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besides my to do lists for work….

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First, I take a break from work (yes, it was a looooong day) and walk over to the Garden to yell for my team against Liberty-West. And then I realize I have to yell AT my team to “GUARD THAT #7 PERSON!” (Jia Perkins, who is lighting it up this season — or is it just against NY?).

The first half was a heck of a lot of fun, with both teams hitting shots and playing little, if any defense. And then *cue the horror music* came the third period. Lordy, the Lib are awful on defense. They’re slow to close out on the perimeter shooters (no speed, no willingness to get over/through screens) and have no defensive smarts or communication in the paint. Just give-and-go, back-door’em to death, y’all.

Which is exactly what San Antonio did. But Billie Jean King was there, so that was a good thing…

Kayla McBride looks like a seasoned vet. Her intensity is driven into the court, not the stands. We’ll see how she does once the WNBA folks get real W game tape on her, but she’s quick, fast and fearless.

Then Kia (who is trying to make a liar outta me (it’s a twitter thing)) leads the Mystics over the Sun.

THEN the still Catch-less Fever rally from 16 down to defeat the ‘stics.

Then TULSA whips Phoenix and gets their first win of the season. (Dish ‘n Swish on Digg)

Then SEATTLE trips up Minnesota, giving the Lynx their first loss of the season.

Then LA wakes up and gives Chicago their first thumping of the season.

(I fly to Minnesota to present at a conference, where the Lynx aren’t, but I DO meet a first-year season ticket holder while attending a Claudia Schmidt concert.)

Then Atlanta gives Chicago their SECOND thumping of the season.

Then Alex Bentley (!) leads Connecticut over a tired Indiana Fever.

Then Phoenix outscored San Antonio 14-2 in the second overtime to secure the win.

Don’t know about you, but I’m POOPED. (Could be that I’m sleeping in the wrong time zone.) I guess the lesson is: Buckle up! It’s going to be a bumpy ride this WNBA season. And maybe it’s RICHARD’s turn to carry the WHB jinx: Lynx And Sky Overcome Obstacles To Start Strong In WNBA, Plus Ups And Downs From Around The League

Oh, and SWEET!

 

 

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drop me a note, ‘kay?

I mean, geez:

Spare Parts Seattle (‘ello LJ!) takes down Will This Road Trip Ever End Indiana.

“(Tina’s) play tonight is just inspiring,” Storm coach Brian Agler said. “If you can’t sit there and think about what she’s getting done at her age – the minutes she’s playing, hitting big shots, making big plays and guarding one of the better players in the league in (Tamika) Catchings, it’s hard not to really compete when you’re on the floor with her.”

Spare Parts (2) San Antonio takes down Not Quite New Look Phoenix.

“(Robinson is) just evolving into a player this year with the loss of Becky (Hammon) and Sophia (Young) where we have got to play through her,” Hughes said. “And playing through her takes different forms. It takes scoring, but it also takes her facility to set up people and that arc that she is working on was really important today.”

Coach of the Year Candidate Washington smoosh the This Wasn’t the Season Bill was Hoping For New York.

Hey, at least we held off the collapse until the fourth quarter.

Tierra Ruffin-Pratt looked like she heard the scurrilous rumors that her classmates had passed her in the rookie rankings, and was determined to take back her place as the most surprising success of the class of 2013. She shook Katie Smith off her on defense repeatedly to get open jumpers, and she was fighting for rebounds every chance she got. She was very physical, and paid the price for it.. (Katie got in a pretty good hit on her, too. Katie is a Bad Girl, after all.) Kia Vaughn (who actually started the second half) threw her body around like nobody’s business, setting screens and picks and boxing out viciously. We kept throwing her passes. She doesn’t even go here anymore! She was strong on the inside. Tayler Hill played briefly, and it was amusing to watch the young Buckeye going up against the old Buckeye when she was matched with Katie Smith, but amusement value was all she provided. Nadirah McKenith looked solid but unremarkable. Emma Meesseman went hard after the ball, but her judgment was not always the best. She’ll learn. And she’ll be scary when she does.

Lose by a Little Get Revenge by a  Lot Atlanta stomps Can’t Quite Get it Together Connecticut.

Tall Person In the Middle Tulsa trumps Tall Person Missing in the Middle Minnesota. In Minnesota.

Liz Cambage had 27 points and eight rebounds as the Shock broke a 14-game losing streak against the Lynx and posted the biggest franchise win – home or away – since moving to Tulsa in 2010. 

“I think it signifies a real sign of growth for this team,” said guard Candice Wiggins, a five-year Lynx standout before coming to Tulsa in an offseason trade.

Yup, the next few weeks will be miiiiighty interesting. LA is looming (Sue Favor sends this link: Red hot Sparks put away injury-depleted Fever, 94-72), Atlanta is dreaming a Lyttle, and the #3 and #4 spots are up for grabs in both conferences. Read all about it at L’Alien!

