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After their nice piece on Kansas powerhouse Emporia State, boom, they drop to #3 in the DII polls after a one-point loss against Central Missouri. It’s especially painful ’cause they were outscored 9-1 in the closing minutes of the game.

Lewis University (Ill) moves into first, Pittsburg State University (Kan) second. The Pitt State Gorillas. How can you not cheer for a team like that!?!?!

Granted, it’s been a while since I’ve had an opportunity to indulge in some DII scanning (ain’t doing laundry grand!), but it’s interesting to see that all but two teams have one loss.

BTW, here’s a story that might explain the sudden surge of women’s basketball coverage from the Gray Lady:

Before last Tuesday night, I had never heard the name Scott Cacciola. 

Twenty-four hours later, I’m not certain that I could have been any more excited at the notion of meeting him. Cacciola is in his second year of covering the New York Knicks basketball franchise for the New York Times.

Due to the Knicks’ dismal start (OK, with a 5-35 record at the moment and having won only once in their past 26 games, perhaps atrocious would be more appropriate), the NYT sports editors decided to have mercy on their beat writer and send him around the country to view winning basketball. They fielded hundreds of suggestions from readers and, through a collaboration of sorts, are picking each trip one game at a time.

So, for the next couple of months, he’s become a modern sports version of “On the Road” with Charles Kuralt.

And he started with the nation’s top-ranked program in NCAA Division II.

Lose, Knicks, lose! (Can you tell I moved from Boston to NYC?)

In the DIII poll, last year’s champeens, Farleigh Dickinson U – Florham (N.J) are going strong at 13-0. Wonder if their governor knows they exist? Perennial top-position teams lurk below: Thomas More College (KY) (love their headline, “Tomas Uses Big Second Half Run to Veto Presidents.” And forcing 43 turnovers against Thief college? Love it.), Amherst College, Washington University – St. Louis and University of St. Thomas, (MN). Lots and lots of familiar names fill out the ranks.

The Jeffs better be careful, though… the NY Times just wrote about them, though this time it’s Jere’, so maybe they’re safe: At Amherst, Division III Team With No. 1 Ambition

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and what a great trip. The landing, though, was a tad tough, what with having to jump deep back into work. What is it about taking a break seems to make work want to take it out on you…

So, about that championship game. Yah, it was a while ago, and ya, the final score says comfortable blowout, but it was a fun game, with Notre Dame showing a lot of heart (after a lot of nerves). I sure hope the ridiculousness between the two coaches/programs fades like so many family blowups.

Some of the good news: ratings.

Now, for those who are moaning, “oh, here we go again, UConn is “bad” for women’s basketball,” I simply say: don’t ignore what happened with the REST of the teams this past season. Lots of parity. Lots of young coaches. Next step: demand excellence from them. Raise expectations. Identify best practices. Stop complacency. Push for Title IX compliance. And hope for a little bit of luck and courage in the recruiting wars.

Case in point: From Mechelle –  A’JaWilson decision a big win for Staley – Nation’s top prospect averaged 35 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks as senior

....even though South Carolina was regarded as the favorite to land Wilson — a 6-foot-5 forward from the Gamecocks’ own backyard in Columbia, S.C. — the fact that she really did stay put is a big victory for coach Dawn Staley’s program.

It matters from a national perspective, as does the fact that UCLA has signed what’s considered the top-ranked recruiting class for 2014. The Bruins are also underdogs in women’s hoops that fans of the sport in general will root for to provide more diversity at the elite level of Division I.

I keep using terms like “fans of women’s basketball in general,” which might sound nebulous. But after so many years of following the sport, I think I have a pretty good handle on who they are.

Intriguing case in point: Diamond DeShields’ decision to transfer from North Carolina. Clearly, the actually reasons behind her move is still to be revealed, but it’s hard not to speculate (homesickness? looming NCAA sanctions?). Mechelle reflects on her interviews with Deshields this past season.

Remember when the news broke in May 2012 that four blue-chip juniors all decided to commit to North Carolina’s women’s basketball team?

