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“Weeeee are the Champions.” (What, too soon?) Lynx’s ‘fast start’ overwhelm Sky in Delle Donne’s returnFowles scores 24 against former team; Lynx beat Sky 97-80In First Game Against Former Team, Sylvia Fowles Joins Elite Company

Elena Delle Donne may be the face of the Sky. But when it comes to the franchise’s voice, that is all Cappie Pondexter.Chicago Sun-Times: Pondexter lends voice, veteran leadership to Sky

 The 10-year veteran has no trouble being the Sky’s resident vocal leader, but after a disappointing loss in last season’s WNBA Eastern Conference semifinals, Pondexter is done mincing words.

Make no mistake. This is Tamika Catchings’ team.

It is also Marissa Coleman’s team, and Shenise Johnson’s team, and Erlana Larkins’ team … and who knew it could be Erica Wheeler’s team while she fills in for point guard Briann January?

“It could be anybody’s night on any given night,” Coleman said.

That was never more true of the Indiana Fever than on Wednesday night.

Three of the first four possessions for the Washington Mystics in their game against the Dallas Wings on Wednesday night resulted in turnovers. The other produced a missed layup. Coach Mike Thibault was, to say the least, displeased.

The frustration didn’t end with just his players though. The officiating also provoked Thibault’s ire to the point he walked past halfcourt at Verizon Center midway through the first quarter and shouted to referee Sue Blauch: “Give me a technical now.”

 Phew! Sun get first win of season, 72-68 at Stars and Bone spurs Sun past San Antonio.
It’s gonna be tough in San Antonio this year….

While the world rightfully continues to go bonkers over “Hamilton,” I’ve recently found myself pleasantly lost in the past with another Broadway smash hit. The nearly 40-year-old — can it be? — “Annie.”

This was prompted by my nephew playing Oliver Warbucks in his high school’s production. It reminded me of how great a musical this is, even when performed by theater novices (including, in this case, a Harlequin Great Dane named Waffle in the role of Sandy.)

Now, just hang with me; we’re getting to the WNBA, with its 20th season just launched.

 

If Candace Parker was looking to make a point, she made it all right. Thirty-four times, in fact.

The question isn’t whether Parker was trying to make a statement Sunday with her 34-point effort in Los Angeles’ 96-66 win over Seattle at Staples Center. The question is, which statement was it?

Was it a message to USA Basketball that despite not being selected to the 2016 U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball Team that she is still on a short list of best players in the world?

Was it a reminder to the WNBA that the two-time MVP is as dangerous as ever and prepared to dish it out over an entire season after taking half of last season off?

WNBA STAR TINA CHARLES ON HOW STRONG, SUPPORTIVE WOMEN HELPED HER SUCCEED

Why are you excited to participate in She’s On Point?

For me, a lot of it was about giving back to Karen Pedrosa [who was the park manager at the time]. She was always keeping Roberto Clemente open late so we were able to scrimmage against the guys. She would travel with us to the AAU [Amateur Athletic Union] games. She’s just an awesome individual. She’s the Deputy Chief of Bronx Recreation now, and it’s a testament to the impact she’s had on the community.

UConn women’s basketball legend Bird wants to end career on her terms

When she re-signed with Seattle in the offseason, Bird made certain she had a multi-year deal. She didn’t want her contract status to determine when the final year of her career arrives.

“Truthfully, the way I view it is a one-year plan. Everybody has their own (way). Tamika Catchings is an example of somebody who announced her retirement early. Then Ray Allen is somebody I communicate with and he is somebody that never announced it. Just stopped. But that was what was right for him,” Bird said.

“I think every player when it comes to their retirement only knows how they are going to feel and how they want to do it. And right now what is working for me in my own little mind is a one-year plan.

