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Archive for October, 2016

And so we wait….

for the college season to start. Until then, NCAA news:

Crap: Duke women’s basketball freshman forward Emily Schubert tears ACL, to miss 2016-17 season

Missouri women’s basketball remain determined despite injuries

Settling in: Lexi Bando, Maite Cazorla give Oregon Ducks women’s basketball team a talented and experienced backcourt

One year ago, Maite Cazorla was a wide-eyed newcomer with a limited grasp of English.

Two years ago, Lexi Bando was a familiar face for Kelly Graves as he began the rebuilding process at Oregon.

Entering Graves’ third season, the sophomore point guard from Spain and the junior shooting guard from Eugene qualify as veteran leaders on a team that includes nine players — seven true freshmen and two junior college transfers — who have never played for the Ducks before.

South Bend: ND’s Arike Ogunbowale expands her game

Nebraska: Experience from last year has Simon ready for second college season

South Carolina: Staley never ignores a chance to make her team better

Texas A&M: Former Corps commander earns spot on women’s basketball team

Buckeyes: Ohio State women’s basketball | Shayla Cooper steps into leadership role

NCAA.com: Women’s basketball: Washington shoots for repeat Final Four run

Respect from Salt Lake: Utah women’s basketball notes: Washington’s Kelsey Plum an unstoppable scorer

You stay put: Cal’s Gottlieb Agrees to Contract Extension

You, too: Alabama Women’s Basketball Head Coach Kristy Curry Receives Contract Extension

Ah, welcome to coaching, Steph: Vanderbilt women’s basketball signee Blessing Ejiofor not enrolled

High School:

Cool: ‘The international language of basketball’ helps these 3 Syrian girls feel at home in Canada

Speaking to each other in Armenian, they are three fresh-faced, smiling teens who use their native language as a secret code courtside.

That comes in handy for Lora Donoian, 18, and twins Houshig and Anna Arakelian, 17, as the three refugees from the bloody conflict in Syria plan their plays for the girls’ basketball team at Georges Vanier Secondary School.

In a weird twist of fate, Donoian said when she came to the school near Don Mills and Sheppard Ave. E. in February she recognized the twins from her childhood in Aleppo.

Hall-of-fame Q&A with Ossining coach Dan Ricci

WNBA:

Sue: Sparks’ journey back to the title has been long, arduous, and unpredictable

Emotions among Los Angeles Sparks players, staff and fans were running extremely high Thursday night, as the team won the third WNBA Championship in its history.

There is no end in sight to the afterglow, either, which is understandable. This title has been a long and painful time in coming.

In claiming the trophy, the Sparks ended a 14-year drought between Championships – the longest such gap in the league for any team in its history. And that journey proved to be more difficult and arduous than anyone could have predicted. (nb: let’s not talk about the Liberty’s drought, shall we? *sob*)

Sick Day! Come out with our squad this Monday at 3pm as we celebrate our 2016 WNBA Championship at LA Live – Chick Hearn Court.

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  1. 20 Years In, and the WNBA is still proving the doomsayers wrong.
  2. 20 Years In, and millions of men, women, girls and boys have spent hard earned money to cheer on the W
  3. 20 Years In, and the league has successfully navigated through four presidents.
  4. 20 Years In, and we’ve survived franchises folding, moving and being rescued (thank you, Magic Johnson.)
  5. 20 Years In, and we’re seeing former players step into management roles.
  6. 20 Years In, we’re seeing former players in the broadcast seats. And, considering media-shrinkage, how about a shout out to more “visible” women in sports coverage – Julie, Sarah, Kate, Bonnie, Johanna, Nina, etc.
  7. 20 Years In, and we’re seeing players embracing their role as leaders within their communities and for the nation.
  8. 20 Years In, we’re back to sold out Finals – and what a Finals they were.
  9. 20 Years In, we’re witnessing the on court talent transfer from the “old” guard to the “middle guard” to the “new guard (and posts).
  10. 21 Years In, we’re set up nicely for the next 20 years, but,  Looking ahead, WNBA league pres says, ‘The work is not over.’

As for the ridiculously, fabulously awesome final game…. yowza. Congrats to the (grrrrr… I’m a Liberty fan, this galls me, but my dear friend Maria must be ecstatic!) LA Sparks for winning the championship, for the Lynx for giving it their all, and the amazing fans who showed up to Watch Them Work.

So, since we’ve got three weeks to kill before NCAA basketball starts, let’s revisit that final game:

ESPN: Game 5 was an instant classic in a riveting WNBA Finals

Yardbarker: Best winner-take-all games in WNBA Finals history

LA Times: Sparks win the WNBA championship with 77-76 win over the Lynx

Palo Alto: Ogwumike’s fadeaway gives Sparks the WNBA title

Hoopfeed: Sparks topple Lynx to win WNBA Championship, victory seals a banner season for Ogwumike and Parker

Mechelle: Finals MVP Candace Parker finally captures elusive WNBA title

.com: Candace Parker, At Long Last, A WNBA Champion

Bleacher Report: Candace Parker After Winning WNBA Finals: ‘This Is for Pat’ Summitt

UPRoxx: Candace Parker Emotionally Dedicated The WNBAChampionship To Pat Summitt

FOxSports: Candace Parker pays fond tribute to Pat Summitt after winning WNBA title

BallisLife: Candace Parker & The LA Sparks Win WNBA Championship With A Wild & Emotional Ending

The News Tribune: LA Mayor Garcetti wins WNBA bet with Minneapolis counterpart

Mayor Garcetti: STATEMENT: Mayor Garcetti on the Sparks Winning the WNBA championship

We knew this: FiveThirtyEight: The WNBA Finals Really Are Pitting The Best Against The Best

TMZ (!) L.A. Sparks Raged After WNBA Championship

Young, Black and Fabulous: LA Sparks Win WNBA Championship, Celebrates With Magic Johnson + Nelly Joins

GoDuke: Gray & Beard Lead Los Angeles Sparks to WNBA Title

Slam Online: WNBA Photos of the Week

WBUR: A WNBA Fan’s Quest For Equal (Sports Bar) Rights

ProBasketball.com: If you didn’t watch the final seconds of the WNBA Finals, you should

And then, of course, there was this: WNBA Admits Officials Made Critical Error Late in Game 5 of Finals

USA Today/For the Win: Minnesota coach slams officiating in WNBA championship game: ‘It’s not enough just to apologize’

Star Tribune: ‘Sore loser’ or ‘league president some day’: Reeve’s rant sparks strong reaction

So, about officiating and the WNBA. What you’re seeing is the fiscal reality meeting the meritocracy. Long time readers will know I’ve written several pieces on officiating which gave me the opportunity to speak to some longtime refs and coordinators of Division I (top and “lower”) conferences.
It takes years to train up an official. As independent contractors, they have to pay for that training. Since the pay is crap until they reach to top level, they all have regular jobs. They have to get time off from their jobs to get out to the high school or Div III gig they’re working. If their coordinator spots them, supports training’em up, it’s pretty much guaranteed they’ll get headhunted by the coordinator for the next level up. So boom, as a DIII coordinator, it seems like every season you’re back to square one – and let’s not even talk about the impact of geography.
What’s interesting about the WNBA is that they have a hard time getting the best of the best of the officiating corps. Those who work the NCAA season use the summer to spend it with their families (consider how much traveling/time away from home). There’s a short train up time for the W – and they’ve got to adjust to the different rules and the faster speed of the game.
If folks want a “fix,” they need to look to the top NCAA conferences. They have to commit money to develop the officiating pool. This means:
1. Cracking down on diva coaches and players. The disrespect shown to officials on the court and in the locker room means the pool of folks who might become superb officials – players – is tiny. If the officials have to fess up when the make a mistake, so should the coaches.
2. Put your money where your mouth is. Hire an official supervisor and give them sufficient staff to get to ALL of the games and give feedback to ALL of the officials.
3. Speaking of money, make sure your budget is big enough to offer high quality professional development. This means paying folks to attend.
4. Create a paid mentoring program where current officials can coach up-and-coming officials.
5. Commit to transparency. Make sure that you proactively share the hiring, education and review processes. And do this EVERY year.
6. Educate fans. The rules change… and many don’t know the rules. Yah, the NCAA has a wbb website (https://ncaawbb.arbitersports.com/front/104884/Site/Posts) but every program should offer “So you think you can ref?” sessions for fans, players and coaches. How about a “You are the call/rule trivia” contest? 
I’d apply this applies to ALL the sports. ’cause if you think this issue is unique to women’s basketball, your head is in the sand….
And, since you care:
“What’s expected of officials now has increased exponentially,” says Dee Kantner, a Division I ref for 19 years and currently Director of Referee Development for the WNBA. “You used to just show up, stretch out a little, go out on the floor, and boom, you’re done,” she recalls. “Not anymore. These athletes are quicker and stronger. They’re doing things that a lot of people aren’t used to seeing. You just don’t show up at the game and expect to be sharp and work the games to the top level it needs.”
“The officials around here usually start out in recreation ball and work their way up from that point,” said John Kirk, now in his ninth year as supervisor of basketball officials for the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (D-2). “You’ve got to start somewhere [so] I advocate that they try this out first.” It can be a low stress position that requires a basic knowledge of the rules and might earn them $10-20 a game, but said Kirk, “after a period of time a lot of them we lose because they’re not really interested in it.”
Those who catch the officiating “bug” may upgrade to the high school level where varsity game fees can range between $50-70. To do so requires registration with the statewide or local officials association attached to their state’s high school athletic association, which usually entails an annual fee ($10-$75) and a written rules exam. For some associations that fee might go towards providing rulebooks, support materials, insurance or training, and most require, at the minimum, attendance at a meeting to go over current rule changes. Each state can have different standards and expectations around the skill-level an official might have before they’re assigned to a game. Not surprisingly, that can undermine the experience not just for the teams and coaches involved, but also for the officials themselves.
Gamesmanship.
For some, it’s as much a part of the game as the squeak of basketball shoes. Getting that intangible advantage can be reflected in how a coach works the media, a player, the other coach or, for the purpose of this discussion, an official.
Consider this recent example: Watching a nationally televised game between the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun and Detroit Shock, the Shock were making a furious comeback. On an inbound play, Detroit center Ruth Riley was called for a foul – probably her fourth, maybe her fifth. Immediately Detroit head coach Bill Laimbeer, all 6’11”, 260 pounds of him, loomed over official Lisa Mattingly (who’s got to be 5’8” or so on a good day), saying “Oh, that’s a terrible call. A terrible call! And millions of people are watching on television and seeing what a bad call that is. That’s a horrible call,” he continued, “and it’s all out there on national T.V. for everyone to see.”
Never mind the fact that the replay clearly showed the television audience the correct call was made, it was obvious he was using his physical size, his recognition of the media exposure (both coaches were miked), and the pressure of a close game, (imagine if it had been at Detroit!) to try and influence how the game was being called -– though it is hard to imagine how that might work on such an experienced official as Mattingly.