Diamond DeShields was the point person in bringing them together, and it appeared to be a lottery-jackpot day for the Tar Heels. DeShields, Allisha Gray, Stephanie Mavunga and Jessica Washington — ranked third, eighth, 15th and 17th, respectively, in their 2013 recruiting class — were all headed to Chapel Hill, N.C.

What could go wrong?

Well, it might have crossed your mind that day — it did mine — that when a group of teens makes long-range plans to do something complicated together, it might go awry. Not being ageist; it’s just that kids are kids. We’ve all been there.

Good news for Purdue: Hamby, Bays on the mend.

Interesting news for a CSU team that had a resurgent season: Four women’s basketball players are transferring

I was saddened to hear the news of coach Joe Curl’s passing. Most within the basketball world knew of his health struggles. They forced him to step away from his position as Houston Cougars’ coach. He came into national prominence during the 2003-04 season, where he and three-time C-USA Player of the Year, Chandi Jones, led  the Cougars to the second round in the NCAA tourney and earned AP National Coach of the Year honors. I remember him smiling as he picked up the award, almost embarrassed at being surrounded by press and the “elite” of basketball — Alana Beard was the AP’s NPOY. 

I was not surprised by Terri Mitchell’s dismissal from Marquette — she never quite seemed to be able to break through within the recruiting ranks.  I wonder if she’ll thrive better on different soil. We shall see if the Anonymous Eagles’ impression (Marquette has decided that being middle of the road in team sports is no longer acceptable.) is correct.

The Bulldogs didn’t look far to find their new coach, appointing longtime assistant Lisa Fortier as Gonzaga’s next leader. She’s going to have to find some new assistants, though.  I don’t know about you, but if Kelly Graves can do in Oregon what Scott Rueck has done at Oregon State, the west coast will be wicked fun to watch. (Interesting that associate head coach Mark Campbell left the Beavers to join the Ducks.)

Congrats to Natasha Adair, who’s moved from the College of Charleston back to Georgetown. Here’s hoping she can grow a program that seems to have lost the ground that Terri Williams-Flournoy seemed to have gained. Does the athletic department triply give a hoot about women’s basketball?

I remember Maren Walseth from the first Final Four I attended (2000 in Philly). She’s now the head coach at North Dakota State University. Interesting tidbit: Walseth’s sister, Annika, played for NDSU during the 2007-08 season.    

Nice to see Yolanda Moore move up the ranks. She’s now head coach at  Southeastern Louisiana University. “Moore spent the 2013-14 season as the head coach at LSU Eunice. Taking over a program that had won 17 games combined in the previous two seasons, Moore led the Lady Bengals to a 26-3 overall record and the program’s first-ever Miss-Lou Conference championship.”

Keep Fresno State on your “watch list,” as they plucked Jaime White from Northern Colorado.

More on the “WTF list:: Women’s basketball player appeals K-State transfer denial

 Leticia Romero has known she wanted to transfer for several weeks, but she will have to wait a little longer to find out if Kansas State will grant her a release from its women’s basketball program.

Romero, a rising freshman from Las Palmas, Spain, decided she wanted to leave K-State after the Wildcats fired Deb Patterson, the coach she signed on to play for, but the athletic department denied her initial transfer request. On Wednesday afternoon, she took her case to an appeals committee led by K-State Vice President of Student Life Pat Bosco. As of Wednesday night, the committee had not informed Romero of its decision.

Fashion Week in Illinois: Illini women’s basketball first in country with new jerseys

In WNBA news, Nate ranks has his 2014 Draft recap: The big winners and great value drafts (Spoiler alert: Connecticut, New York and Seattle do well).

Don’t miss Swish Appeal’s other musings:

Take a listen to Dishin & Swishin’s 04/17/14 Podcast: Anne Donovan & Fred Williams discuss Connecticut and Tulsa’s draft picks and offseason moves

Have you read Griner’s book “In My Skin” yet? Did you read Kate Fagan’s piece on Griner: Held Up n Customs: Live in China Gave Brittney More Than She Bargained For. 

