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First and foremost, a huge shout out to Barb Stevens and her Bentley University team. Not only did they earn the Division II crown, they went undefeated, AND they came back from 9 down with less than six minutes to go.

With her team down nine points with 51⁄2 minutes left in the NCAA Division 2 championship game, Bentley coach Barbara Stevens allowed herself a moment of consolation.

“I had a fleeting thought looking up at the clock at one point where I said, ‘OK, it’s been a good season,’ ” Stevens said.

It was about to get much, much better.

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“We looked at each other with six minutes left and knew we had to give it everything we had,” grad student Courtney Finn said. “We had our backs against the wall and really had nothing to lose down nine points. We had six minutes left in our careers and we had to give it everything we had.”

That’s  No. 917 for coach Stevens – and her first national championship.

“I can’t tell you what a tremendous ride this has been for our coaching staff and the Bentley community,” said Stevens. “What a ride for these young ladies and proud of them doesn’t begin to describe how I feel. We’ve gone through so much together and they are truly champions.”

From John Dudley at the Erie-Times News:

The banner above Barbara Stevens in Bentley’s small sea of blue Friday night at Erie Insurance Arena read “Finished Business.”

Some business takes longer to finish.

Stevens, Division II women’s basketball’s winningest coach, finally won a title on her second try 37 seasons into what’s already been a Hall of Fame career.

The last 28 of those seasons have been with the Falcons, with whom she’s been to nine NCAA semifinals, two finals and, now, one mountaintop.

Not such good news for two coaches: Rhode Island is looking for a new leader, as is Minnesota. Rhodie looking of a new boss was not surprising, but for some, Borton’s firing was. Not for those around the program, though.

Jonathan Hawthorne writes: Paul Westhead’s time with Oregon women’s basketball inconsistent but impactful

The team, who was saddened by the news of his departure from Eugene, clearly enjoyed his style of play and mentorship.

“To play for a coach like him, who’s coached NBA players and won championships, it’s probably the highlight of my career because he has taught me so much,” Jillian Alleyne said after the game. “He taught me ultimately to believe in myself, that I can be any kind of player I want to be. So it’s been a great honor and a great pleasure.”

Speaking of coaches in unhappy situations, Kate Fagan dives into the rabbit hole that is the she said/she said of BU’s Kelly Greenberg: Two Distinct Portraits of Greenberg

Kristen Sims, a former Boston University women’s basketball player, remembers how head coach Kelly Greenberg supported her unconditionally before and after her knee surgery, taking Sims to doctor’s appointments and constantly checking in to see whether she needed anything.

Jacy Schulz, another former BU player, remembers the time she entered Greenberg’s office and the coach placed a box of Kleenex on the desk to signal what was to come. “She said I was a waste of life, and that I should never have been born,” Schulz told espnW.com.

Both Sims and Schulz speak with the conviction that comes from personal experience. This is exactly how it happened for me. And according to more than a dozen interviews conducted with former BU players, each of the above interactions reflects the dramatically divergent experiences of the young women who have played for Greenberg over the years.

Joan Venocchi at the Boston Globe writes: A bully, or a booster

Who’s the real Kelly Greenberg?

The two sides to her story sound like parallel worlds of a college hoops universe.

From Allie Grasgreen at Inside Higher Ed: Equal Opportunity Bullying

It’s clear that bullying and emotional abuse by coaches of any gender has deep roots. But several complaints and lawsuits in recent months focused more attention on behavior that people would historically expect to see more from men.

In WNBA news:

You stay put:  Atlanta Dream re-signs All-Star C Erika de Souza after career-best season

You also stay put: Quigley & Warley Re-sign with Chicago and Sun Sign Hightower, Greene

You go back: Katie Douglas leaving Fever as for Sun

You come here: Fever announce signing of Marissa Coleman and Sky sign free-agent forward Breland

Will you come here? Phoenix Mercury today acquired the rights to Polish center Ewelina Kobryn from the Seattle Storm in exchange for forward Charde Houston

And yah, WNBA Makes If Official: 2014 Draft At Mohegan Sun On April 14

WATN? Kelly Mazzante: Mazzante’s return to Hershey for state finals brought back a lot of memories; and not all were good-The former Montoursville High and Penn State star worked the state basketball finals for PCN.