OFFICIATING UNDER REVIEW: Coaches, Conferences and the NCAA Working to Collaborate

“This is often an area that is misunderstood by coaches as well as the general public” said Mary Struckhoff, the NCAA’s coordinator of women’s basketball officiating, “I think it is natural for people to assume that because the NCAA writes and establishes the playing rules, that it also oversees regular season officiating.

Wrong.

“It is important for people to understand that each conference oversees its respective officiating program, while the NCAA championship falls under the purview of the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Committee,” explained Struckhoff.

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Are you ready to RUMBLE??!!!

Well, you’re going to have to wait until 8pm. In the meantime, here’s something to distract you:

From LaChina: ‘Around the Rim’ podcast: One win away

It all comes down to Thursday night, and “Around The Rim” prepares you for the excitement to come of Game 5 of the WNBA Finals as women’s basketball analyst LaChina Robinson is joined by two-time WNBA champion Katie Smith to break it all down.

First, Robinson and Smith recap the action from the previous games leading up to Game 5, including Alana Beard’s buzzer-beater in Game 1, the Lynx evening the series in Game 2, the Sparks’ domination of Game 3 and Maya Moore’s standout performance in Game 4.

Smith also talks about her personal relationship with both coaches, Brian Agler and Cheryl Reeves, and how each of them has risen their team to new heights.

AP: Lynx, Sparks prepare to finish electric WNBA Finals

Seimone Augustus was a 13-year-old girl when she watched the Houston Comets win the first WNBA championship in 1997.

The Comets would win the first four titles in the league, proving to basketball-loving girls across the country that there was a place for them to pursue their dreams. And Augustus couldn’t get enough of them.

Two decades later, Augustus and the Minnesota Lynx stand on the precipice of joining those trailblazing women.

Slam Online: One More Game -The 2016 WNBA Finals have come down to a winner-take-all fifth game for only the fifth time ever. But neither team is feeling the pressure.

Here we go. For only the fifth time in WNBA history, the Finals have a reached a fifth and deciding game. The Lynx and Sparks are set to do battle one last time on Thursday night. These Finals have been insane, an emotional rollercoaster with outstanding on-court drama.

.com: Roar for Four: Lynx Can Match Legendary Comets With Fourth Title or Nneka Ogwumike Has A Chance to Make History on Thursday Night

Chad Graff at Twin Cities: Lynx know they need one more victory to start talking big

When training camp opened six months ago, Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve talked openly about the dynasty a championship this season would create.

After winning WNBA championships in 2011, 2013 and 2015, the Lynx set their sites this season on becoming the league’s first back-to-back champs in 14 years.

In April, Reeve was open with such talk. Now? Not so much.

Star Tribune’s  Jim Souhan: After recent success, ‘mature’ Lynx have little more to prove

They were hardly uptight on Wednesday, in preparation for the final game of the WNBA Finals, Thursday night at Target Center. They have learned to appreciate the march of history as well as the pursuit of it.

So there was Seimone Augustus, the franchise’s first great player of this core group, saying: “We always joke — you’ve never seen the strength of a woman until you’ve banged up against a woman who’s had a child.”

She laughed. The topic was her team’s maturity, which can be cast as a compliment to accomplishment or an insult to their advanced athletic ages.

MSR: Lynx keep dream alive

KMSP-TV:Lynx look to defend WNBA title in Game 5

.com: Sparks Get Dose of Magic Heading into Game 5

The L.A. Sparks had watched everything they’d prepared for and dreamed of — the chance to celebrate a WNBA championship in front of more than 12,000 fans at the Staples Center — slip away.

Around the postgame locker room, they knew that they had put forth a championship-level effort in an 85-79 loss to the league’s reigning dynasty, the Minnesota Lynx. They just hadn’t played with championship-level poise down the stretch, allowing the moment to get too big in their heads.

That’s when their co-owner, Magic Johnson, entered the room.

Rachel Blount, Star Tribune: Sparks hopeful Game 4 loss vs. Lynx will prove a growing experience

Brian Agler has been in this situation before. In 1997 and 1998, when he was coaching Columbus of the American Basketball League, his team twice made it to the best-of-five league finals — and won a pair of championships in series that went to Game 5.

So the Los Angeles coach understands what the Sparks will face in Thursday’s Game 5 of the WNBA Finals. But when Agler looked at his players Sunday, after a Game 4 loss to the Lynx at Staples Center, he was reminded they do not share his wealth of experience.

LA Times: Sparks will play for WNBA title on Minnesota’s court — but may have an edge of their own

Ogwumike, the heartbeat of the Sparks and the league’s most valuable player, has a gift for turning the page. She can forget missed shots, a hollow stat line, a loss, immediately after a game. She can laugh about any of it too. 

But here she was, wide awake, jogging her brain to answer a question that would not go away: What kept the Sparks from clinching the title on their home floor?

LA Sentinel: Lynx Challenge Sparks in WNBA Finals

Umm… Swish Appeal: Unmatched: Sparks, Lynx is best sporting event in the world

Today’s Fastbreak: Appreciating the old pros in the WNBA Finals

Michelle: Inside The W

Not every championship series proves itself to be a satisfactory culmination of a season.

When an entire season’s worth of competition results in a lopsided, one-sided run to a trophy, often the only ones who leave feeling truly fulfilled are the champions. But in the WNBA’s landmark 20th season — one that will be remembered by historical markers, great individual performances and final seasons for future Hall of Famers — the WNBA Finals has been an appropriately worthy showcase.

NY Times’s Seth Berkman: Sparks’ Candace Parker Ignores Slights, Heeding Pat Summitt’s Lessons

Because she has heeded Summitt’s lessons, Parker has had a more important goal come into focus: With a Sparks victory in Thursday’s decisive Game 5 of the W.N.B.A. finals, Parker would capture her first title.

“It’s always trying to put your team in a position to win,” Parker said Wednesday as the Sparks prepared to face the Minnesota Lynx. “Of course, Coach never wanted us to focus on individual awards.”

Mechelle: Home-state hero Lindsay Whalen looks to lead Lynx to fourth title

Whalen is about getting the job done, not talking about doing it. She might occasionally give an enthusiastic fist pump after a big basket, but for the most part she’s just moving right on to the next play.

She is never going to let her emotion became fuel for her opponent. Whether Whalen was holding a royal flush or a pair of twos, nobody but her is going to know. Yet when you ask who is the emotional leader of the Lynx, the answer is … Lindsay Whalen.

Mechelle: Sparks’ Alana Beard knows to ‘hold on loosely’ to dreams and goals

Alana Beard is in her 13th year as a pro, and she’s been through some trials, for sure.

Yet Beard has been a constant source of good vibes and uplifting support for her Sparks teammates. A win Thursday (ESPN2, 8 p.m. ET) would be the first WNBA title for all the current Sparks players. Even if they don’t win, Beard will find solace in having given it her all, and in her belief in advice she got in 2001 but didn’t fully grasp until a decade later.