THE NUMBER OF moving obstacles at a busy intersection in China can feel paralyzing for a pedestrian. None of the cars, mopeds or bikes appears to be following the traffic laws, which makes stepping off the curb a game of chance, like real-life Frogger.

And Brittney Griner is about to step off the curb.

“I’ve been hit once,” she says, seemingly unfazed at a busy corner in Zhejiang. “A moped ran into me from behind, but it wasn’t going that fast. It was my fault. I was trying to avoid traffic.”

Wait … what? Trying to avoid traffic is bad? “Totally wrong here,” Griner says. “You can’t stop walking. If you’re in motion, they’ll flow around you. It’s when you stop, when you freeze, that it becomes dangerous.”

Brittney Griner talks about her experience in China to ESPN’s Kate Fagan

In other news, Pokey is optimistic surgery won’t stop Fowles (as in, back mid-season?)

Welcome to Chicago, Markeisha Gatling. And be careful!

It’s been tough sledding for Chicago Sky centers lately.

Gatling, a 6-foot-5 rookie center out of North Carolina State, was selected by the Sky Monday with the 10th pick in the WNBA Draft.

What seemed at the time to be a rather nondescript addition, compared to last year’s blockbuster selection of superstar forward and eventual rookie of the year Elena Delle Donne, could now be a key piece to the puzzle for the Sky, which opens its season on May 16 with a home game against the Indiana Fever.

Gatling could be counted on heavily. And right away.

As a counter to the seemingly never ending “Will the W fail” articles: For The WNBA, Jersey Sponsorships Signal Corporate And Community Support

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Thank you, Tina

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her last. 

From Jayda:

In May, during the Storm’s media day, Tina Thompson was asked what’s new.

She paused for a long time before saying she’d like to learn to play tennis. She also likes to golf, but doesn’t have time. And, oh, she’d like to learn to sew more than the drapes she stitched for her home in Houston.

As training camp wore on and her 17th WNBA season began, it was becoming clear to her. It was time to retire and make time for other interests.

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From the .com, where they continue the “Three to See” theme, they also have have Prospect Files and Q&As:

Bone:

When did you know you wanted to be a professional basketball player? And, given that dream, when did you realize that you had a legitimate shot of doing so? 
I knew I wanted to play professional basketball when I watched the Houston Comets win four consecutive championships, and I was at all four of them. I knew I had a legitimate shot at being a professional when I went overseas for the first time to France and played international basketball at the age of 16. I played against superior talent and several of the players from foreign countries were going pro. I was able to do well in that environment and realized that I could play this game professionally.

Delle Donne:

What do you expect to be some of the biggest challenges or adjustments at the next level?
Defending the guard spot. I play this spot on offense and need to be able to defend this spot on the defensive end.

Faris:

What do you expect to be some of the biggest challenges or adjustments at the next level?
With each new level the competition gets tougher and tougher. Players become smarter and stronger than they were in college. Just as I learned when I got to college, I will have to learn to adjust again in the WNBA.

Hawkins:

What strengths, qualities or skills will be able to bring to a WNBA team?
Relentless rebounding ability; the ability to run the floor, the ability to shoot the midrange to 3-point range.

Rogers:

When did you know you wanted to be a professional basketball player? And, given that dream, when did you realize that you had a legitimate shot of doing so? 
When I won Rookie of the Year for the Big East and I was sitting on that podium with soon to be professional players Maya Moore and Tina Charles.

Young:

When were you introduced to the game of basketball?
Sophomore year in high school

Sue and Richard l’Alien speak in Mike Peden’s: After top three, WNBA Draft a top-heavy toss up

“Previous drafts show that (Pokey) Chatman and Chicago have been influenced by NCAA tournaments,” Cohen said. “Chatman is very hands on and picky with the way her guards play, seeing as Vandersloot has had her growing pains.”

However, the Sky suffered migraines after Epiphanny Prince was sidelined with a broken foot. Without her offense, opponents harassed Fowles, quashing a promising start to knock Chicago out of playoff contention.

“Delle Donne is so skilled. She represents the type of player you have to be now,” Favor said. “She has the greatest potential to succeed.”