LaChina and Carolyn Podcast: We’re Back…For The WNBA

From Charles Hallman: A ‘simple’ job: Marketing the WNBA 

Last Saturday night, after she handed the Minnesota Lynx players and coaches their 2015 championship rings, Borders worked the “room” where nearly 10,000 people were in attendance for the team’s season opener. Madame President earlier told the MSR, “I am the number-one salesperson for the WNBA. That is absolutely true.”

She heads a league that is celebrating 20 years, but to too many eyes — media, Joe Rockhead males and others — it has been 19 years too long. “We are 20 years old, which is remarkable by any standard,” continued Borders. “But we are just getting started. We’re young and nimble.”

The president and this reporter briefly touched upon several topics:

USA Today’s Nina Mandell: Retired WNBA star Katie Smith wants to leave lasting legacy on women’s game as a coach

Long before Katie Smith, a 17-year veteran of the WNBA, knew she was going to become a coach there was no shortage of coaches who told her she would join their ranks one day.

“I’ll say it right in front of her,” Mystics coach Mike Thibault said, walking by Smith as his team prepared to play the New York Liberty, where Smith was promoted to associate head coach this season. “I told her she was going to be a coach and she said no. Years ago when I coached USA Basketball, I said, ‘You know you’re going to end up being a coach.’”

Smith replied that she was going to go to dental school or do something else, but Thibault wouldn’t listen. 

NCAA

NCAA.com Rules group pleased with state of the game

[Use of technology and other] areas the Women’s Basketball Rules Committee will continue to study and discuss include:

  • Widening of the lane from 12 feet to 16 feet.
  • Moving the restricted-area arc to 4 feet from 3 feet.
  • Moving the 3-point line from 20 feet, 9 inches to the international distance of 22-1.
  • Deterring players from faking fouls. A warning would be issued on the first offense, followed by a technical foul on subsequent offenses.
  • In free throw situations, teams would be allowed to substitute only before or after the foul shots are taken. There would be no substitutions allowed in between the two or three free throws.

You stay put: Scott Rueck signed a two-year contract extension

WATN? Langston University hires Elaine Powell to replace Cheryl Miller as head coach

LADY VOLS ADD JUCO STAR – London Native Cheridene Green Becomes Lady Vols’ First International Signee . This calls for a flashback: Junior Colleges: Where Opportunities Knock – November 2007

Last season Shannon Bobbitt (Trinity Valley Community College) and Alberta Auguste (Central Florida Community College) became the University of Tennessee’s first junior college signees since – well most couldn’t remember when last it happened. (1977, by the way.) How’d it work out? Just ask Middle Tennessee State coach Rick Insell.

“First time ever Pat took two [Junior College] kids and what happens? She wins a National Championship. Did those kids play a major part in them winning that? Absolutely. Would she have won it without them? Who knows?”

“But she won it with them.”

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How much fun was THAT?

Upset 1: DePaul over Louisville, 73-72

Graham: Bruno ball does it again as DePaul reaches another Sweet 16 and  How DePaul knocked out third-seeded Louisville

DePaul wasn’t sure where it was going on the first possession of a second-round game against Louisville, confusion on the tip resulting in an over-and-back violation, but the Blue Demons know where they’re going now. The Sweet 16 awaits after a 73-72 win.

The Blue Demons found their bearings and roared to another hot first half in the tournament, then held on for dear life against the Cardinals and most of a crowd of 7,515 in the KFC Yum! Center.

Swish Appeal: 

“We’re not sitting completely engaged in the process, as I always tell them. You can’t cheat it.” Coach Walz discussed his team’s performance, “You cheat the process, you’re going to get beat. It might work for you for a while, but eventually it’s going to catch up with you. And that’s really what took place tonight.”

Jonathan Lintner: ‘50-50 call’ dooms U of L in DePaul defeat and  Cards’ comeback comes up short against DePaul

Louisville women’s basketball coach Jeff Walz presented his team two options heading into Sunday: Play better defense and move on to the Sweet 16, or pack up this season and start immediately working for the next.