In other news:

WATNish: Locked On Spurs Ep. 62: Talking Spurs’ Becky Hammon with Olympic legend Teresa Edwards

Really? 20 years in and I’m just hearing about this?! WNBA players confess the grueling flip side of stardom

Ni hao ma: Breanna Stewart’s next journey: Chinese basketball

Nerd Nation rulz: WNBA players turn to N. Ogwumike as union prez

Ouch: Mizzou women’s basketball team loses another forward to injury and Now more than ever, Missouri women’s basketball relies on Sophie Cunningham

Albany Times Union: Margot Hetzke playing waiting game for Siena women’s basketball

(Also from ATU, a little history: What high school sports looked like the year you were born)

Tulsa World: Oklahoma State women’s basketball notebook: Cowgirls must replace production of Brittney Martin as a group, not individually

Portland Tribune: New-look Oregon State women’s basketball team looks versatile, competitive

NCAA.com: Women’s basketball: 5 games to get excited for in the 2016-17 season

 

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Wait! There’s MORE!

Thank YOU, Los Angeles Sparks and Minnesota Lynx. You are putting on a helluva show! Can we move to volleyball rules? Gotta win by two? :-)

Great night at the Staples Center as the stars came out (remember when the stars would come out?) to watch a fabulous game (and yes, there was this: NBA admits officials missed late call in Game 4 of Finals). It didn’t turn out like the LA crew wanted but, lucky us, that means we get to continue the W’s Year 20. Watch’em work, y’all.

Mechelle: Moore saves Minnesota’s season, extends WNBA Finals

To suggest Maya Moore has a keen sense of the moment is not to say she isn’t playing her tail off constantly. Because she is.

Yet in a career full of big moments in big games, this chaser (and usually catcher) of championships senses the times when something extra special is needed.

LA Times: Lynx hold off Sparks, force do-or-die Game 5

Swish Appeal: Magnificent Moore’s 31 saves Minnesota from elimination; forces Game 5

Star Tribune: Lynx survive frantic final minutes in Los Angeles, force Game 5 in WNBA Finals

 Long before the frantic final minutes, Maya Moore knew what she was going to see in Sunday’s Game 4 of the WNBA Finals. As the Lynx forward always does, she looked into the eyes of her teammates in the first quarter — and saw a group ready to scrap to the end against Los Angeles.

“I knew we were going to fight,’’ Moore said. “If we were going down, we were going down fighting.’’

.com: Sparks Miss First Championship Opportunity

Excelle: Minnesota Lynx beat Los Angeles Sparks in Game 4

My oh Maya.

You may have heard that phrase after Maya Moore put in 31 points and 9 rebounds in Game 4 of the WNBA Finals Sunday night. Her initiative helped the Minnesota Lynx squeak out an 85-79 win over the Los Angeles Sparks at Staples Center to even the series at two games apiece and force a fifth and deciding game on Thursday in Minneapolis.

“Any way that I can help my team, whether it’s getting offensive rebounds or getting steals, all those things create momentum and create rhythm for me,” Moore said.

AP: WNBA Finals headed to decisive Game 5 for 2nd straight year

“We have created a tough place to play at Target Center. I’m expecting 15,000-plus fans for Game 5,” Lynx guard Seimone Augustus said. “They’re going to bring the energy and we’re going to bring the pain.”

 After four games featuring practically everything from buzzer-beaters to blowouts, the WNBA’s two best teams will need one more meeting to decide ultimate supremacy.

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Or is it?

Imported-New Yorker that I am, I won’t complain if LA wins. It’s good for the league and it will make my friend Maria really, really happy. But I really, really, reaaaalllly want it to go five – for the in-arena fanbases and for the at-home viewers. So, fingers crossed.

From Sue: Lynx, Sparks take radically different paths to the same destination

Minnesota and Los Angeles couldn’t come to the Finals with two more different storylines.

The Lynx have hauled in three league championships in five years, and are fighting to stay on top. They have a core group and a coach who have been together for a long time, contrary to many other WNBA teams.

On the other end of the spectrum is the Sparks, who haven’t been to a Finals since 2003, after winning back-to-back titles in 2001 and 2002. Their core formed slowly and didn’t coalesce until this season. They have had four coaches in the last six years.

For both teams, the essential question is the same: can we stay together and win this series?

ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne: After a year of slights, Sparks’ Candace Parker can cement her legacy in Game 4

At this point, after all that has happened in the past year, this latest insult barely registers. Ten players were named to the WNBA’s first and second teams on Friday and not one of them was the woman who is still considered by many to be one of the best female basketball players in the world: Candace Parker.

NOTE: Remember voted the 1st & 2nd team voter of often are media folks who do. not. cover. the WHOLE (or even part) WNBA. At this moment in time, I say yank the privilege out of their hands and let the coaching staff and players decide (and media who’ve filed a certain number of articles across the season?). CP was insulted by folks who don’t know better. Let those who do speak their mind.

AP: Sparks’ Parker seeks first WNBA title at Lynx’s expense

LA Daily News: Steady Los Angeles Sparks looking to close out WNBA Finals at Staples Center

One win away from winning the WNBA Championship, the Sparks aren’t changing anything. Their preparation will remain the same, their routines stay status quo. 

Ahead of Game 4 of the WNBA Finals against the Minnesota Lynx, the Sparks are simply getting back to business as usual.

Parent Herald: Candace Parker Needs to Maintain Form to Ignite Sparks to Game 4 Win

USA Today: WNBA title on the line in Sunday’s pivotal Game 4

Twin-Cities: Former Lynx coach Brian Agler has Sparks on verge of WNBA title

The coach standing between the Minnesota Lynx and their third championship in four seasons is the same coach who guided the Lynx in their earliest years in the WNBA.

That coach also owns the most victories in the history of American women’s professional basketball.

.com: Sparks Practice Report: Avoiding Another Letdown

.com: Practice Report: Lynx Look to Match Sparks’ Desperation in Must-Win Game 4

Mechelle: Los Angeles looks to close out Minnesota

Nneka Ogwumike remembers a feeling of uncertainty and even butterflies when she was playing in the Women’s Final Four and championship games with Stanford. Those games seemed like a whirlwind, where random chance might come into play in the one-and-done nature of the NCAA tournament.

These WNBA Finals aren’t like that for her

Fox Sports: Sparks look to close out Lynx in Game 4

What is making the 2016 WNBA Finals a special one is the level of competition — it’s off the charts.

Mechelle: Lynx locked in on tools to regroup in must-win Game 4 at Sparks

The Minnesota Lynx were frustrated with getting behind early and playing catch-up throughout Friday’s Game 3 loss to Los Angeles in the WNBA Finals. That forces them into a must-win situation Sunday, when they’ll have to beat the Sparks here at Staples Center in order to send the series back to Minnesota for a decisive Game 5.

But being a sports fan, as well as a coach, Minnesota’s Cheryl Reeve actually does understand why this series has had such momentum shifts. That tends to happen when two really, really good teams face off.

AP: Lynx to lean on experience to dig out of Finals hole

The Minnesota Lynx have a core group of players participating in their fifth WNBA Finals in the last six seasons. The Los Angeles Sparks only have one player who has made it this far before, and she is a seldom-used reserve.

Take a listen to Lynx Radio: Sylvia Fowles

From Swish Appeal: After Game 3 shellacking, is Lynx’s reign over tonight?

40 minutes.

40 minutes is all that separates the Los Angeles Sparks and their first WNBA championship since 2002. 40 minutes are separating Candace Parker from the only WNBA honor that has eluded her in her illustrious career. 

If the three-time Minnesota Lynx have it their way, that 40-minute window will be extended to Thursday for Game 5, where they can claim their fourth championship in six years in front of their hometown crowd. 

Ladies and gentlemen, you are witnessing WNBA basketball at its finest.

Yup: Pat Rupp: The greatest story barely told

Buried deep on page two was an eight-sentence story about the Los Angeles Sparks win over the Chicago Sky, that further informed readers the Sparks would play in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) finals against the Minnesota Lynx. Other than that short article, the only other mention of the five-game championship series was a canned schedule of the dates and times for the games.

Now I’m not saying that stories about the surprising success of the Vikings, the latest Gopher football collapse and the discussion of a Gopher basketball program coming off one of its worst seasons in history don’t belong in the sports section, but, hey, how about a little Title IX-like love for the women.

BTW – Dallas News: Wings guard Skylar Diggins, comedian Kevin Hart argue over old NBA Celebrity Game battle

Let’s put this all in perspective: Hoffarth on the media: Holly Rowe’s WNBA support group helps her pull through cancer battle

With all the grace and elegance she could muster, Holly Rowe sent the tweet out earlier this month: “I find it rather awkward that I currently share a hair style with Billy Idol. #stupidcancer”

It drew more than a dozen responses ranging from “You rock it better,” to “Own it Girl! Keeping you in our prayers.”

As she is scheduled to be on the sidelines at Staples Center for Game 4 of Sunday’s WNBA Finals against the Minnesota Lynx — a possible closeout contest for the Sparks (ESPN2, 5:30 p.m.), a quick turnaround after doing Saturday’s ESPN Mississippi-Arkansas college football game in Fayetteville, Ark., Rowe continues to do her own rebel yell against desmoplastic melanoma.

