Montgomery) and Essence (Carson) did a terrific job and Plenette [Pierson] did a terrific job.”

On Liberty offense

“A lot of times when we get tired because we play so hard defensively, we tend to stand. I think the most important thing for us is working on our weak side. We continue to move and get shots on the weak side. It's easy for a team to play defense. For us we can't let them off easy by just standing there and watching and getting our breath in on the offensive end. We have to move, we have to cut, and we have to set screens. We have to do other things off the ball and I think that's what we need to work on.”

Plenette Pierson

On tonight's win

“It feels great to get this win. We felt like we gave up one against Chicago last game. So to get in here and get one against a quality team like Los Angeles with a lot of veteran leadership was great. I think we were down by 15 at the half. To come back, it shows the character the team has- we're resilient and we're never going to give up.”

On the difference tonight

“It was our defense, we stepped it up tonight. We were very aggressive on all their players, trying to frustrate them and make them take tough shots. It worked out in our favor.”

Sparks Coach Carol Ross

On tonight’s game

"We have plenty of stuff to move forward with in terms of just trying to be the best playoff team we can be. We still have more business to take care of before we get to the fun stuff."

Kristi Toliver

On the second half

"We didn't play very well in the second half; it is something we are trying to battle through. We are continuing to learn lessons on the road. Hopefully we can learn, grow, and get better for the playoffs."

Temeka Johnson and Kayla Pedersen have been battling staph infections

It turns out that the reported "flu-like symptoms" of Shock players Temeka Johnson and Kayla Pedersen were actually staph infections. Both women were diagnosed in August, and Pedersen was especially hard-hit, missing seven consecutive games.

This is the third year in a row that Shock players have developed staph infections:

There's no getting around it: This is a tough subject for the Shock -- and the WNBA -- because the franchise has dealt with staph infections each of the three years it has been in Tulsa.

In June 2010, former Tulsa World beat writer Lynn Jacobsen first reported about four Shock players who'd been diagnosed with staph infection: Amber Holt, Chante Black, Marion Jones and Shanna Zolman. Holt and Black are still with the Shock; Jones and Zolman -- the only one of them to miss multiple games (four) because of it -- are no longer in the WNBA.

Last season, Shock guard Ivory Latta was sidelined with a staph infection as well; she is Tulsa's leading scorer this year.

Those five cases were more matter-of-factly acknowledged by the Shock. But Tulsa was vague in listing what sidelined Pedersen and Johnson, using terms such as "flu-like symptoms" and "abdominal/ankle injury." Although, technically, Pedersen's symptoms were "flu-like."


Why didn't the franchise acknowledge what the problem was in the first place?

Compounding things for the Shock is that Tulsa is still in the process of establishing itself in the WNBA. The Shock ownership is committed for the long haul, and wants players to think of Tulsa as someplace they really want to play. But the team has had to deal with some negative perceptions of the city and franchise. The staph infections have compounded that to degree.

"You know how it is -- perception becomes reality," Johnson said. "I heard about it before I got to Tulsa. Players on other teams will say, 'Don't shower there,' and they wonder if there's something wrong with the building. Whether it's fair or not, it's a stigma that Tulsa has to fight off."


What a situation.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Pac-12 women's basketball schedule unveiled