The No. 3 seed Cardinals received the message too late in the going to salvage their NCAA tournament run…

Josh Abner, AP: DePaul beats Louisville 73-72 behind January’s 25 points

Jessica January’s strong start put her team ahead but it was her last point that sent DePaul to the Sweet 16.

Upset 2: Mississippi State over Michigan State
Michael Bonner, Lansing State Journal: Season ends in agony for MSU women

 A contest that included 51 fouls ended with an official review. Just not the review Michigan State desired.

The officials met at the scorer’s table as Mississippi State’s band played its fight song after a 74-72 victory in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

The Spartans laid sprawled across the court in the disappointment of defeat.

Tommy Lopez, AP/WCBI.com: Mississippi State Women’s Basketball On To Sweet 16 After Win Over Michigan State

Mississippi State’s Breanna Richardson had made a grand total of two 3-pointers this season before catching a pass and launching a 20-footer in the most important minute of her team’s most important game.

There was never any hesitation. It looked good the entire way.

It went in.

And it was the defining play in fifth-seeded Mississippi State’s victory over No. 4 seed Michigan State.

Lady Bulldogs knock off Michigan State 74-72 in the second round of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament.

“I couldn’t be prouder today,” Mississippi State women’s head basketball coach Vic Schaefer. “We played a heck of a basketball game against an unbelievable opponent, Michigan State. They are a tremendous basketball team, well coached. They are resilient and tough. “I say all of that and our kids were a little bit more. I couldn’t be prouder of the toughness our kids showed today.”

Upset 3: Tennessee over Arizona State. A Phoenix Grows In Arizona?

Or, as Dan Fleser writes:

Tennessee blossomed in the desert Sunday night.

The Lady Vols summoned their best team effort of the season. They looked nothing like a No. 7 seed in a 75-64 NCAA tournament victory over No. 2 seed Arizona State at Wells Fargo Arena.

Diamond DeShields scored a game-high 24 points for Tennessee (21-13), which shot 51.8 percent from the floor (29-for-56) and never trailed after the first quarter.

Mechelle: 

A little less than a month after it looked as if Tennessee’s season was going down in infamy — with the possibility of the Lady Vols not making the NCAA tournament for the first time — they are instead headed back to the NCAA tournament’s Sweet 16.

Tennessee has experienced a lot of lows in 2015-16, so the Lady Vols had to relish Sunday’s 75-64 upset of No. 2 seed Arizona State on the Sun Devils’ home court at Wells Fargo Arena.

Swish Appeal: Victory is Sweet (16): Deshields, Tennessee knockout ASU

Scott Mammoser, Examiner: Tennessee wins grueling NCAA second round game at Arizona State

For the 34th time in the 35-year history of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship, the Sweet 16 will include the Tennessee Lady Volunteers. Coming in as the underdog, the seventh-seeded Lady Vols (21-13) won at second-seeded Arizona State (26-7) in the second round Sunday, 75-64, behind Diamond DeShields’ 24 points.

“Any time we had any kind of miscue, they took advantage of it in any way,” said ASU coach Charli Turner Thorne, whose team fell to Florida State in the Sweet 16 in 2015. “We did not play our best basketball. It was a great challenge and a fun game.”

No upset (but you were thinking it): Ohio State over West Virginia, 88-81

Mechelle: How Kelsey Mitchell went wild to lift Ohio State

Ohio State made it to the Sweet 16 for the eighth time in program history, but it took a huge effort from the Buckeyes sophomore guard Kelsey Mitchell. No surprise there: She specializes in that.

Mitchell scored 45 points as the No. 3 seed Buckeyes held off No. 6 seed West Virginia 88-81. It was the fourth-highest total in an NCAA tournament women’s game, following Drake’s Lorri Bauman with 50 in the 1982 Elite Eight, Texas Tech’s Sheryl Swoopes with 47 in the 1993 championship game, and Stanford’s Jayne Appel’s 46 in the 2009 regional final.