Don’t lose this in the shuffle: NY Times: In a Pioneering Moment for the WNBA, Players Unite in Protests Over Injustices

Even as the W.N.B.A. finals between the Los Angeles Sparks and the Minnesota Lynx draw to a close, the issues of the summer remain on the players’ minds. Like most W.N.B.A. players, in the winter Bone competes overseas, where salaries are higher. But she committed to a shortened season in China this year so she could return in January to help deal with the clean water crisis in Flint, Mich.

Bone arrived in China on Monday and already feels frustrated watching news unfold in the United States.

“I didn’t want my protesting to be looked at something that was disrespectful,” Bone, who has spent almost half her time over the past three years in Turkey and China, said by telephone last week. “I’ve been to several different countries across the world, and the one thing that remains true is I’m an American and I’m proud to be one. I had to ask though, Is America proud of people that look like me?”

College:

Michigan: Michigan’s Kysre Gondrezick has ‘natural instinct,’ expected to make immediate impact

Gondrezick’s father, Grant, was a standout guard at Pepperdine and went on to play in the NBA and overseas. Her mother, Lisa Harvey-Gondrezick, was part of Louisiana Tech’s 1988 national championship team and is the varsity girls coach at Benton Harbor. Her sister, Kalabrya, is a sophomore guard at Michigan State.

“I really didn’t have a choice growing up,” Gondrezick said of playing basketball. “I guess it’s kind of destined where I am today, but I’m just trying to build an identity for myself and build onto the legacy of my family.”

Oregon: Crown jewel of a historic class

Ionescu kept Graves and her new teammates in the dark until her father pulled into the parking lot at Matthew Knight Arena to drop off the national high school player of the year on the eve of UO’s first summer school session.

“It was crazy,” is how Ionescu described her recruiting process. “I definitely enjoyed taking my time and waiting and not rushing into anything. It was stressful, but it’s just something that came along with the decision that I made. …

WATN? Irish Badger: Madison Cable joins Wisconsin coaching staff

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Boom.

The Sparks returned the favor by dominating the Lynx early, surviving a Minny run, and then running away with the game.

LA Times’s Jesse Dougherty: WNBA Finals: Sparks roll to victory over the Lynx, 92-75, in Game 3

“I’m glad that we responded the way that we did after our showing up in Minnesota in Game 2,” Sparks Coach Brian Angler said. “I have a lot of respect for Minnesota, we know that they’re going to come really at us on Sunday. So we’ll have to be at our best to be competitive.”

The Sparks, coming off a 19-point loss Tuesday at Minneapolis, played at a breakneck pace from the opening tip Friday and never slowed down. 

LA Times: Los Angeles Sparks move within one victory of a WNBA title

Hours after the WNBA all-league ballots were revealed and Los Angeles Sparks center Candace Parker was omitted, she put her team on her back and led it to the brink of a title.

Swish Appeal: Parker unleashes fury as Sparks stomp Lynx in Game 3

AP’s Beth Harris: Sparks rout Lynx 92-75; move within game of WNBA title

Candace Parker watched video of herself in every game the Sparks played against Minnesota this season.

She didn’t like what she saw

.com: Over Before It Started: How The Sparks Overwhelmed The Lynx In The First Quarter

Excelle: No pressure for Sparks, Candace Parker in Game 3 win

Winning Game 3 of the WNBA Finals was no pressure for the Los Angeles Sparks.

Using a pressure defense to catch the Minnesota Lynx off guard, along with a more aggressive stance on offensive rebounds, the Sparks pulverized the Lynx for a 92-75 win Friday night at Galen Center. With the win, Los Angeles holds a 2-1 series lead and sits one victory away from ending a championship drought that began in 2003.

Unsurprisingly, no one on the Sparks is ready to think about hoisting the trophy.

USA Today’s Alysha Tsuji: Sparks return to form in Game 3 victory against Lynx

With Snoop Dogg at one point standing and cheering courtside, the Los Angeles Sparks delivered a dominant 92-75 victory to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five WNBA Finals series against the Minnesota Lynx on Friday at the University of Southern California’s Galen Center.

Every single thing that went wrong for the Sparks in their 19-point loss in Game 2 went right for them in their 17-point win in Game 3, especially for veteran Candace Parker.

.com: Defending Champs on the Brink After Inexplicable Game 3 Struggles

Canis Hoopus: Sparks Rout Lynx 92-75 to Take 2-1 Series Lead

Duluth News Tribune: Lynx on brink of elimination in WNBA Finals

In a hugely disappointing game three of the WNBA Finals, the Lynx were a step behind the Sparks all night and lost by a final score of 92-75 to fall behind two game to one in the series. They will face an elimination game in Los Angeles in game four on Sunday. 

It went bad early for the Lynx, who fell behind 7-0 in the first minutes of the game, and it only got worse from there, as the Sparks used pressure defense to force turnovers and surprisingly dominated the glass on their way to a lead that ballooned to 30-8 late in the first quarter. The Lynx made a furious run in the last five minutes of the first half, cutting a 20 point deficit to eight at halftime behind tougher defense, but that was as close as they would get. They were again plagued by turnovers in the second half, and the Sparks were able to stretch out their lead once gain and cruise through the fourth quarter.

Culver Times: Can The Sparks Win The WNBA Championship?

More LA Times: All eyes are on Candace Parker as the Sparks fight to clinch the WNBA championship

When the Sparks walk into the Staples Center on Sunday, they will be 40 minutes away from the franchise’s first title since 2002. Lisa Leslie was the face of the franchise then, and she helped the Sparks capture their two titles in back-to-back years. Parker has been the face of the franchise since 2008 and has led the team to the postseason in eight of her nine seasons. This is, however, her first trip to the finals.

“She just told me, ‘Hey, we’re not going to get a second opportunity like this,’” Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike said after Game 4. “That’s her speaking from her experience, and point blank that’s really what it’s all about.”

Now, all we’ve gotta do is wait…. sigh.

In the meantime, wanna shake your head a bit? Check out who is and is not on the list: MVP Nneka Ogwumike tops All-WNBA First Team

Putting it into perspective: For West Bridgewater coach, wrong era to play, right time to lead

When Mary Duggan Watson was running around the region as a tyke in the 1950s, she said she ran faster than the boys.

Jumped higher, too.

And played sports better.

But the West Bridgewater resident, now 70, didn’t play organized sports because she was born in the wrong era.

More: The Conversation: Poet, activist and athlete Nikky Finney

Nikky Finney’s poetry collection “Head Off & Split” won the 2011 National Book Award, and her extraordinary acceptance speech is now part of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington. Finney, 59, who is writing two poems for the 2016 espnW: Women + Sports Summit, talks with Allison Glock about her work, about growing up as an athlete — she played basketball at Talladega (Alabama) College — and the unique ways sports fortify women.

Allison Glock: What drew you into sports?

Nikky Finney: I noticed as a girl how my brothers had the freedom to sit in a chair. They could put their feet up. They could lean back. They could stretch. They could do all manner of gymnastic things. I was told, “Be still, keep your dress down, keep your legs closed” — all of the things girls are always taught. This began to circulate in my mind and heart, the freedom of movement.

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It’s the West Coast’s time

So, Minnesota pulled away, survived when L.A. tried to claw back, and pushed through to earn a comfortable win courtesy of team defense and Maya offense.

Ooooo a little intrigue: Augustus comes alive for Lynx at crucial moment

It doesn’t take long for Maya Moore to recognize when teammate Seimone Augustus has found her groove.

“Those dreads get to popping, nostrils get to flaring,” Moore said, a big smile creasing her face. “I mean, my nostrils flare, too. We’re both nostril-flaring kind of players. Just that look in her eye.”

And to think, if at least one team had its way, Augustus never would have been there for the Lynx in Game 2 of the WNBA Finals on Tuesday night, when her fourth-quarter scoring flurry helped Minnesota turn back a rally by the Los Angeles Sparksand even the best-of-five series at one game apiece.

.com: WATCH: WNBA Finals Game 2 Mini-Movie

Now it’s a best of three Finals.

New Amsterdam News: Minnesota and Los Angeles battle for the WNBA chip

.com: Five Numbers That Tell the Story of the WNBA Finals So Far

MSR offers up a WNBA Finals | Lynx vs Sparks Game 3 Preview

SB Nation says: If the Minnesota Lynx dominate the boards, the championship is theirs

The Los Angeles Sparks were expected to be out-rebounded by the Minnesota Lynx in the Finals. But in Game 2 they were completely crushed on the boards in Minnesota’s 79-60 win. The Sparks’ inability to box out Lynx bigs Sylvia Fowles, Rebekkah Brunson, and Natasha Howard made the difference in what wasn’t an impressive offensive night for either team. In a best-of-five series tied at a game apiece, Game 3 is pivotal.

Mechelle: Sparks can’t allow Lynx defense to dictate tone

Thirteen years have passed since Sparks fans got to see their team play in a WNBA Finals game here in California. And the Sparks are expecting those folks to bring a lot of life Friday night to the Galen Center, the Sparks’ alternate home, for Game 3 of the WNBA Finals (ESPN2, 9 ET).

But they aren’t counting on that being the deciding factor in this series with Minnesota.

