Just Believe Sports (JBS) Purple survived a challenge from EBX Black I in Tuesday's title game to take the 17-and-Under National Division title at the Michael T. White Tournament at Mater Dei High School, Santa Ana, California, 36-33.
In the Signature Division, EBX Black II rallied from a nine-point second-half deficit to defeat Cal Sparks Silver for the championship, 42-33.
When the Indiana Fever made the trade to bring Katie Douglas back to Indiana last year, they felt that she was the final piece they needed to win a championship. But Tamika Catchings recovery from injury was slow and the team never had a chance to practice as a unit before the season started. They never recovered and were never able to gel as a unit. Their season ended with a disappointing loss to Detroit in the playoffs.
But this season things have changed. Douglas and Catchings have become the duo the Fever envisioned and Tammy Sutton-Brown is playing at an All-Star level. In addition Tully Beveliqua and Ebony Hoffman are both having solid seasons. Those five give the team one of, if not the strongest, starting lineups in the WNBA. And they have responded with a franchise record 11-game win streak and the best record in the WNBA. Even after Connecticut ended their winning streak ten days ago, the Fever still lead the Eastern Division by four games.
The team is made up of essentially the same players as last seasons version and Linn Dunn remains as coach. So the obvious question is: What has changed?
With limited WNBA action last week due to the All-Star break, it was hard to call any team a big winner. The Connecticut Sun must, if only by default, be considered the hottest team in the conference as they won four in a row over the past two weeks, moving into second place in the Easter Conference standings.
Connecticut is now within sight of division-leading Indiana who split road games, generally a satisfactory result. Washington won two out of three but all were at home so that wasnt a "special" result. Chicago dropped both of its contests this week so no award to them. Atlanta won an overtime road game; give them a plus, but they are still currently out of the top four. New York missed a golden opportunity to move up the standings as they dropped two home games after winning on the road. After one more home game, the Liberty embarks on a lengthy road trip, making the need to prevail on the home court all the more important.
Detroit failed to maintain the momentum from their recent successful road trip, dropping the first of their most recent home stand. For the Shock, it may be now or never, as they have two more home games coming up this week, and another early the week after, before hitting the road once again. With the season about half over, there is still much to be sorted out in the Eastern Conference.
The WNBA has made it to the All Star break, the symbolic midway point of the season. Phoenix has established itself as the favorite in the West, and with the addition of Penny Taylor for the second half, the Mercury will be hard to catch. Seattle appears to be the only team that can seriously contend, but only if they can keep Lauren Jackson healthy. Minnesota has been the big surprise, especially since Seimone Augustus was injured, but they will have to continue their good play to assure themselves a playoff berth. San Antonio holds down the final playoff position for now, but if Los Angeles can finally pull itself together, the Silver Stars could be caught. The Sparks have been the biggest disappointment in the first half, but they have only played 13 games so far, and only four at home. Sacramento has already changed coaches but the Monarchs will not be making the playoffs.
More than a dozen records were set or broken at the 2009 WNBA All-Star Game Saturday afternoon in Uncasville, Connecticut. Perhaps the most important of them was Katie Smiths remarkable winning streak. Smith, a seven-time All-Star four times for the West as a player for the Minnesota Lynx and twice previously for the East as a member of the Detroit Shock-- had played for the winning side in every All-Star Game in which she appeared. Until yesterday, that is, when the West seized back bragging rights over Smiths Eastern Conference team.
The U.S. Women's Junior National Team (19-and-Under, or U19), two-time defending World Champions, entered their opening preliminary round match today in Bangkok as overwhelming favorites, not having tasted defeat since 2001, when they lost to the Czech Republic, the host nation, in the semifinals. Two hours later, a spunky Spanish team that refused to be awed by the Americans' reputation, had handed Team USA a stunning upset, taking the match 90-86 after running up a first-half lead of as much as 17 points.
In a previous article, Full Court took a look at the obstacles facing the Detroit Shock franchise in the wake of head coach Bill Laimbeer's abrupt departure three games into the season. For weeks, the injury-riddled defending champs have languished as the bottom dwellers of the East. But recently, the Shock have begun to show signs of life. Despite a 95-98 overtime loss to the Dream at home on Wednesday, the Shock have won three out of four on the road, Katie Smith's shooting is enjoying a resurgence, and Kara Braxton and Cheryl Ford are both back in the line-up. Above all, this team still considers itself in the running for an Eastern Conference playoff berth, and new Assistant Coach and Director of Player Personnel Cheryl Reeve puts WNBA fans and sports writers alike on notice not to count the Shock out quite yet.
About mid-way through their season, the Los Angeles Sparks have seen more plot twists than a reality TV show: injuries, comebacks, unexpected losses. Now they continue to fight back from a slow start - and they hope - towards a playoff spot in the Western Conference.
It would be an understatment to say expectations were high for the franchise once veterans Betty Lennox and Tina Thompson were added to an already-stacked roster that featured Olympians Lisa Leslie, Delisha Milton-Jones and Candace Parker, even though the latter was still out on maternity leave. Many picked the Sparks outright to win the championship this year, and after their first game of the season, no one was doubting it.
In their home opener they crushed defending WNBA champions the Detroit Shock. But after that, the Sparks went on a three-game losing skid, dropping games to Detroit, Minnesota and Indiana in five days on the road. It was something neither fans nor players expected. Team members took it to heart.
Indianas winning streak ended at 11 this week with a 61-67 road loss to the Sun on Sunday. But Connecticut made its "W" closer than it needed to be, frittering away a 20-point lead with four minutes left. As the clocked ticked down to the final buzzer, the Sun surrendered a 16-0 Fever run, featuring two Sun shot-clock violations, six turnovers, five fouls and a missed free throw. Connecticut made no attempt to score until forced to do so by the shot clock during the near-collapse. At the same time, they failed to defend with the tenacity that had given them the big lead in the first place. Connecticut went without a field goal for the final five minutes. It was an astonishingly inept performance which spoiled what might have been a signature win capping a 3-0 week. Instead, the Sun had their victory, but showed no composure in their biggest win of the season.
For the past few years, the Big Tens off-season had almost as much excitement as the regular season. Players transferred and rebelled, and coaches were fired and quit. But not this year. For the first time in recent memory, and to the dismay of Wisconsin fans, no coaching changes were made. While maintaining the status quo will provide stability to the Big Ten, Badger fans are left wondering just how inept a coach has to be to be fired. But elsewhere, the lack of upheaval does not mean a lack of impactful actions. The spring signing period saw several teams strengthen themselves significantly and several coaches already have a strong start on their 2010 recruiting.