Eleven Warriors: 

Ohio State has a special basketball player that many are taking for granted. Sophomore Kelsey Mitchell is rewriting the Buckeye record books and somehow flying a bit under the radar on the greater OSU sports landscape.

It would be a lie to say Mitchell is doing it quietly, as she is quite well known by those who follow women’s hoops. But, compared to the big revenue sports, Mitchell’s media footprint isn’t nearly what her talents merit.

The Lantern: Ohio State women’s basketball capitalizes on West Virginia’s mistakes, punches ticket to Sweet 16

The Ohio State women’s basketball team nearly limped into the NCAA tournament following a pair of excruciating end-of-the-season overtime losses, a semifinal exit from the Big Ten tournament and an untimely injury to senior guard Ameryst Alston.

The odds of advancing deep in the NCAA tournament are usually unfavorable to teams that have problems pile up in March, but the Buckeyes have been resilient despite facing adversity. On Sunday afternoon at St. John Arena, the pressure was at its peak with a trip to the Sweet 16 on the line.

Despite a back-and-forth struggle with sixth-seeded West Virginia, the Mountaineers eventually fell victim to their plethora of turnovers, with the 27th and final one pounding the nail in their coffin.

Kelsey Mitchell’s 45 points lead Ohio State to first Sweet 16 since 2011

Mitchell’s 45 points lift Buckeyes past error-prone West Virginia

“It’s hard to guard somebody when they keep coming at you,” said WVU coach Mike Carey. “It puts a lot of pressure on the referee because she comes right at you. I don’t know what you’re supposed to do as a defensive player. I don’t know, just stop? Hopefully they charge, but I don’t know what you’re supposed to do.

“We can’t let people go to the line 22 times. I’m not saying they were bad calls, I’m not saying that. It’s just tough to defend when someone comes straight at you off a drive.”

Can’t retire yet Jim Massie.

As seeded: Syracuse over Albany

Lindsay Kramer, Syracuse.com: Syracuse women’s basketball beats Albany to earn trip to NCAA Tournament Sweet 16

The Syracuse University women’s basketball team is going to its first NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 in program history.

Syracuse (27-7) punched that ticket with a 76-59 win over Albany in a Sioux Falls Regional second-round game in the Carrier Dome.

Brittney Sykes led the way for SU with 24 while Alexis Peterson had 22.

TWC News: UAlbany Women’s Basketball Ends NCAA Tournament Run with Loss to Syracuse

“A lot of people didn’t believe we would make it this far,” senior Shereesha Richards said. “And we have we beat the odds. And it’s sad that we lost but we have accomplished so much this year and there’s more positive to look on then there is negative.”

Albany Times Union: UAlbany women’s season ends with 76-59 NCAA loss at Syracuse

The magical season for the University at Albany women’s basketball team has ended, and with it the careers of seniors Shereesha Richards and Erin Coughlin.

Syracuse overcame a sluggish start and forced UAlbany into 23 turnovers Sunday afternoon en route to a 76-59 victory over the Great Danes in a second-round game of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament in front of 3,832 at the Carrier Dome.

As seeded: Oregon State over St. Bonaventure, 69-40 (though the first half was if-ish for the Beavers).

Gina Mizell, Oregoninan: Oregon State cruises past St. Bonaventure 69-40 to advance to Sweet 16

It was over when: The Beavers scored the first seven points of the third quarter to quickly push its lead to 38-21. That only foreshadowed the dominant period to come for OSU, outscoring the Bonnies 21-4 as its advantage grew to as many as 27 points when freshman reserve Taylor Kalmer drilled a three-pointer in the final minute of the period.

Gary Horowitz, Statesman-Journal: OSU seniors secure Sweet 16 berth in final home game and Oregon State women heading to Sweet 16

“What a night,” OSU coach Scott Rueck said. “We’ve been waiting for this and for the opportunity. I’m so proud of this team. I couldn’t be happier for them.”

The memory of a painful second-round loss to Gonzaga at Gill last season was a source of motivation for OSU the entire season.