Check out the .com game tape: Film Study: Minnesota’s Game 2 Defense

LA Times: Sparks need Nneka Ogwumike to get back into the offense in WNBA Finals’ Game 3

Twin-Cities: WNBA Finals: Lynx expecting long-range assault from Sparks in Game 3

After stifling the Los Angeles Sparks’ interior play Tuesday night, the Minnesota Lynx know what to expect when the third game of the WNBA Finals takes place Friday night at USC’s Galen Center.

If nothing works inside, shift the emphasis outside.

Sports Blog explains Why the WNBA Finals Matter

Nneka Ogwumike doesn’t rush to watch the playback after games. 

That gave her a lot of time to think about the Sparks’ Game 2 loss before actually seeing it. She thought about the 19-point margin, the most the Sparks have lost by this season. She thought about the six shots she took, her fewest since June 28. She thought about being more involved on offense, which seldom needs to be said out loud. 

So when the Sparks sat down for a film session Wednesday afternoon, she saw the criticism coming. 

“That’s on me, and I know it is,” Ogwumike.

AP’s Beth Harris:Parker looking to regain form as WNBA Finals shift to LA

Inside The W with Michelle Smith

It’s a truism in sports that the best players save their best for the biggest games. And there are plenty of the WNBA’s best players in this Finals series.

Two games into a best-of-five series, let’s consider it “midterm” time and hand out grades to the marquee names.

 

In other news…

So true: Houston Chronicle says Comets have a legacy worth remembering

It was one of those perfect sporting events.

A crowd of more than 16,000 passionate fans at Compaq Center, the championship on the line.

Faces of a franchise trying to extend a dynasty.

Overtime.

Victory.

In late August 2000, the Houston Comets beat the New York Liberty 79-73 behind 31 points from Sheryl Swoopes and 25 from Cynthia Cooper to win their fourth consecutive WNBA title and prove women’s basketball could be profitable, entertaining and beneficial to this city.

Shoes! Elena Delle Donne’s New Nike Shoes Are Incredibly Fresh

Japan Times: Tokashiki getting used to dual demands

Interesting: Mercury coach Brondello agrees to multiyear contract

Congrats! Amber Cox named Vice President of the Connecticut Sun and New England Black Wolves

More from MSR: Overseas play can improve developing WNBA players

Unless you are a WNBA player on the rosters of the final two teams still competing in the playoffs, more than likely you’re now overseas in preparation for your off-season.

Jonquel Jones finished her first pro season and got a vote in the 2016 WNBA Sixth Woman of the Year final results, finishing in a five-way tie for fifth behind winner Jantel Lavender, who is playing for Los Angeles against Minnesota for the W title.

Born and raised in Freeport, Bahamas, an island with only three full gyms — two at a high school and one at a YMCA, the 6’-6” Jones as a youngster asked her folk if she could move to the States in order to pursue her goal to play pro ball

Oiy!

Former N.Y. state champion girls basketball coach charged with sexual assault of student

Former Miss. girls basketball parent sentenced to year of house arrest for attacking coach

College

Utah women’s basketball: Lynne Roberts has Utes back on track

Gators: Women’s basketball team’s recruits fitting in early on

Spokesman-Review:  Gonzaga’s women could be deeper, better on defense

Mark your calendars:

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Here. We. Go!

Game two’s on tap, and folks are on edge after the great game these two teams gave us. On national, not-cable TV. And it was, by the way, the Most-Watched WNBA Finals Game 1 Ever on ABC

In case you missed it, from Slam: WATCH: WNBA Finals Game 1 Mini-Movie

Nina at USA Today: First game of WNBA finals ends in ridiculous game-winning buzzer-beater

Heather Rule for USA Today: Alana Beard wasn’t first option, but best one for Sparks

.com: Unheralded Beard Buries Lynx In Game 1

Excelle: A simple play from Alana Beard decides Game 1 of the WNBA Finals

.com: Behind The Shot: Inside The Sparks’ Game 1 Buzzer-Beater

Jon Krawczynski for the AP: Sparks’ Alana Beard Hits Buzzer-Beater to Defeat Lynx in Game 1

With Parker and Ogwumike in the paint, Beard found herself alone in the corner. She took the pass from Chelsea Gray and knocked down a jumper with Maya Moore’s hand in her face.

“I don’t think I’ve ever hit a game-winner,” Beard said quietly. “So it’s pretty cool. Pretty cool.”

ESPN: Sparks steal Game 1 on Beard’s buzzer-beater

Swish Appeal: Alana Beard’s buzzer-beater stuns Lynx in Game 1

LA Times: Alana Beard’s contributions to Los Angeles Sparks came even before winning Game 1 shot

“Everybody is going to talk about [Beard’s] shot,” Parker said after Game 1. “But the key defense two possessions before that, that she blocked Lindsey Whalen and she got a steal with Maya Moore, those were the two possessions that were crucial for us.”

More Swish: WNBA Finals: 4 Takeaways from Game 1

MSR News: WNBA Finals | Buzz-beater seals Lynx loss in opener

Deadspin: Alana Beard Hits Buzzer-Beater To Give Sparks Game 1 Win In WNBA Finals

Star Tribune: Lynx lose Game 1 on buzzer-beater; Reeve cites ‘bad plays that cost us’

.com Lynx Experience Both Sides of the Finals Buzzer-Beater

Chas Melvin: WNBA Finals What we learned in game 1?

Minneapolis NPR: The WNBA Finals year 20: Minnesota Lynx vs Los Angeles Sparks

Tonight:

Fingers crossed: WNBA legends project Finals to be a classic

.com: 2016 WNBA Finals: Three Keys To Game 2

Mechelle: Lynx look to even series in Game 2

Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve is an expert at analyzing her team, but this is one thing she really can’t explain.

In each of their five WNBA Finals appearances, the Lynx have had the best record and been the host for the first two games. However, they’ve lost the opener now three times.

“Isn’t that crazy?” Reeve mused. “I kind of went back and thought about it. I think each year is different, but it was surprising to me.”

.com: After Historic Night, Maya Moore Vows to Be Better in Game 2

Twin Cities: Minnesota Lynx, shaky in Game 1 of WNBA Finals, look to rebound

Mechelle:  Can Seimone Augustus add fourth WNBA title to legacy?

“When she starts with the stories, I listen,” Lynx teammate Maya Moore said. “Because they’re so funny. She impersonates people and adds her own little touches to it. She’s quite a character.”

However, the stories from Augustus’ beloved hometown of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, haven’t been amusing this year. The massive rain and subsequent flooding that hit the area in August wrought horrific damage that will take a long time to clean up and rebuild. Many people were also left devastated emotionally.

“I’ll show you a picture of my grandmother’s house,” Augustus said while getting out her phone to display a gigantic pile of debris. “That’s how the entire street looked. So many people lost all their belongings.”

Slam: Rewriting History – If the Lynx win this year’s Finals, Rebekkah Brunson will be the first woman in WNBA history with five championships.

SB Nation: The Lynx have to stop the Sparks’ backdoor cuts in Game 2

USA Today: Sparks need another big defensive effort in Game 2

Meanwhile: Lynx players encourage and coach kids in North Mpls

BTW: Excelle: Past, present and future on display at WNBA’s 20 at 20 celebration

History was on display at Target Center on Sunday.

Prior to Game 1 of the WNBA Finals, the league invited players who made the Top 20 at 20 list for a recognition event in conjunction with their 20th anniversary season. Four of those players, Seimone Augustus, Maya Moore, Candace Parker and Lindsay Whalen are participating in the Finals. Twelve others took part in a media roundtable that offered a glimpse the WNBA’s impact for women and sports.

The gathering of athletes who left a remarkable impression on women’s basketball was a cool sight. Recent retirees like Tamika Catchings and Swin Cash joked about wanting to be in the Finals while reflecting on their upcoming career pivots. Legends like Cynthia Cooper-Dyke, Becky Hammon, Lisa Leslie and Ticha Penicheiro discussed how their involvement with the league led the way to job opportunities that keep them involved in sports. Active members like Sue Bird and Cappie Pondexter were in awe, being alongside the people they grew up watching while sharing their thoughts about how their careers will progress.

.com: Friendly Rivalries Endure at Top 20@20 Reunion

 

Quick hist from College

Q & A with MTSU women’s basketball coach Rick Insell

FGCU women’s basketball won’t go flat despite turnover

Bama transfer could play key role for K-State women’s basketball team

Bruising brothers prepared Julia Chandler for position switch with Syracuse women’s basketball

Romero hopes to bring Olympic experience back to FSU

Here’s a good read: The NBA’s First Female and Openly Lesbian Ref Recalls 19 Years of Close Calls

Throughout Palmer’s career as an NBA referee, she said she never had any player use discriminatory language toward her or make homophobic comments in her presence, despite it being common knowledge within the league that she is gay. Palmer believes it’s because the NBA is a diverse organization that pushes for equality on a variety of levels. “If they weren’t for diversity, they would have never given me a chance in the first place,” Palmer added. “And from the beginning, they have always been supportive of me and my success. I’ve never gotten any negative vibes regarding my sexuality from the league or the players.”