The Hartford Courant adds: Top 3 Picks Predictable, So Suspense Starts With No. 4

There is a running joke about Monday’s 2013 WNBA Draft. It’s the one about the how one draft can suddenly resemble two.

“The joke around here is that I have the first pick in the other draft,” said Mike Thibault, the coach and GM of theWashington Mystics and owner of the fourth selection. “I tried to come up with creative ways to get one of the three, but none of it worked.”

Mike Brown at the Tulsa World is thinking: Shock could land Skylar Diggins in Monday’s WNBA draft

Nate reminds folks that Tianna Hawkins leads this year’s group of scoring interior forwards

Roger Cleaveland at the Republican-American warns: Sun not in position to draft impact player

From Virginia’s Daily Press, David Teel has Suffolk product Sugar Rodgers awaits Monday’s WNBA draft

Sugar Rodgers set Georgetown career records for points and steals. She was the nation’s No. 4 scorer this season and exited the college game with a 42-point epic in the Big East tournament.

So it’s no surprise to hear Mike Thibault, the Washington Mystics‘ coach and general manager, say Rodgers is among the top four perimeter players available in Monday’s WNBA draft. And it’s no surprise to read mock drafts — yes, such shenanigans have trickled down to professional women’s basketball — that project Rodgers as a top-10 lock, a perhaps a top-five selection.

Yet Thibault, whose team owns the No. 4 pick, has some reservations about Rodgers, a 5-foot-11 guard from Suffolk’s King’s Fork High.

The writer who makes me wish I were an Ohio State fan wonders: Ex-Buckeye Hill should go early, but to which team?

“She is not afraid,” said Laimbeer, who has the fifth and seventh first-round picks. “I think that’s the thing. She will attack the basket at will and can get to the free-throw line. She creates contact. Those are good characteristics to get to the next level. We’ve definitely eyeballed her.”

Speaking of Ohio State, the job that no one seems to want (According to a message from Wendy Parker on Mike Flynn’s Twitter page, Jeff Walz said this about the Ohio State job rumors: “The only person who has offered me a job job is Geno at his restaurant.”), here’s something on the Search for the Next OSU Women’s Basketball Coach: A Progress Report

Some interesting discussion of skill building in the women’s game: Nebraska’s Connie Yori: Game is ‘overcoached, undertaught’

Nebraska women’s basketball coach Connie Yori recalls a telling conversation with a seventh-grade girl who was on hand for one of Yori’s camps a few summers ago.

Yori told the girl that she hopes the camp is a good experience for her, and that she learns a lot.

“She said, ‘I played 100 games this summer,'” Yori said. “In other words, she thought she really didn’t need to work on her (individual) skills. Here’s a kid playing all these games and basically thinking she has it all figured out.”

Perhaps what Nebraska men’s basketball coach Tim Miles says about youth boys basketball — that it has become game-heavy and skill-light — also applies to the girls game.

Said Yori: “I’m not saying this about all kids, but there are some kids who are just not working on their individual skills enough. So, therefore, it isn’t as commonplace for people to make open shots.”

And finally, who says players are the only ones who can do videos? Check out this rockin’ ‘tube by the Trainers. (I mean, ATHLETIC Trainers – get it right, get it right).

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Just How Good Are the Minnesota Lynx?

Over the summer months, most of the attention when it comes to basketball is on the NBA Playoffs, the NBA Draft and, this summer, the Olympics.

The WNBA doesn’t get too much media love, though it should. And one team in particular is deserving of attention: the Minnesota Lynx.

The Lynx keep making their case,  dispatching the hobbled Merc by 16 and matching the Houston Comets‘ 1998 20-1 start. Tim writes: Minnesota Lynx won’t be sweating their 35-day Olympic break. Dishin’ and Swishin’ piles on: Are the Lynx a Budding Dynasty w/ Maya, Reeve

The Sparks continue to stumble, this time against San Antonio. Stephen writes: Silver Stars Fighting For Respect…Again – San Antonio is annually overlooked, but they’re used to having to prove themselves.