WATN? Keri Chaconas: Former WNBA player settles in Huntersville

Holm grew up in northern Virginia, where she began playing basketball at a young age. Her prowess in the sport as a prep player landed her a scholarship at George Mason, her home school, in 1992.

She took advantage of the opportunity.

While Holm didn’t get a chance to play in an NCAA tournament game during her time with the Patriots, she almost single-handedly vaulted George Mason into a contender for the Colonial Athletic Association title.

Holm’s success as a 3-point shooter – her 218 treys have her tops in school history – helped drive George Mason to the CAA championship game in 1994, where the Patriots fell to powerhouse Old Dominion and their star freshman Ticha Penicheiro, 78-61.

From the AP’s Paul Newberrry: Szabados inspiring but women deserve more

 

But the fact that Szabados’ only real playing option after Canada’s thrilling victory was to sign on with the low-level Southern Professional Hockey League shows just how far women’s sports still lags behind, despite all the progress in the last four decades under Title IX.

At the very least, Szabados and so many other female athletes deserve leagues of their own.

Outside of the WNBA, there’s virtually no conduit for women to make a decent wage in North American team sports after their high school and college careers are over. That’s why Szabados eagerly joined the SPHL for a few games, even though some viewed it as nothing more than a publicity stunt for a team averaging less than 3,000 fans a game. That’s why Jen Welter – all 5-foot-2, 130 pounds of her – is playing in a men’s football league, taking on guys more than twice her size.

They have no choice, their options are limited.

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…and Graham having to count to 10 several times…. (Saint Mary’s beats Gonzaga and gains 5 points in AP voting. Arkansas beats Miss. Valley St. and gains 3 points. Sure, that makes sense.) I know I don’t get all het up about them because it’s such a pain to be one of the people who votes in these polls….if you take that position seriously. Which means you should be watching a LOT of games and/or reading a lot of game reports. Which, honestly, in many cases ain’t gonna happen ’cause you’re too busy coaching or writing.

But, even if I don’t get all het up about it, others do and some argue “polls mean nothing until after the season is over,” there’s no doubt that being ranked can be a huge benchmark for a program and a measure of validation for the coaches and players.

So, I understand why Graham is cranky.

In a week where St. Mary’s Danielle Mauldin is ESPN’s player of week (teammate  Jackie Nared was also nominated) , Graham writes: West Coast Conference flexes its muscle

It took Gonzaga winning for a lot of people in women’s basketball to notice the West Coast Conference. A Gonzaga loss should help people see how much the league has grown.

If you aren’t keeping an eye on the WCC, you’re missing a good show.

He also adds: Undefeated teams? Unanswered questions (Arkansas, Indiana, Oklahoma St.)

The AP Top 25 offers an interesting check this week on the value of scheduling. After its win against Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s should be a strong contender to break into the rankings, likely at the expense of the team it beat. On the other hand, the Gaels didn’t attract a single vote a week ago. Arizona State and Arkansas, the unranked teams with the most votes in the most recent poll, didn’t hurt their cases in the abbreviated week, so will one of those two replace Gonzaga instead?

Sweet win for Kelsey’s Badgers: Missed chances, UW sink Phoenix

This one might hurt for a while.

The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay women’s basketball team appeared headed for a big win over in-state rival Wisconsin on Monday night, only to watch Badgers guard Nicole Bauman hit a 35-foot bank shot with 0.4 seconds left to tie the game.

Wisconsin put the finishing touches on its dramatic comeback in overtime, escaping with an improbable 65-61 win in front of 4,931 fans at the Kohl Center.

Ditto for ASU:

No. 24 Arizona State women’s basketball validated its return to the national rankings for the first time in four years with a hard-fought 63-60 win Monday night over No. 20 Syracuse.

Says Jeff Metcalfe: ASU women’s basketball looking good in unproven Pac-12

The good news locally is that No. 25 Arizona State is the revelation of Pac-12 women’s basketball so far.

The Pac-12 as a whole, though, still has somewhat of an unproven feel with the full start of conference play beginning Friday. Wins such as No. 4 Stanford over No. 5 Tennessee, ASU over No. 10 North Carolina and unranked Washington State over No. 18 Nebraska and the scare Oregon State threw into No. 2 Notre Dame before losing 70-58 Sunday make statement. But a combined 8-23 record vs. Sagarin top-50 teams sends the opposite message.