*Slobber*

2012-13 Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Television Schedule
Day Date Game Network Time (PT)
Friday 11/23/12 Notre Dame at UCLA P12N 12:00 p.m.
Friday 11/23/12 Nebraska at USC P12N 2:00 p.m.
Saturday 12/29/12 Connecticut at Stanford ESPNU 1:00 p.m.
Monday 12/31/12 Connecticut at Oregon P12N 12:00 p.m.
Friday 01/04/12 California at Utah P12N 5:00 p.m.
Friday 01/04/12 Stanford at Colorado P12N 7:00 p.m.
Sunday 01/06/12 California at Colorado P12N 11:00 a.m.
Sunday 01/06/12 Arizona at Washington P12N 1:00 p.m.
Tuesday 01/08/12 Utah at Colorado P12N 5:00 p.m.
Tuesday 01/08/12 Stanford at California P12N 7:00 p.m.
Friday 01/11/12 Washington State at UCLA P12N 8:00 p.m.
Sunday 01/13/12 Oregon State at Arizona State P12N 12:00 p.m.
Sunday 01/13/12 California at Stanford ESPN2 1:00 p.m.
Sunday 01/13/12 Colorado at Utah P12N 2:00 p.m.
Tuesday 01/15/12 Washington State at Washington P12N 6:00 p.m.
Tuesday 01/15/12 Oregon State at Oregon P12N 8:00 p.m.
Thursday 01/17/12 USC at California P12N 6:00 p.m.
Friday 01/18/12 Arizona at Utah P12N 6:00 p.m.
Friday 01/18/12 UCLA at Stanford P12N 8:00 p.m.
Sunday 01/20/12 UCLA at California ESPNU 12:30 p.m.
Sunday 01/20/12 Oregon at Oregon State P12N 2:00 p.m.
Sunday 01/20/12 Washington at Washington State P12N 2:00 p.m.
Sunday 01/20/12 USC at Stanford P12N 4:00 p.m.
Friday 01/25/12 Arizona at UCLA P12N 6:00 p.m.
Friday 01/25/12 Colorado at California P12N 8:00 p.m.
Sunday 01/27/12 Oregon at Washington P12N 2:00 p.m.
Sunday 01/27/12 Colorado at Stanford P12N 4:00 p.m.
Friday 02/01/12 Stanford at Oregon P12N 6:00 p.m.
Friday 02/01/12 Colorado at UCLA P12N 8:00 p.m.
Sunday 02/03/12 Stanford at Oregon State P12N 2:00 p.m.
Sunday 02/03/12 Colorado at USC P12N 4:00 p.m.
Sunday 02/03/12 Washington at Arizona State P12N 4:00 p.m.
Friday 02/08/12 Oregon State at Colorado P12N 6:00 p.m.
Friday 02/08/12 Arizona State at California P12N 8:00 p.m.
Sunday 02/10/12 Oregon State at Utah P12N 12:00 p.m.
Sunday 02/10/12 Arizona State at Stanford P12N 2:00 p.m.
Friday 02/15/12 California at UCLA P12N 6:00 p.m.
Friday 02/15/12 Stanford at USC P12N 8:00 p.m.
Sunday 02/17/12 Stanford at UCLA ESPNU 12:30 p.m.
Sunday 02/17/12 California at USC P12N 2:00 p.m.
Sunday 02/17/12 Washington State at Oregon P12N 4:00 p.m.
Monday 02/18/12 Washington at Oregon State P12N 6:00 p.m.
Tuesday 02/19/12 Arizona State at Arizona P12N 6:00 p.m.
Tuesday 02/19/12 UCLA at USC P12N 8:00 p.m.
Friday 02/22/12 Oregon at California P12N 6:00 p.m.
Friday 02/22/12 Oregon State at Stanford P12N 8:00 p.m.
Sunday 02/24/12 Arizona at Arizona State P12N 2:00 p.m.
Sunday 02/24/12 USC at UCLA P12N 2:00 p.m.
Sunday 02/24/12 Oregon State at California P12N 2:00 p.m.
Sunday 02/24/12 Oregon at Stanford P12N 4:00 p.m.
Thursday 02/28/12 Stanford at Washington P12N 8:00 p.m.
Friday 03/01/12 UCLA at Arizona State P12N 5:00 p.m.
Friday 03/01/12 USC at Arizona P12N 7:00 p.m.
Saturday 03/02/12 Stanford at Washington State P12N 12:00 p.m.
Sunday 03/03/12 Wildcard Game P12N 12:00 p.m.
Thursday 03/07/12 Pac-12 Tournament First Round P12N 12:00 p.m.
Thursday 03/07/12 Pac-12 Tournament First Round P12N 2:30 p.m.
Thursday 03/07/12 Pac-12 Tournament First Round P12N 6:00 p.m.
Thursday 03/07/12 Pac-12 Tournament First Round P12N 8:30 p.m.
Friday 03/08/12 Pac-12 Tournament Quarterfinal P12N 12:00 p.m.
Friday 03/08/12 Pac-12 Tournament Quarterfinal P12N 2:30 p.m.
Friday 03/08/12 Pac-12 Tournament Quarterfinal P12N 6:00 p.m.
Friday 03/08/12 Pac-12 Tournament Quarterfinal P12N 8:30 p.m.
Saturday 03/09/12 Pac-12 Tournament Semifinal P12N 6:00 p.m.
Saturday 03/09/12 Pac-12 Tournament Semifinal P12N 8:30 p.m.
Sunday 03/10/12 Pac-12 Tournament Championship Game ESPN2 5:00 p.m

Still low-key

Can you feel everyone back on the school and practice grind? Busy people, dry news period. But so it goes on......

WNBA:

There is only one game today - Storm at Shock.

The road to the playoffs in the Eastern Conference may run through Cappie Pondexter and Epiphanny Prince.

Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame:

Katrina McClain was inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Cheryl Miller was there as brother Reggie was inducted. He tearfully thanked his sister for helping him get there.

The All-American Red Heads finally get their recognition.

Dishin & Swishin's podcast featuring the Red Heads.