This doesn’t mean she hasn’t faced intense scrutiny for her gender over the years. “This is a man’s game, and it should stay that way,” NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley oncequipped. “Can’t pat them on the butt anymore,” Michael Jordan told the Chicago Tribune upon learning of her hiring. Dennis Rodman chimed in with a stab of his own, as recounted in footage from a recent documentary short about Palmer, titled Queen Vee: “Well, if you take her hair off, I think she’s a man.”

In U.S. News, ya might wanna read this: Sarah Spain on What we mean when we say ‘locker room talk’

It shouldn’t be a surprise that Trump rushed to the safety of the locker room to excuse his words. For years players, coaches and media have excused crude language, hate speech, immorality and even criminal acts in actual locker rooms as toughening-up exercises, harmless hazing or even team bonding.

Even as the world around it evolves, the sports sphere is still very much a haven for antiquated ideas, misogynistic beliefs and over-the-top masculinity. By making the locker room a sort of mythologized space where men are free to shed the morality and humanity of the outside world, we’re, in essence, excusing that behavior.

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Here comes last round of Year 20 playoffs! *see what a lurking little head cold will do to ya?* So, buckle up and lay in some popcorn – let’s see if the Lynx and their bench can tire the Spark’s starters….

From Pat Borzi at the NYTimes: Healthy and Rested, Lynx Star Lindsay Whalen Is Primed for W.N.B.A. Finals

“Off the court, she’s the one who keeps the locker room light, funny,” Maya Moore, the former W.N.B.A. most valuable player, said of Whalen. “She’s the first one that tries to make it fun, make sure everybody’s O.K. And if somebody needs a little pick-me-up, she notices. She’s a big sister by nature. That helps us on and off the court.”

With the 34-year-old Whalen as the catalyst, the defending champion Lynx reached the finals for the fifth time in six years — all since Whalen arrived in a 2010 trade from Connecticut.

Mechelle: Lynx take aim at history, fourth WNBA title

When the Houston Comets won the last of their four WNBA titles in 2000, Maya Moore was an 11-year-old who already had big plans. She wanted to play in the Final Four someday. And the WNBA? Yeah, that too.

Perhaps even as ambitious a goal-setter as Moore might not have been aiming for matching the Comets. Yet 16 years later, Moore and the Minnesota Lynx are in position to do just that.

Howard “I’m movin’ up!” Megdal at USA Today: WNBA Finals features league’s best two teams

Sunday afternoon in Minnesota, the dream matchup between the WNBA’s two superteams begins in a WNBA Finals between the Minnesota Lynx and the Los Angeles Sparks. Game 1 is at 3 p.m. EST, and will be televised by ABC.

The two combined to finish 54-14 this year, each earning the double bye in the league’s new playoff format, and then stormed through their semifinal series. Perhaps the most compelling part of the battle ahead is that each team’s strengths are mirrored by the other, each side’s roster overflowing with seemingly unanswerable challenges for the other.

.com: Kinda lovin’ the film room:  WNBA Finals Film Room: On Maya Moore, the Sparks’ Deep Threat, and Minnesota’s Offensive Rebounding

Mechelle adopted by ABC: WNBA Finals primer: How do Lynx, Sparks match up?

Rewind: Look Back At The Regular Season Meetings Between The Lynx And Sparks

Excelle: Previewing the WNBA Finals: No shortage of stars here

The WNBA Finals are finally here, and feature the two teams fans and experts expected when both opened their respective seasons rattling off win after win. The defending champion Minnesota Lynx and their league-best play on both ends will have home court against the Los Angeles Sparks in a best-of-five that is, above all, must-watch basketball. Let’s dive in.

The best part of this movie is the stars, which are in no shortage. Minnesota’s packing four Olympians, while Los Angeles has the league’s Most Valuable Player and a contender for Defensive Player of the Year. But the most divisive name on either roster is Candace Parker, who many expected to go on a 34-game revenge tour after being snubbed from the Rio Olympics. It didn’t quite pan out that way, largely in part to the rise of her frontcourt partner Nneka Ogwumike, but Parker did have a strong season. Alas, folks around the WNBA are quick to give the Lynx the edge because of Parker, who some believe lack the killer instinct Minnesota’s Maya Moore has. It’s an unfair knock, and with Parker coming into her first ever Finals, expecting less than 100 percent would be silly.

.com: Q+A: ESPN’s LaChina Robinson Previews ‘Most Talented’ WNBA Finals

Canis Hoopus: Lynx vs. Sparks: The Finals We’ve Been Waiting For

Ever since the 12-0 Lynx visited the 11-0 Sparks in Los Angeles, it’s seemed almost inevitable that these two teams would meet in the WNBA Finals. The Lynx beat the Sparks that first meeting, only to see the Sparks turn the tables in Minneapolis three nights later. By then it was clear that these teams were the class of the league. 

And so it is. 

Nina Mandell at USA Today: 5 months after getting cut from the Olympic team, a determined Candace Parker is looking for a WNBA title

As a rookie, Candace Parker thought it was going to be easy to bring the Los Angeles Sparks on deep playoff runs year after year. It made sense: Like most standouts, Parker’s teams had never really lost. At Tennessee, she won back-to-back titles. She was the first pick in the 2008 draft. In her first year in the league, her team made it to the conference finals.

“You’re young. You think, ‘Oh, we’ll be back next year,’ ” Parker said according to the Associated Press. “That didn’t happen, then the next and the next. You look up and it’s eight years. I really appreciate this.”

AP: Sparks’ Candace Parker anxious for WNBA Finals vs. Lynx

Candace Parker is finally in the WNBA Finals.

Her first trip to the championship caps off an eventful, and at times difficult, year for the Los Angeles Sparks star.

.com: Take LaChina Seriously: Kristi Toliver Will Leave Her Mark On 2016 Finals

Swish Appeal: Bonded Together: Parker, Ogwumike bring LA success through chemistry

LA Times: Sparks take some tips from Magic Johnson going into the WNBA Finals (btw: has anyone thanked Magic recently for keeping the Sparks alive?)

With 12 days between the end of the regular season and the start of the postseason, the Sparks decided that one afternoon could be spent away from the court. 

A semifinals series against the Chicago Sky was still a few days away and the Sparks had just finished a morning workout. So when the players walked into Crustacean in Beverly Hills for a luncheon, most of them were thinking about the popular garlic noodles dish instead of how they could win the franchise’s first title since 2002. 

Then Magic Johnson, who played 13 Hall of Fame seasons with the Lakers, stood up and shared the wisdom of a five-time NBA champion. The Sparks are now carrying his message into Game 1 Sunday of the WNBA Finals (noon PDT on ABC) against the defending champion Lynx in Minnesota.

Yardbarker: WNBA Finals preview: Can a founding stalwart dethrone the defending champs?

Back in May, when the league’s general managers were surveyed on which teams would win the WNBA Finals, the majority of them picked the Phoenix Mercury. Diana Taurasi’s return to the league after a season overseas was supposed to catapult the team toward its fourth championship, but save for the late-season push into the playoffs, the Mercury was nowhere close to contending. There were some other interesting teams in consideration: a Dallas Wings team with talent and energy of a new city and the Atlanta Dream, who seemed to be ready to break through with the game’s most athletic player, Angel McCoughtry. (Of course, the Wings had the league’s worst record while the Dream lacked depth to get over the hump.)

Yet, as the season began, it became abundantly clear that the league’s brightest minds were not only wrong (making predictions in sports is not an exact science), but like most observers were star-struck by the teams that separated from the pack at a historic pace.

Today’s Fastbreak: Finding the right audience for a classic WNBA Finals matchup

For the last three decades or so, supporters of women’s sports have groused about meager coverage, and have worked themselves into a frenzy asserting that the male-dominated sports media actively conspires against them.

What few of these advocates have demonstrated is a grasp of how the commercial media actually works, or to indicate what they think would be satisfactory coverage.

ESPN Mediazone: 2016 WNBA Finals between Minnesota Lynx and Los Angeles Sparks Tips off Sunday on ABC

ESPN’s exclusive coverage of the 2016 WNBA Finals presented by Verizon featuring the top two teams in the league – defending WNBA champions Minnesota Lynx and the Los Angeles Sparks — will tip off Sunday, Oct. 9, at 3 p.m. ET on ABC.  All other games in the best-of-five series will be played on ESPN or ESPN2.  Ryan Ruocco and analyst Rebecca Lobo will call the Finals, with reporters Holly Rowe and LaChina Robinson rotating games on the sidelines. Robinson will also serve as a pregame analyst. The matchup between the Lynx and Sparks will feature the highest combined winning percentage for a Finals series in WNBA history (.794, 54-14) after Minnesota went 28-6 (.824) and Los Angeles was 26-8 (.765) for the regular season.

The head coaches of both teams – Minnesota’s Cheryl Reeve, the 2016 Coach of the Year, and Los Angeles’ Brian Agler — and select players will wear microphones during the games. Additionally, ESPN will air the full Top 20@20 ceremony honoring the top players in WNBA history, during halftime of Game 1.

Star Tribune: Sunday’s Lynx game on national TV, but faces lots of competition

The Lynx and Los Angeles did their part, giving the WNBA the matchup it wanted for the league finals that start Sunday at Target Center. But on a day with an overpacked schedule of TV sports, they will find themselves fighting for a slice of the audience.

