WNBA East stepping up
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
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
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
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
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
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.