By Phillip Brents
Ft. Collins, Colo. March Madness? It appears
to be alive and well in the National Womens Basketball League, with
this weeks Pro Cup playoffs offering a hint at a possible upset despite
the wide disparity in the records of the four entrants.
The San Diego Siege earned the top
seed in the playoffs despite dropping its final regular season game, 96-91,
to the defending league champion Colorado Chill March 26 in Ft. Collins,
Colo. The Siege and Chill tied for the regular season championship with 14-4
records but the Siege edged the Chill for the top seed in the playoffs in
the third tiebreaker: point-spread.
The two teams split their six games
against one another, with the Siege winning the first three contests
handing the Chill its first-ever NWBL losses in team history while
the Colorado team captured the final three games in the series, including
a 79-71 victory in San Diego on March 21. The Siege held a nine-point advantage
in the final tiebreaker.
The Chill needed to beat the Siege
by 10 or more points in the teams regular season finale. Colorados
five-point win gave the top playoff seed to San Diego.
However, the Chill will have home
court advantage in the playoffs, as the two-day tournament will be played
in Ft. Collins. Semifinal action gets underway Thursday, March 30, with the
championship game set for Friday, March 31. The two semifinal losers will
play for third place. Games are scheduled for 5 and 7:30 p.m. both nights
at the Budweiser Events Center.
The Siege will play the fourth-seeded
San Francisco Legacy (0-18) in the semifinals while the Chill will meet the
third-seeded San Jose Spiders (8-10).
San Jose was the only other NWBL
team to beat either the Siege or Chill this season.
San Diego defeated San Francisco,
81-62, in its final regular season home game before a crowd estimated at
400 March 25 at San Diego City College. The Siege set the pace in what would
turn out to be physical game by opening the contest with a 10-1 run to lead
28-11 after the first quarter. The Legacy, sporting a completely overhauled
roster than the one that started the season, crept back in the game by opening
the second quarter with an 11-2 run. However, the feeling throughout the
contest was that the Siege was by far the better team and the San Diego team
quickly showed it.
The Siege forced 20 San Francisco
turnovers in the game and took a 13-point lead into halftime. San Diego finished
the game with a 19-point edge.
Tynesha Lewis and Cathrine Kraayeveld
paced the Siege in scoring each with 18 points while Tera Bjorklund poured
in 14 points and Crystal Harris added 10 points. Erica Glover and Guliana
Mendiola each topped the Legacy with 20 points.
The Siege rarely missed a clutch
shot, hitting on 46.3 percent of field goals attempted and 92.9 percent of
free throws. By contrast, San Francisco shot 37.9 percent from the floor
and just 61.5 percent at the line.
In the March 21 matchup against
the Chill, the Siege led 36-31 at halftime before the visitors went on a
21-6 scoring binge to start the second half. The Siege managed to chip away
at what eventually became a 13-point deficit, pulling to within one point
at 67-66 before the Chill eventually regained the momentum. Lewis led the
Siege in scoring with 24 points, while Colorado star Becky Hammon pumped
in 23 points.
In the March 26 regular season finale,
the Siege received balanced scoring from Jessica Cheeks (20), Lewis (19),
Kraayeveld (16), Tera Bjorklund (13), Natalie Nakase (11) and Loree Moore
(10). Cheeks hit four of five three-point attempts in the final quarter to
keep the Siege close.
The Chill had four players reach
double figures, led by Hammons 30 points. Olympian Ruth Riley scored
22 points and had 11 rebounds for Colorado, while Katie Cronin had 22 points
and nine rebounds and Natasha Gamble had 15 points.
Kraayeveld and Bjorklund are giants
on the boards for the Siege while Nakase was the teams sparkplug in
its last win against the Legacy.
Kraayeveld (8.9) and Bjorklund (7.9)
finished first and second in league rebounding this season. Kraayeveld also
led the league in free throw shooting (.917). Kraayeveld ranked second in
league scoring with an 18.5 average while Bjorklund ranked fourth with a
16.9 scoring average.
The Chill won last years regular
season title with a 15-6 record but fell to the Dallas Fury, 77-70, in the
Pro Cup title game. Hammon, who has received an invitation to an upcoming
USA womens national team training camp, led the NWBL with a 26.0 scoring
average and also topped the league by averaging 7.0 assists per game. Cronin
(18.5) ranked third in league scoring while Riley paced the NWBL with a .625
field goal percentage.
San Jose dropped a two-point game,
101-99, on a last-second shot by Riley in its last matchup against Colorado
and handed the Chill a 105-97 setback on its home court on March 19. The
Spiders Brittany Jackson ranked second in the league with a .864 free
throw percentage while Cisti Greenwalt and Lindsey Yamasaki ranked fourth
and fifth, respectively, in rebounding.
San Diego finished 6-0 against San
Francisco this season. The Legacys Toni Russell led the NWBL with 3.7
steals per game while tying for fourth in the league with a 16.9 scoring
Every Siege playoff game will be
streamed live on the Internet. For details, visit the Web site at