Monday, July 9, 2001 Volume 66, Issue 151


WNBA East stepping up

WNBA Notebook
Crystal J. Doucette

In the WNBA's five-year history, the Western Conference has been the dominant force in the league. This year, the Eastern Conference is trying to
change that.

The Houston Comets (12-3), still favorites to win their fifth championship title, were topped 63-53 by the Cleveland Rockers, threatening their
first-place hold in the West and the league with their worst loss of the season.

Cleveland's Helen Darling was the main threat of the all-around strong team Sunday in Compaq Center, putting up 18 points with seven assists and
75 percent shooting. Fellow Rocker Merlakia Jones had 16 points, and teammate Rushia Brown pulled down 11 rebounds.

The Comets' Tina Thompson dropped 19 points with 33 percent shooting in her second game since her mother's death. Houston guard Janeth
Arcain added 11 points before fouling out. Head coach Van Chancellor was ejected from the game for the first time in his WNBA career.

The Rockers (12-5) are tied with the New York Liberty (12-5) for the top of the East this year. Both teams are in a position to take the WNBA title, but
the battle is uphill as they first have to face each other, then take on either the Los Angeles Sparks, the Sacramento Monarchs or Houston.

The defending Eastern Conference Champion Liberty has to fight hard to retain its title this year.

New York scrambled for the 58-56 win over the Indiana Fever (5-10) on Sunday in a nail-biter in Indianapolis, Ind. Liberty center Tari Phillips posted
a double-double with 24 points and 13 boards, securing the win with two free throws and two seconds left in the game.

The teams head to Madison Square Garden for a rematch today. The Fever fell 79-64 to the Comets in Houston on Friday.

New York took a 70-57 road decision against the Minnesota Lynx (5-9) on Friday as Phillips posted 20 points for the Liberty. The victory was closer
than necessary, however, as New York almost blew a 20-point lead.

The Lynx pulled to within five late in the second half behind the 27-point play of Katie Smith. Minnesota went on a 25-9 run that closed the gap to
55-50 behind the Liberty before New York's Phillips sank two free throws and a jumper to extend the lead to nine with 4:46 left to play.

The Liberty's Crystal Robinson, one of the biggest three-point threats in the league, added 17 points in the win alongside Becky Hammon's 14.
Robinson was 5-for-7 from three-point range.

The Charlotte Sting (7-10) is making a beeline for the head of the Eastern Conference on the strength of a six-game winning streak. After defeating
the Detroit Shock (4-11) 67-50 on Friday and the Liberty 66-61 on Tuesday, the Sting pulled out a 48-38 defensive battle against the Seattle Storm
(8-9) in Charlotte, N.C., on Saturday.

Starting Charlotte point guard Dawn Staley poured in 15 points and five assists in the victory. The Sting managed to keep No. 1 2001 draft pick
Lauren Jackson out of double-digits for the first time this season as Jackson scored seven for the Storm on 3-of-10 shooting.

All-Star starters

The starters for the 2001 All-Star Game, which will be played in the TD Waterhouse Centre in Orlando, Fla., on July 16, have been selected from the
athletic crop fans chose for the Eastern and Western Conference rosters.

Chamique Holdsclaw of the Washington Mystics led the ballot battle with 105,006 votes. Holdsclaw will be one of the five starting players for the

Joining Holdsclaw on the hardcourt will be Mystics teammate Nikki McCray, Liberty center Phillips, Liberty guard Teresa Weatherspoon and Liberty
forward Vickie Johnson.

Leading the vote count for the West is starting forward Thompson of the Houston Comets. Thompson was elected to the All-Star team with 93,901

Also on the West roster with Thompson is teammate Arcain, starting guard. The Sacramento Monarchs wrapped up the other three starting spots
with center Yolanda Griffith, forward Ruthie Bolton-Holifield and guard Ticha Penicheiro.

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