Friday, September 7, 2012

These games

Tonight's WNBA results:

The Lynx outlasted the Dream in TWO overtimes, 97-93. Six Minnesota players in double figures, including veteran Taj McWilliams-Franklin, who made key plays in the second bonus period to seal the win. Four from Atlanta hit double digits.

Say what? Mercury over Sun, 91-82.

The Sparks snapped their two-game losing streak by blowing out the Mystics, 96-68.

The Sky took down the Liberty, 92-83.

The Fever squeaked out a win over the Silver Stars, 82-78. Tamika Catchings, with 26 points and 11 rebounds, is looking every bit like an MVP.

Other WNBA:

DeWanna Bonner talks about her superstar hooper sister Erica McCall, who will sign to a college in two months.

Chamique Holdsclaw writes about her recent experience as a Basketball Envoy to Africa for the U.S. State Department.

Lurethia Ann "Retha" Smith, 1954-2012

retha

Lurethia Ann "Retha" Smith, or just "Mom," as she was known to so many in the Los Angeles basketball community.

__________________________________

The Los Angeles girls and women's basketball community lost one of its most beloved members on Aug. 25, as Lurethia "Retha" Smith passed away after a long battle with breast cancer. She was 58 years old.

Hundreds attended Retha Smith's memorial service today, including numerous Los Angeles area college coaches, high school coaches, present and former hoopers, friends and associates. Her obituary is as follows:

Lurethia Ann Smith, known by friends and family as "Retha," was born April 7, 1954 in Birmingham, Alabama, to Ethel Minor and George Scott. In 1959 Retha moved to California to live with her grandmother Frazier and her Aunt Pearl. Retha attended Manual Arts High School and Tuskegee University. She demonstrated her passion for music as a child, playing violin in the LA Junior Philharmonic Orchestra, and various local orchestra groups.

As a child, Retha accepted Jesus Christ as Liberty Baptist Church. As an adult, she became a member of Crenshaw Christian Center. Retha married Homer Smith (preceded in death) in 1974, and was a devoted wife and a loving mother of three children.

Retha enjoyed every facet of life. Much of her time was spent as a legal secretary assisting attorneys at various law firms to spending countless hours administrating youth basketball teams and directing leagues. Retha has been an instrumental force in aiding young players to gain athletic scholarships to college.

More than anything else, Retha was most giving of her time. Regardless of her personal battles, she always offered a listening ear, or opened her home for others to reside, and she fed, clothed and transported any and all in need. She brought joy and laughter in any environment. She was a woman of strong faith and integrity.


Retha Smith helped run the Los Angeles Say No Classic League for a time. More recently she she has assisted her daughter, basketball trainer Sherrise Smith, with her business, Got Game, Inc. When Sherrise began her own summer league a few years ago, "The League," Retha Smith helped with that, too.

Her warmth and openness endeared her to the LA basketball community, young and old. This past summer, no one would ever guess she was battling breast cancer by the way she was rushing about on The League's opening day. Retha Smith would often find herself filling many roles on such occasions: administrator, record-keeper and manager. But to many, she was simply known as "Mom."

Sherrise, sister Christine and brother Kyle all spoke at today's service. Kyle, who is still in college, said he would miss his mother so much. Christine made attendees both cry and laugh with a story, and she called her older sister "the backbone of the family" since Retha Smith's death. Sherrise said it is clear to her that her mother's spirit is still with us. It was a beautiful service.

On a personal note, the last time I saw Retha Smith was in July, at one of The League games. I had come to support two of my girls, playing on the same team. I walked in and had walked right by Retha, sitting on the bleachers, before realizing it. I turned around and went back to give her a hug.

"I'm sorry, Mom, I didn't even see you," I said.

Retha's smile was always golden. We are all going to miss her very much.

Rest in peace.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame inductees; lots of WNBA news

Honorees:

The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Induction is coming up this weekend. Helen has an excellent list of links profiling each of the inductees.

WNBA:

The return of Lauren Jackson has been more of a slow boil for the Storm, instead of the immediate impact many banked upon.

Lindsay Whalen blogs.

The WNBA will honor Team USA at a luncheon Monday.

Dishin & Swishin talks to Lindsey Harding and LaChina Robinson about the Atlanta Dream.

One columnist comes to the defense of Angel McCoughtry, who he says is "being assassinated."

Sophia Young: from St. Vincent to the WNBA.

How much better has Kristi Toliver been this season?

Race to the MVP, week 10:

1. Tina Charles
2. Candace Parker
3. Tamika Catchings
4. Sophia Young
5. Seimone Augustus
6. Kristi Toliver
7. Sylvia Fowles
8. Cappie Pondexter
9. Angel McCoughtry
10. Maya Moore

Agree or disagree with that order?