A little high school history out of Bradenton, Florida: Southeast’s first girls basketball state champions stand alone

Those Lady Noles were an up-tempo team that epitomized the run-and-gun label and trapped all over the court. In a victory over Bayshore, Southeast scored 106 points. They had speed and athleticism and a big front line.

“We pressed the heck out of people and ran kind of a like a run-and-jump defense,” says Smith, who now works in the medical profession as a salesperson. “Olivia was an amazing person, and our inside force and could move well. Her sister (Christella) came off the bench, and she was big. Loretta was amazingly fast, smart and sassy. She was gifted, and Coach Narbut made us special.”

Sad news out of Georgia: Pat Rivers, the first girls basketball coach to bring a state title to Augusta, died Saturday morning.

“She pushed us a lot. She motivated us. She made us work harder,” said Natasha Reid, captain of the 1997 team who now works as a special education teacher at East Central Regional Hospital.

“I tried to be laid back, but she pushed me to be a leader. I didn’t see that back then. I’m glad she did.”

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via HoopGurlz: Former Exodus players Epiphanny Prince and Kia Vaughn are taking the lead for raising funds to cover the costs of a funeral service:

Apache Paschall dedicated his life to NYC girls basketball and had a profound effect on many. Please help us raise the money necessary to have a funeral service that reflects our collective love and thanks. In return for your donation, your name will be featured at the service. Any funds remaining after funeral costs are covered will be donated in equal parts to the American Heart Association (www.heart.org), Stand Up to Cancer (www.standup2cancer.org) and Exodus Girl’s Basketball Program (http://www.exodushoops.com/).

Please visit www.facebook.com/honorapache for up to date information on services and to post your messages, memories and photos.

Also from HG, Glenn writes: Apache Paschall: A coach and a friend

Apache Paschall was a close friend of mine.

It may be impossible to explain how difficult it was to write that sentence.

Paschall — the girls’ basketball coach at Nazareth Regional (Brooklyn, N.Y.) and the Exodus NYC AAU club program — died on Tuesday morning at age 37. Because he was younger than me, it’s still inconceivable and painful to have to write about him in the past tense.

Journalists are not supposed to befriend the people we write about. The unwritten rules are pretty clear about avoiding such conflicts and complications.

But in talking me through my grief over Paschall, who had been battling an aggressive form of skin cancer since a diagnosis in October as well as other serious health issues, my close friend and colleague Chris Hansen made a great point about the world in which we travel. There isn’t yet enough money or notoriety in girls’ basketball to motivate anyone. Those who are involved must do so because of the passion they feel for the sport and its growth. As such, the roles of the people on my beat are not the traditional ones — reporter, coach, parent, player; we all tend to be comrades in arms and friendships like mine and Paschall’s are not just unavoidable, they’re almost fated.

It didn’t seem that way at first.

From Chris: Players, coaches recall Apache Paschall

“I just talked with Bra’Shey Ali and Jennifer O’Neill,” University of Kentucky assistant coach Matt Insell said of his current players who played for Paschall at Nazareth and St. Michael, respectively. “They said they would still be on the streets of New York City if it wasn’t for him.”

Ali’s story might be one of the better examples of Paschall’s passion for the kids with whom he worked. As a senior at St. Michael, Ali verbally committed to West Virginia but never was able to enroll due to admissions issues.

“He got on the phone and begged us to give her a chance,” Insell said. “He wasn’t going to get off of the phone until we gave her a chance. He knew we didn’t have to sign another player in the class, but he was fighting to give her a chance.”

From Matt Ehalt: Paschall bonded with Mary Louis coach

Through suffering, a pair of rival basketball coaches forged a connection.

As Nazareth girls basketball coach Apache Paschall, who died on Tuesday, battled skin cancer this fall and winter, he talked at times with Mary Louis girls basketball coach Joe Lewinger, who has a pair of six-year-old twins that had or currently have cancer. It allowed the two coaches to develop a relationship beyond that of two coaches competing for a title.

“You have a situation where I got to see a different side of him, a more personal side of him and he was very appreciative and I was asking if I can help him or offer advice,” Lewinger said on Tuesday. “Call it whatever you want, there was a different form of a coaching relationship there.”

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Davenport, Vaughn grow up in WNBA After inevitable peaks and valleys, centers find their way with Fever, Liberty

As the calendar turned from July to August, it definitely looked like two young centers were emerging as forces in their WNBA careers. They had the link of the Liberty between them, and both seemed to have ended up in the right place.

We’re not saying that storyline is now blown to bits or anything. It hasn’t been. But … the first two weeks of August haven’t been as kind to Indiana’s Jessica Davenport and New York’s Kia Vaughn, which tells you about the individual ups and downs of a WNBA season in microcosm.