.com: What They’re Saying: WNBA Finals Gets Underway

BTW: The WNBA’s Best Team Is A Social Justice Powerhouse

Thirty-five minutes before a Minnesota Lynx game in July, head coach Cheryl Reeve was entrenched in a passionate discussion that had nothing to do with the opposing Dallas Wings’ threatening backcourt.

Reeve was talking to a security officer at the Target Center, hoping to discourage the police officers assigned to the game from walking out in response to Lynx players donning t-shirts honoring Philando Castile and Dallas police officers, just days after they were shot and killed.

In other NY Times news: W.N.B.A. Stars Try to Move Up to Fashion’s Front Row

As the W.N.B.A. finals between the Los Angeles Sparks and the Minnesota Lynx begin Sunday (3 p.m. Eastern on ABC), the league’s stars still face a yawning gap in income, exposure and endorsement opportunities compared with their male counterparts. Nowhere is that more apparent than the style world, where N.B.A. players seem to carry as much clout as movie stars, but many of the W.N.B.A.’s athletes remain as invisible as key grips.

But that may be starting to change, as players like Brittney Griner and Skylar Diggins have emerged as style influencers, and the fashion world slowly embraces a new inclusiveness that defines beauty beyond size 2 waifs from Ukraine.

Without question, however, there’s a lot of ground to cover if the fashion-forward female players hope to catch up to the men.

Amsterdam News: WNBA season heads to the finals

New York Liberty players have cleaned out their lockers and headed into the offseason. Rebecca Allen is going to Slovakia to play with Good Angels Kosice in the Slovakia-Extraliga league and in Eurocup. Carolyn Swords is off to Poland to play with Basket 90 Gdynia in Poland-TBLK and Eurocup. Getting back to form after a torn ACL, Epiphanny Prince will return to her Russian team, Dynamo Kursk, for Russia-PBL and Euroleague play.

Lauren Jackson talks about pregnancy, Liz Cambage, Opals

Rookie status is something not attributed to Lauren Jackson since before the turn of the century, but if she seemed fearless as a 16-year-old on her first tour to Brazil with the Opals, her debut into motherhood has been much more daunting.

“It’s been scary, actually, I haven’t been through anything as scary as this,” Jackson tells ESPN.

As any prospective parent knows, pregnancy is a whole new ball game.

Quick hits from the NCAA:

Ouch: Rutgers senior guard Tyler Scaife to redshirt the 2016-17 season

Ouch: NCAA announces penalties for Ole Miss women’s basketball

BTW: South Carolina to host March Madness games relocated over anti-LGBT law

Sue’s doin’ the do: Pac-12 preview: The University of OregonThis is the first in an annual season preview series of the Pac-12 teams.

 

WATN? Shanele Stires Named Head Women’s Basketball, Cal State East Bay

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So, Ms. Parker and the Sparks made quick work of the Sky and moved on to the Finals for the first time since 2003. (Lib fans take a moment to cringe at the memory of Nikki Teasley’s three…) Now we have the matchup the GM’s didn’t predict, but the records did, and we hoped for.

From Mechelle: WNBA Finals primer: How do Lynx, Sparks match up?

The last time the Los Angeles Sparks were in the WNBA Finals, the Minnesota Lynx were a gritty underdog that tried to stop them. That was 2003, when the Sparks were two-time defending champions and the closest thing to WNBA villains.

They weren’t really all that villainous, but they had superstar Lisa Leslie, a tough defense, and a swagger that then-coach Michael Cooper loved.

The Lynx were in the playoffs for the first time under then-coach Suzie McConnell-Serio. Katie Smith starred for Minnesota, and longtime USA Basketball great Teresa Edwards was playing in the first of her two WNBA seasons at age 39.

A little .com hype: All Maya Moore Does Is Win

The Minnesota Lynx drafted Maya Moore six years ago. The Minnesota Lynx have reached the WNBA Finals in five of the past six years. Those two occurrences are no coincidence.

Star Tribune: Lynx to rest before beginning last leg of title quest

Sue Bird joins LaChina for the ‘Around the Rim’ podcast: WNBA Finals preview

.com: Finals Preview: (1) Minnesota Lynx vs. (2) Los Angeles Sparks 

2016 WNBA Finals between Minnesota Lynx and Los Angeles Sparks Tips off Sunday on ABC

 

From the Minnesota Spokesman-Review: WNBA’s Cooper has coached many of the best

Phoenix: Taurasi says Mercury need to get tougher inside to improve in 2017

Renee Brown to leave WNBA front-office job after season

Renee Brown has been at the WNBA since its inception. Twenty years after joining the league, the WNBA’s chief of basketball operations and player relations is stepping down this month.

“It’s probably one of the most difficult decisions I made in my life,” Brown told The Associated Press in a phone interview Monday. “I love the WNBA and was fortunate 20 years ago that Val [Ackerman], David [Stern], Russ [Granik] and Adam [Silver] allowed me to come in at the start of this league. Walking away, it’s sad but yet joyful at the same time.”

Thank you, Renee, for all you’ve done. And for always offering me a smile and a kind word when you saw me in the various stands we’ve inhabited over the years.

NCAA

Injury bug is hitting early.

Mizzou women’s basketball loses key starter Frericks for season

Nebraska: Forward Rachel Blackburn out for season

Mart’e Grays to miss 2016-17 DePaul women’s basketball season

Video/Cardinals: UofL Women’s basketball ready to start season

Terps: Despite six new faces, Maryland women’s basketball enters first practice well acquainted

Wildcats: Kentucky women finalize roster with two additional walk-ons

Texas A&M: Aggie women’s basketball team has plenty to replace

What a ride back up to the top: WKU Tabbed C-USA Women’s Basketball Preseason Favorite

You stay put: Women’s Basketball Head Coach Lisa Stockton Signs Contract Extension

It’s getting uglier at Baylor: Ex-Baylor Title IX coordinator: ‘The harder I worked, the more resistance’ I got

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Moving on, Holding on

So, yeah. Minnesota’s good.

Think about all the damage that the Minnesota Lynx can do with their big names. It almost seems like overkill, then, that one of their most productive players in Sunday’s 82-67 WNBA semifinal series-clinching victory over Phoenix is someone they picked up in a trade in February without expecting she’d make this big an impact.

“Sometimes getting lucky is good,” Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve said. “We didn’t necessarily know what we were getting in Natasha Howard.”

And, to be honest, Phoenix has too much talent to be that bad. Wonder if Sandy’s on her way out. Sadly, Penny’s on her way out: Tears for Taylor as she hangs up her sneakers and Penny Taylor’s stellar career comes to an end

The Mercury had used Taylor’s impending retirement as a rallying cry during the postseason, fighting to allow their teammate to play another day. However, as a one-point halftime deficit ballooned in the third quarter of Game 3, it appeared Taylor was the only one on the court for the Mercury who recognized the urgency of the moment. Despite languishing through a poor shooting night herself, the 35-year-old played with the fire of someone who did not want to see her career end, diving on the floor for loose balls and swooping in (as much as the athletically limited Taylor could swoop) for rebound opportunities.

That type of effort was emblematic of the kind of gritty, mentally tough, and fundamentally sound player she had always been. 

On the other side of the coin – whoa, who honestly thought a EDD-less Sky had a chance against the Sparks? Imani Boyette.

Give one to the rookie.

Chicago Sky rookie center Imani Boyette had her hands full Sunday afternoon at the Allstate Arena. At any given time, she was guarding, and being guarded by two of the best post players in the WNBA.

Former Naperville Central star Candace Parker, a center for the Los Angeles Sparks, is a two-time league most valuable player. Teammate Nneka Ogwumike, a power forward, is the current MVP.

Yet, Boyette, who is just getting her career started, played as if she was a savvy, decorated veteran in taking on the actual savvy, decorated veterans. 

In a gutty, hard-fought game, it was Sloot’s OmigodnNO-Ohitwentin-YEAH moment that sealed the deal for Chicago. They get another shot at LA, but it still not clear if Delle Donne with join’em on the court.

LA Times: Up next: Sparks have a chance to close out a playoff series against Chicago Sky in Game 4

NCAA

The Orange: Everything changes’: 6 takeaways from first Syracuse women’s basketball practice

A sure sign of the start of the Syracuse women’s basketball season used to be head coach Quentin Hillsman’s proclamation that the Orange was about to win every single game on its upcoming schedule.

To Hillsman, it was an appropriate expression of confidence in and expectations for his team. If he, and by extension his players, didn’t believe that, then what was the point of playing?

To everyone else on the outside looking in on a program that was improving but that was a long ways from UConn-type perfection, it was cause for a smile.

But it doesn’t seem so funny anymore.

 

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One and Done? Or Play on!

So, here we are, sitting, wondering if there’s anything in Phoenix and Chicago’s tank. I sure hope so….

Mechelle: Back on their home courts, can Mercury, Sky avoid elimination?

