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


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.
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.


“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?”


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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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.



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


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


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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