“It feels better this year for sure,” said senior guard Jamie Weisner, who scored a game-high 23 points. “I think last year at this time I was in the locker room crying. It was over.

Building the Dam: Oregon State Rolls On To Sweet 16

It was a grind early, as Oregon State shot terribly to start the game, making only 4 of their first 15 shots, including missing 7 in a row at one point, and though the Beavers never trailed, they only opened a 5 point, 13-8 lead when Marie Gulich got a put back basket at the buzzer.

But there were 2 key takeaways from the early going. Oregon State got balance, with points from 4 starters, Ruth Hamblin, Gabriella Hanson, Sidney Wiese, and Jamie Weisner in their first 4 baskets. It was an indication of the balance that would strain St. Bonaventure all evening.

Swish Appeal: Weisner’s ‘enormous presence’ looms large for OSU

Takin’ Care of Business!

Baylor stomped all over Auburn.

Stephen Hawkins, AP: Baylor women rout Auburn to make another Sweet 16

With Nina Davis open in the middle, everything went just as planned for the Baylor women. and they are going to the NCAA Sweet 16 for the eighth year in a row.

Davis scored a season high-matching 30 points, and freshman post Kalani Brown had 16 points as the Lady Bears beat the Auburn press all night while avoiding being trapped in an 84-52 victory Sunday.

WacoTrib: Lady Bears ease by Auburn

Matthew Stevens, Montgomery Advertiser: Unbearable! Baylor dominates Auburn 84-52 in NCAA Tournament

Baylor didn’t waste any time in ending all hope for an Auburn upset Sunday night.

The top seeded Lady Bears scored 19 of the first 21 points as Auburn lost 84-52 in a 2016 NCAA Tournament second round game at the Ferrell Center. The loss represented the largest margin of defeat for Auburn throughout the entire 2015-16 season.

South Carolina stomped all over Kansas State.

David Cloninger, The State: Mitchell super as Gamecocks beat Kansas State, head to Sweet 16

Didn’t think she’d leave that red cape home this time of year, did you? 

As she has throughout her career, South Carolina’s Tiffany Mitchell saved the Gamecocks’ day in a 73-47 rout of Kansas State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday. 

The one they call “Superwoman” took over when SEC Player of the Year A’ja Wilson was on the bench with two quick fouls in the first quarter, scoring 16 first-half points and directing USC once more into the Sweet 16.

One by one, South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley took her five seniors out for rim-rattling ovations from a crowd of 10,048.

“Because we’re playing our best basketball,” Staley said Sunday night after a 73-47 rout of Kansas State in a second-round NCAA Tournament game, “we afforded ourselves the chance to be able to salute and honor our seniors in that manner.”

We knew it was going to be a long shot. South Carolina came into this one with one loss all season, to top-ranked UConn (a game they lost by only 12 points). The Lady Gamecocks are GOOD, talented and well coached. And, thanks to NCAA venue procedure for women’s basketball, they even get to play at home. So the deck was already stacked.

That K-State was only down by five at the end of the first quarter was actually fairly impressive.

WNIT:

Ohio (MAC) over Virginia Tech (ACC), 64-57… reminder, the Bobcats won the regular season title…and this is their second WNIT win. Ever.

Virginia (ACC) over (and at) Rutgers (Big 10), 71-55. Pretty disappointing post-game comment from coach Stringer: “We should’ve just taken a forfeit.” Virginia highlights:

Temple (American) over (and at) Quinnipiac (MAAC), 64-62.

South Dakota (Summit) over (and at)  Banham Minnesota (Big 10), 101-89…reminder, the Coyotes won the regular season title.

 It’s a well-known fact that Rachel Banham has had one of the best careers that you can have, and that she alone can cause problems, but South Dakota wanted to prove that they were a formidable force, too.

They did just that, and now the Coyotes have a chance to get some revenge for an early-season loss against Northern Iowa.