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but it was close. (Have you noticed the extra minutes seem to be taking toll on Kia: 25 minutes, 0 pts, +/-25?)

The end result? Washington took down the visiting Lib 91-81.

Meanwhile, the San Antonio ended their losing skid by hosting Tulsa (who, all credit to them, did not go down easy).

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Why teams enjoy

playing the Shock, by a Rebkellian:

I don’t think I can stand to watch Tulsa anymore. They are poised to win, with Cambage going crazy all of a sudden, killing NY all by herself, and just when they could win the game, Idiot RIchardson takes her out of the game with 1:15 or so left in the game. And what happens? They lose again.

This time it was the Liberty who reaped the benefits, behind a really strong game from Kia Vaughn. (Hmmm, maybe I’ll have to join Mechelle for some of that crow – tofu or otherwise?)

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I hope you got a chance to catch Mechelle’s last chat:

Q: Some USA BBall midst the W questions: What’s your take on Cappie and Kia being MIA? Also, great news re: the games being on NBAtv — was that going to happen all along or was there a helpful “outcry” from fans?

MV: I think it’s disappointing on their part. I mentioned Staley and Edwards … they would have swam through a crocodile-infested lake to get to USA practice. Same with Lisa Leslie. The only thing Leslie missed in more than a decade was the 2006 Worlds after her uncle had been paralyzed in a car accident. People like Edwards, Staley and Leslie carried on that do-whatever-you-have-to mentality about commitment to the national team that started even before them. I recall talking to Leslie about this before the Beijing Olympics, and she said, “I hope the mentality about how important the national team is never changes with the next generation … but we’ll see.”

As for TV … I heard a few days ago that NBA TV was going to pick it up, and I don’t know if fan outcry was part of it … but I’m sure that it never hurts to let networks/organizations know that you are watching. So kudos to those folks who keep sending e-mails and posting on message boards and letting your voice be heard. Keep it up.

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Preview time!

From Q: Liberty vs. Dream ECF Preview: Why New York Needs Kia Vaughn To Play Well

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From anonymous at the StarPress: Fever eliminated from WNBA playoffs

The Indiana Fever have endured some painful defeats in their 11-year history, but this one might have been the worst. They achieved so little after aspiring to so much.

David Woods at the Indy Star writes:

While other teams made major makeovers in the offseason, the Indiana Fever kept their team together in another bid to win a WNBA championship. Now, they won’t get that chance.

From the ever-growing stable of NY Post writers covering the Lib: Pondexter leads Liberty into conference final

Kristie Ackert of the Daily News was at the Garden

After the Liberty had finished its fourth-quarter rally and beat the Fever, 77-74, to win a decisive Game 3 and advance to the Eastern Conference finals, Cappie Pondexter, the Liberty’s star guard, took the Garden’s public address microphone and made an announcement.”
Kia Vaughn!” Pondexter shouted to the crowd of 16,682. “If you didn’t know her before, you know her now.”

So was Laura Albanese of Newsday:

Cappie Pondexter’s delighted, raucous scream could be seen, but not heard.

With a wild fist pump and an exultant yell that was lost in the Garden’s deafening din, Pondexter’s driving layup with 1:14 left in the game gave the Liberty its first lead in nearly two quarters.

The Times even asked Mark Viera to join Michelle Agins for a visit to MSG

For more than a year, the Liberty has been remodeling itself. There were subtractions in 2009 and additions in the off-season, a sluggish start to 2010 and a surge in the second half of the season.

The Liberty reached another crossroads Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden and kept its resurgent season alive with a 77-74 victory over the Indiana Fever in the decisive third game of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Meanwhile, at the AJC’s Pierce Huff says the team-in-waiting”s getting ready: Dream tries to create home-court advantage

“The game atmosphere is a key component of everything we’re doing and it’s almost as important as the basketball,” said Toby Wyman, the Chief Operating Officer of the Dream.

How vital is the game atmosphere?

A lively arena helps keep the team pumped up, particularly when it is playing well. That was the situation last Friday night, when the Dream scored 26 consecutive points in its 101-77 victory against Washington to clinch the Eastern Conference semifinal.

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and it’s all about the bigs:

Four international veterans were today added to the 2009-12 USA Basketball Women’s National Team, from which the 2010 USA World Championship and 2012 U.S. Olympic teams will be selected. Added to the USA National Team roster were Jayne Appel (San Antonio Silver Stars), Rebekkah Brunson (Minnesota Lynx), Ebony Hoffman (Indiana Fever) and Kia Vaughn (New York Liberty), all of whom have aided USA Basketball teams to gold medals during their careers. Player selections were made by the five-member USA Basketball Women’s National Team Player Selection Committee.

Mechelle wonders where Langhorne is.

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