VCU’s having a nice start to the season.

So, keep an eye on Jan 2 – that’s when 13-0 San Diego takes on 12-1 Saint Mary’s.

And keep an eye on Jan 5 and Jan 9th – that’s when 13-1 NC State takes on Syracuse and North Carolina.

And keep an eye on January 16th – that’s when 13-1 Mississippi State takes on Tennessee.

So, who’s been eating cupcakes? Mechelle & Michelle: Conference Play Begins (BTW, American Conf. play has already started.)

Michelle also asks: Have They Met Expectations?

Did you catch espnW’s Photos of the Year?

BTW, not only was she good for the league, but Griner was good for writers. She ranks high on Swish Appeal’s list. And, congrats to Kate Fagan, whose piece on BG, “Owning the Middle,” earned her a place on some “Best of 2013″ lists. You might want to check out Fagan’s “Bo’13” list.

For my own year-end list, though, I’m sharing some of the best sports pieces written by women (at least the ones I’ve read and enjoyed), along with a few non-sports stories, too. I’m singling out female writers because not enough female writers get singled out. Part of this is because, statistically speaking, there are so many more men writing about sports. But I also believe there tends to be more showmanship — morelook at me, I’m writing — on the part of the male writers who frequently tout each other’s work on social media. The lopsided nature of most of these lists is because sports media is still a boy’s club. Very few women work in executive, decision-making roles on the editorial side, so cultivating and growing female voices is still less of a priority than it should be, as is attaching female writers to impactful, meaningful topics — and not just stories about women or subjects that need a “softer” touch.

All “best of” lists should be taken with a grain of salt, obviously, because one person’s great read is another person’s snoozefest. The problem is, the paucity of women on these lists, year in and year out, delivers a specific message to young female sportswriters: Yes, the door is open to you, but just barely.

Oh, yeah – and here’s  New Year’s Resolution for the Three to See: Be seen on court, not by tweet.

WATN? Mazzante set to announce her retirement

Kelly Mazzante has traveled the world playing basketball. The Montoursville legend became the Big 10’s all-time leading scorer for men and women at Penn State before winning two WNBA world championships and playing well throughout Europe.

Wherever she has been, Mazzante has never forgotten her home. She has worn uniforms in the WNBA, Slovakia, Russia, Hungary and Italy, but Mazzante always has been, and always will, be a Montoursville girl.

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Mazzante redux?

That’s what the Collegian’s Jake Kaplan is thinkin’: Lucas’ rookie season comparable to Mazzante’s

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lot of running and clubbing and cruising and romping and mauling and ripping and whipping and season high-ing.

DCBC watched the Tiger Taming and C&R tracked the Cardinal.

Some escaped, in spite of a serious case of fumble fingers (28 TOs!). Some escaped in OT.

Some proved they were Monty Python fans (“I’m not dead yet!”)

As for “other” teams:

Coach Stockon’s Green Wave ran their C-USA record to 4-0 with a 30-pt victory over Marshall. (Did anyone catch Tulane on TV last week? FUN team to watch!)

Wonder if they need to watch out for Houston, who’s also 4-0.

She’s baaaaaak! Drey Mingo goes double-double on Northwestern, securing a (101st for Versyp) Purdue win.

A big win for Penn State (83-62) puts them at 4-1 in the Big 10 (and yes, it’s weird that Illinois’ Penn had a double-double) (And yes, Lucas snapped Mazzante’s record of freshman threes.)

Swish! Drexel uses a last-second three to topple William & Mary 59-58.

Are the Lady Bears (Mo) becoming relevant again? They’re 5-1 in the MVC.

Don’t look now, but Army is 3-0 in Patriot League play (and have won five straight).

Marist rules the MAAC. So what’s new?

Middle Tennessee still rules the Sun Belt — but it was close against Arkansas State.

Old Dominion over Delaware. That’s #599 for Wendy Larry. (Oh, and the ODU SID peeps do a great job keeping up with their alums. Check out Former Lady Monarch’s Pen is as Mighty as Her Jump Shot and Nancy Lieberman’s Historic Debut.)

Coach Boyle is at a loss, and so are her Cal Bears.

Didja catch Coop’s UNC-Wilmington team squeeze out a win over Hofstra? (They’re now 4-1 in the CAA.)

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