Monday Games:

6:30: Indiana v. Notre Dame – Ready or not, Indiana gets shot at Notre Dame
6:30: Washington v. Maryland – Maryland, Washington: Opposites attract in 2nd round women’s matchup
6:30: Oklahoma v. Kentucky – Previewing the Sooners’ NCAA Tournament game vs. Kentucky
6:30: Florida State v. Texas A&M – Texas A&M’s Howard and FSU’s Thomas key in 2nd round matchup

9:00: UConn v. Duquesne – Duquesne coach Burt says key is not to let UConn ‘dominate your soul’,
9:00: Missouri v. Texas – Texas Aims to Climb Missouri’s Tall Wall
9:00: South Florida v. UCLA – UCLA women must slow down South Florida’s Courtney Williams in second round
9:00: South Dakota State v. Stanford – Michelle: Jackrabbits jump at chance to battle Stanford for Sweet 16 spot

Tulane v. Georgia Tech, 7PM
Wake Forest v. Florida Gulf Coast, 7PM
Ball State v. Saint Louis, 8PM
Tennessee-Martin v. Western Kentucky, 8PM
Arkansas State v. UTEP, 9PM
Utah v. Gonzaga, 9PM
Fresno State v. Oregon, 9PM

In other news:

WATN? Former WNBA Ball Handling Queen Shannon Bobbitt coming to town

WOMEN’S BASKETBALL HISTORY

I know about Ora Mae Washington… but too many people do not. Thank you to Steven J. Niven at The Root for doing some much needed research and laying out some of her story. Queen of the Courts: How Ora Washington Helped Philly ‘Forget the Depression’ 

Philadelphians had little to cheer about in the winter of 1932. Over 250,000 people—a quarter of the workforce—were unemployed, many more were working part time, and thousands had lost their savings with the collapse of several banks. For black Philadelphians, the Great Depression was even worse. Only 13 percent enjoyed full-time employment, 45 percent were unemployed and 42 percent worked only part time. More than one-third of black families were on poor relief, and in one African-American neighborhood, two-thirds of the homes had no indoor plumbing and half had no central heating

But that February and March of 1932, amid the economic gloom and real suffering, black Philadelphians were gripped by a basketball tournament to determine the best African-American women’s team in the city, as well as the nation. The local black newspaper perhaps exaggerated in promising the matchup between the Germantown Hornets and the Philadelphia Tribunes would make the city “forget the Depression,” but the same ad was surely correct in describing the series as a battle between “two of the greatest girl players in the world”: Inez Patterson of the Tribunes and Ora Washington of the Hornets.

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The Murder of Tayshana Murphy Sometimes poetic justice is not justice at all

Taylonn attends the game, dressed in all black. His shirt is a picture of a dribbling Tayshana with the words “Ball in Peace.” Kimani Young, Sharette’s widower and the memorial’s organizer, summons Taylonn to midcourt at halftime.

“Chicken would have been playing today with her peers and her friends, but unfortunately she’s not here today,” Young begins. The tears well in Taylonn’s eyes before Young ends, and he walks off the court with a framed jersey in one hand, while embracing Young with the other.

Shannon Bobbitt watches from the second row in the corner of the stands with her father. She wanted to pay her respects to Chicken’s family and offer her condolences. She will soon depart to play in Turkey and continue her basketball journey.

This is the gift and curse of the projects. They can lift you up or snuff you out. Chicken could have been another Shannon, who returned one day to give back, run clinics, sign autographs, and be a role model. Shannon could have been Chicken just as easily.

“She had a lot to live for,” Grezinsky says. “That’s what the real tragedy is. She could have given back to the community like Shannon Bobbitt. She comes back every year and puts on a clinic during the All-Star break, and I asked her, ‘Are you getting paid for this?’ And she said, ‘No, I want to give back to the community.’ Tayshana was the same type of kid. She had a community sense about her. She was somebody who could have given back and been someone for other kids to look up to.”

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