The San Antonio Silver Stars feel as if they are being overlooked by WNBA fans and the media that covers the league. After all, as of today, they do stand as the number three seed in the Western Conference.

“With fans and media, it feels like no matter what we do, we have to prove ourselves over and over every year,” said Sophia Young. “We get almost taken advantage of when stuff happens, even in games where we get a call and they do something and they don’t get a call for it. Every year, we get rated at the bottom of the list and every year we make the playoffs. We’ve gotten so used to it that it doesn’t matter anymore. We just have to go out there, play and prove ourselves again every year.”

The FTC Publications Newswire Daily (?) is Tracking The MVP Race – WNBA

Mechelle writes about the return of January (which, considering how hot it is in NYC, Januart returning would be would be nice).

It’s never wise to get overconfident, but the Fever have reason to feel good about making their eighth consecutive playoff appearance come September.

January is eager to experience it again. Last year, she played in just 10 games before suffering a torn right ACL. She missed the rest of the season — and the Fever missed her.

“Nothing against any of our other guards, but it helps a lot. It’s so nice to have Bri back on the court,” veteran teammate Tamika Catchings said. “Just her being able to attack and get to the basket when she wants to opens it up for everybody else.”

A WATN? from ladyswish:

Former VCU star Quanitra Hollingsworth scored 10 points despite being in foul trouble to help Turkey upend Japan 65-49 in qualifying tournament action and move to within one victory of securing a bid to the London Olympics.

The Mi/chelles are back: WNBA News & Notes

Mechelle chats and answers a question about the leading Dive contenders:

Blake Whitney (Washington, D.C.): So, the Mystics are terrible. Think they’ll fire Trudi during the season? And, more importantly, do you think that would even help?

Mechelle Voepel: Trudi Lacey was Sheila Johnson’s hand-picked choice after the dismantling of the Mystics’ successful duo of Julie Plank-Angela Taylor following the 2010 season. Of course, we remember that Johnson also voiced her “belief” in Lacey with the answer of “Who knows?” when asked if she really believed TL could be successful. The Mystics are reaping what they sowed. Do I think a coaching change would help? At this point, I’m not sure how it could hurt.

And the espnW continues its WTF programing. I mean, if I wrote the following, what do you think the conclusion would be?

Since the league launched expanded to smaller markets, I have, at various times, channel surfed and stopped, parachuting in mid-game, hoping to be immediately wowed. I once rode a bus from Los Angeles to Las Vegas to watch a former teammate in a preseason game for the Lakers. (I left early in the second half to play blackjack, but perhaps that decision says more about me than the NBA.) All told, I probably watched the equivalent of one full game.

I am the target audience, yet I had never given a dime, or an evening of my attention, to support the men’s professional league of the game I love.

So, do you think at the end of my experience I’ll end up loving the NBA? As one of the ‘kellians put it:

I guess we are celebrating the anniversary of Title 9 by letting female writers write the same article male writers have been writing for years. Yay progress

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Thompson.

Looking forward to see Tina play this Sunday in Tulsa.

As a Lib fan, Houston Comet Tina used to strike terror into my heart. Sure, Coop and Swoopes were the firecrackers and Kim was the fuse (for some reason, my image for Tammy is the hook — you know that thing that reaches out room off-stage to pull you out of the spotlight, just when you thought you were getting so hot?).. but Tina was the smoothly swung baseball bat. Boom! and you were out like a light.

I’ve mentioned this before, but I truly fell for Tina during the Athens Olympics. I got to sit behind coaches Roy Williams and Larry Brown during the gold medal game, and when Tina hit that key shot from the the corner, both of them jumped out of their seats. Boom!

But it was Tina at the gold medal ceremony that got me. What a picture — the essence of what means to represent your country, and the perfect bookend to Dawn carrying the flag in the Opening Ceremonies.

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From Donald Barnat at SportsPage Magazine: Swoopes Speaks!