Minnesota and Los Angeles , the top two teams in the WNBA during the regular season, have looked every bit the best in the league during the WNBA semifinals. Both have 2-0 leads. Now it’s up to Phoenix and Chicago, with some help with their home crowds, to try to extend their respective series.

That’s going to be tough, because the Lynx and Sparks really have not left the door open for that to happen. The Mercury and Sky are going to have to force it open by taking the series leaders out of their comfort zones.

Arizona Central:

The Phoenix Mercury showed progress against the Minnesota Lynx in Game 2 of their WNBA semifinal series, losing by 10 points instead of 18 and outscoring the Lynx by a point over the final three quarters.

Even so, the Mercury are back in elimination game jeopardy going into Game 3 in the best-of-5 on Sunday and will remain so for the remainder of the series.

Swish Appeal: Phoenix in big trouble as Lynx take commanding 2-0 lead

Fox Sports: Lynx try to close out Mercury in Game 3 

Star Tribune: Maya Moore relishes the challenge of trying to sweep at Phoenix

Though she makes the game of basketball look easy, Maya Moore has a natural aversion to anything effortless. The Lynx forward prefers to see what she and her team can do under the most difficult of circumstances, which is why she was so excited to fly to Phoenix on Saturday.

The Lynx can sweep the Mercury out of the WNBA semifinals with a victory in Sunday’s Game 3 at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Despite a pair of double-digit triumphs at Xcel Energy Center, they understand how tough it is to deliver the knockout blow — especially against an opponent as gritty and gifted as Phoenix. 

NCAA

KU transfers thrilled to play at Allen Fieldhouse

After sitting out all of last season because of the NCAA transfer rule, Kansas women’s basketball guards Jessica Washington and McKenzie Calvert were more than happy to step back on the court at Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday.

For Washington, a transfer from North Carolina, it was her first time to play in front of the home crowd.

Ohio State: Cooper embracing role as lone senior

Although the freshmen haven’t registered an official game yet, McGuff said they are already benefitting from Cooper’s guidance.

“If they are out of place or not quite understanding what they are supposed to do, she can articulate to them what they are supposed to be doing and how they are supposed to be doing it in a way that they get,” McGuff said.

Down in the Bayou:

For some people, the number 13 is unlucky and to be avoided at all costs.

But for LSU women’s basketball coach Nikki Fargas, 13 is a number she loves mentioning, as much as she can.

After a year in which injuries followed the summertime dismissal of All-Southeastern Conference guard Danielle Ballard left the Lady Tigers at times with only six scholarship athletes, Fargas has a relative population explosion on her hands heading into the 2016-17 campaign.

In Colorado: Payne era tipping off for CU Buffs women’s basketball

It is the dawn of a new era of the University of Colorado women’s basketball team. And under the direction of new coach JR Payne, some shortcuts the Buffaloes may have gotten away with in the past no longer will be tolerable.

In that spirit, Payne instilled a preseason conditioning drill in which her players had to complete a one-mile run within a prescribed time. For guards, that mark was seven minutes. It was seven and a half for post players.

To her surprise, a few Buffaloes staggered in past the deadline. Under the new regime, falling short of such goals is not acceptable.

Illinois State:

While somewhat inevitable considering the previous season’s record, the Illinois State women’s basketball team won six more games in 2015-16.

Yet an 8-20 record that followed a 2-28 debacle is hardly reason for fourth-year Redbird coach Barb Smith to feel contented.

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Nothin’ like a little basketball interruptus!

That being said, the game wasn’t BAD. It just was, to quote David Byrne, “the same as the other game…same as the other game…”

Deja vu all over again in LA.

It kinda looks like we’ll get what we all thought we’d get (once the games actually started and we all ignored the GMs), but I sure as heck wish EDD was healthy and Phoenix would get it together, don’t you? Sparks and Lynx move within 1 win of WNBA Finals showdown

Next: Sparks’ Candace Parker at her peak as series shifts to Chicago
And-1: On cusp of WNBA Finals, Sparks fly
Rejuvenated Parker steers LA past falling Sky
Sparks make it look easy, cruise past Sky, 99-84, for 2-0 series lead

In the thick of a turbulent third quarter Friday night, when a bevy of Sparks mistakes gave the Chicago Sky a hint of life in Game 2 of the WNBA semifinals, one of the Sparks’ steadiest players was exactly that. 

Jantel Lavender does not start. She does not sink three-pointers or make attention-grabbing plays at the rim. 

But the 6-foot-4 center simply produces, almost without fail, and was key in the Sparks’ 99-84 win at Staples Center. 

Next: Lynx must be even better to close out series in Phoenix

She should have been happy, but that’s not the way newly named WNBA Coach of the Year Cheryl Reeve operates. Scanning a stat sheet on the way to the postgame news conference Friday, Reeve appeared puzzled, as if the numbers didn’t add up. But she couldn’t figure out why.

In a physical, long, brutal game that featured 54 fouls and 68 free throws, Reeve’s Lynx outlasted the Mercury 96-86 to take a 2-0 lead in their best-of-five semifinal.

Lynx a win from WNBA Finals after grinding one out against Mercury
Lynx: Thanks to ‘Mighty Mouses,’ Minnesota minimizes letdowns
Minnesota Lynx edge out Phoenix Mercury in foul-ridden Game 2
An imperfect win: Lynx need to clean up fouls, defense
Big cat: Lynx coach Reeve named WNBA coach of the year
League-best Lynx reap WNBA awards
Mercury in trouble as Lynx take commanding 2-0 lead

Yup: Offense Soaring This Postseason

Did you catch this? New campaign calls for end to ’empowerment ads,’ asks to be labeled ‘athletes’ not ‘female athletes’

WNBA stars and sisters Chiney Ogwumike of the Connecticut Sun and Nneka Ogwumike of the Los Angeles Sparks, star in a new NCAAcommercial that hits back at “empowerment” advertising. They say women and girls do not need “empowerment ads,” to show that they can be strong and accomplished athletes; they just are.

The new campaign, called “Done” points out that women have been succeeding in their own right all along and want to be known as “athletes,” not “female athletes.”

NCAA

Fitzpatrick’s Incredible Story Featured on CBS 3 in Philadelphia

Katie Fitzpatrick, a four-year member of the Mansfield University women’s basketball team, and her father Tom were featured on CBS 3 in Philadelphia during Wednesday night’s 11 o’clock news.
 
This past summer, Katie underwent surgery to remove part of her liver to save her ailing father’s life. The full story was the topic of the GoMounties.com feature story Fitzpatrick’s Greatest Assist in August.
 
The CBS 3 story can be viewed here: Father, Daughter Share Special Bond Over Life-Saving Transplant
 
Katie is currently student-teaching in Mansfield’s education department and is set to graduate this December. She ended her basketball career last season ranking fourth in program history in scoring with 1,301 career points.

A must-read article: San Diego Union Tribune: The real reason Beth Burns was fired at SDSU

Hirshman, perhaps unwittingly, also illuminated what this case was really about: That Burns, winning as much as she did, would never have been fired if she coached football or men’s basketball or any other Division I “revenue” sport.

Regardless how the legal maneuverings play out, important lessons can be culled from a $3.35 million judgment from what by all accounts was an educated and engaged jury following a month — a month — of testimony. SDSU would be wise to heed them instead of doing like Sterk did with journalists in Missouri last week and proclaiming, “I’d do it again.” Instead of getting petty and, say, downgrading the prospects of the eminently qualified Don Oberhelman, a former interim athletic director at SDSU whose testimony in the trial was largely favorable for Burns, in its current AD search.

Hitting bigotry where it hurts: The wallet. CIAA pulls championships, basketball could be next

Another tourism hit from House Bill 2 arrived Friday afternoon when the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association board moved eight of its 10 sports championships located in North Carolina from the state and left open the possibility of relocating its lucrative basketball tournament from Charlotte after 2017.

The CIAA men’s and women’s basketball tournament came to Charlotte in 2006, five months after Time Warner Cable Arena opened.

High School

History: 2016 Hall of Fame Class Inducted at Impressive Ceremony

It was said that the late Eleanor Dickinson Baker, of the class of 1936, would have averaged 45 points per game had today’s basketball rules been in effect in 1934, a year in which her 7-0 team was the state sectional champion, defeating Lindenhurst.

Her son, Dick Baker, said his mother, born in 1918 at Third House in Montauk, led Montauk’s junior high team to three successive undefeated seasons before coming to the high school.

“Can you imagine what travel was like in the 1930s for Montauk athletes to get back and forth, or for their families to attend games?” Baker asked. “The stretch across Napeague wasn’t paved at the time — it was a cinder road.”

More history: UMaine at Presque Isle hall of fame to induct three

Jeanette Morrill, who graduated from the school in 1974, enjoyed an outstanding career in volleyball, softball and basketball at UMPI.

The Greenville native accomplished that while majoring in physical education.

In 1976, Morrill was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension, a condition that carries high blood pressure from the arteries to the lungs. Morrill was given two years to live and was confined to an electric wheelchair and 24-hours of oxygen.

In spite of that, Morrill resumed her teaching career at Greenville High in 1982 and coached middle school girls basketball, varsity softball and girls soccer and JV girls basketball at the school. She retired from teaching in 1997.

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