Former Houston Comets forward and WNBA superstar Sheryl Swoopes was among the many basketball luminaries who showed up to work with some 500 local youngsters at the NBA/WNBA FIT All-Star Youth Celebration at the Expo Center in Los Angeles this past Thursday night. The four-time WNBA champion and three-time league MVP sat down with SportsPageMagazine.com to answer a few questions about her glory days with the Comets, the importance of being physically fit, and just what she’s been up to for the last three years.

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Colgate University!

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Fran Harris. But hey, she’s still in the running for GMA’s new advice guru

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Top 20: Tina Thompson, no. 17 – The definitive ranking of the WNBA’s best players.

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Fool me twice? Shame on me.

Ah, the joys of playing a Division II team in exhibition. Second stunner TWU upsets UNT again in exhibition

Staying with the Texas theme, Gary Blair is sad the Houston Comets folded and the Chronicle’s onto the “Next Big Thing.” Basketball’s latest star earns colleges’ notice — even at 14

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(Did we know this?) Clemson! (And a “Safe Birth” shout out to coach Coleman).

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silence?

Mechelle on Swoopes: Sheryl Swoopes still waiting for farewell

Sheryl Swoopes doesn’t want to sound angry. She’s past that, she says. And besides, what’s the point?

But the problem is, it does bother her. Swoopes, one of the founding players of the WNBA along with Lisa Leslie and Rebecca Lobo, has never gotten her fond farewell from the league.

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Clemson!

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So, why wouldn’t you have a link to the transcript of the chat with WNBA player Penny and women’s basketball journalist Mechelle on the, you know, front page of the ESPN Women’s Basketball page?

Doesn’t that seem like a common sense/business sense kind of action? I mean, it’s not like you’re throwing up a ton of new content every day, now, is it?

Speaking of the chats, thanks for the good memory, MV:

kevin (macon ga) It was 11 years ago today that Kim Perrot passed away. What’s your favorite memory of her?

Mechelle Voepel Actually, it’s not of her playing. It may seem strange, but it’s of seeing her in the arena hallway in Houston, leaving after a game. I can’t even remember specifically what year it was. She was just smiling and bouncy, like a little kid who loved to play so much that she couldn’t wait until the next time she was on court. I remember thinking at the time that she seemed so young and buoyant … so alive. And honestly, every time someone mentions her, I get that same image in my mind of her smiling after the game.

Note the day/time change for her next chat: Tues. 1pm.

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(And Stick wrote about’em?) From the Houston Chronicle: Former Come Cooper-Dyke reflects on path to Hall

Like the franchise for which she played during those four straight championship seasons, Cynthia Cooper-Dyke flashed upon the local scene for a few shining moments — and then was gone.

The difference is, unlike those Comets, who folded in 2008, Cooper-Dyke will be immortalized in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, the sport’s most sacred shrine.

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Tina Thompson Q&A

Tina Thompson-Lisa Leslie comparison

Tina Thompson photo gallery

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A W.N.B.A. Pioneer Keeps On Scoring

Thompson has many rituals, as she calls them, right down to her signature lipstick for games. But there is one game-day ritual of hers that rises above the others, and that is putting the ball in the basket. Thompson, 35, a 6-foot-2 forward and nine-time All-Star, is the last player standing from the inaugural W.N.B.A. season, in 1997. And she is on the verge of becoming the top career scorer in the league.

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From Michelle at Fanhouse: Thompson’s WNBA Legacy Unparalleled

Tina Thompson’s name has never blazed at the top of the women’s basketball marquee.

She should blame the company she keeps.

I was lucky enough to sit behind Larry Brown and Roy Williams during the Athens Australia/USA gold medal match up. They were so focused and respectful of the game.

If you remember, it was a very tight game — Dawn was HUGE.  But, near the end, Tina hit a key turnaround baseline jumper that got both coaches up out of their seats.

I love this shot of Tina during the medal ceremony. (#2)

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Thank you, Frank Svpek from the Republican who informs me that Incoming inductee Cynthia Cooper visits Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame

She was walking down a street in New York City when a man got out of a taxi cab and his jaw dropped.

“You’re Cynthia Cooper,” the man said. “Man, you’ve got game and I would never challenge you.”

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