Two Teams Trying to Make Strong Pushes

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Two teams trying to make strong pushes to end the short, but vital Women’s Minor League Basketball Association (WMLBA) battled it out twice over the weekend here to take pole position over the other.

Score two for the host Midwest Reign.

Winning in two different fashions, the Reign (3-5) swept the visiting Carolina Stars (0-4) at the Joe E. Amayo Argentine Center with victories Saturday (88-84 in double overtime) and Sunday (72-68).

“The girls came back and fought and played together and played the game right, most importantly,” Reign owner and coach Jeff Graves said. “How they practiced turned over how they played in the game (Sunday). I think now, we are playing about 30 good minutes of basketball. We just need to bring together that last 10 minutes.

“We need to work better against pressure and our post needs conditioning and footwork. Working together as a team, we did that for about three quarters and we are better as a team.”

A rally in the fourth quarter by the Reign forced overtime and after two extra sessions, they were able to end a three-game skid behind the play of Leah Smith (22 points, four three pointers), Bree Fowler (17 points), Andrea Rhoiney (12 points), Raven Gary (11 points) and Zaneta Lindsey (10 points).

The Stars received strong performances from Tasha Willis (21 points), J. Tzmbowe and Rachelle Aupoint (16 points apiece) and Jasmine Franklin (10 points).

The Sunday win saw the Reign led by Smith (23 points, including five triples, five assists), Jasmine Thompson (16 points, six rebounds) and Tasha Johnson (14 points, six rebounds).

Carolina was paced by Tzmbowe (16 points), Franklin (13 points), and Aupoint (11 points).

“Since the beginning of the season we haven’t played our game yet, I am just waiting for it to come out,” Stars’ head coach Cierra Anderson said. “Compared to what we do back at home and against other individuals, we are a whole different team. The Stars haven’t showed up yet.

“We did play with heart, determination and desire. They were both good games and the Reign is a pretty good team. We did some things that were wrong and some things that were great.”

Anderson did say she wished the officiating would have been better.

In the second game of the weekend, the Reign came in with fresh legs and fighting spirit following the extra session win just 15 hours earlier, jumping out to a 26-16 lead north of the six-minute mark of the first half, thanks to two Smith threes that sparked a 10-0 run for the hosts.

The Reign used that push to lead 35-23 at the break.

In the second half, the Stars, showing plenty of grit themselves, rallying to within 39-34 halfway through the third quarter, before the Reign began playing some of its best ball on the season.

The hosts went on a 15-3 bender sparked by defensive play that led to scores and a few outside splashes to build a 54-37 edge before settling for a 54-42 lead heading into the final 10 minutes.

There things got a little rough for the hosts, as the Stars used full court pressure to turn the Reign over and force some sloppy ball handling to chip away until finally tying the score at 61-all with 3:48 to go.

Smith then took matters into her own hands with a three and a nectar dish to Bree Foster for a five-point lead a minute later and the Reign would hold on for the weekend sweep.

“It was really big, we needed to win and hadn’t had any good wins in a while, so this was helpful for us,” Smith said. “We have our chemistry back and we are starting to be able to play together so that works. We need to get in better shape and just keep executing our plays.”

The Reign travel to Memphis, Tennessee next weekend for a 5 p.m. tip against the Stars on Saturday and then a 3 p.m. Sunday match up against the host Tennessee Storm.

Great Game Play

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Lightning Take Care of Home Court, Grab Two Wins Over Weekend

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The Dallas Lightning bookended a two-game weekend at home with two key wins at Hebron High School in Carrolton, Texas in Women’s Minor League Basketball Association (WMLBA) play.
Friday night, the host Lightning used a consistent run of form to build a double-figure advantage and hang on for a 102-94 win over the Tennessee Storm.
They then took the weekend sweep with a 91-73 win over the Midwest Reign of Kansas City, Missouri on Sunday afternoon.
Tennessee salvaged a split of the weekend with a 109-66 win over the Reign on Saturday as the two Lightning opponents made up the remainder of the weekend slate.
In Friday’s win, the Lightning were sparked by Akil Simpson’s 28 points and 13 rebounds while Antoinette Thompson (20 points, five assists, four rebound), Cecila Okoye (14 points) and Connie Roseman (12 points, four assists) chipped in for the win.
The Storm were led by Ashley Shields (28 points, four rebounds), Brianna Mitchell (18 points, four assists), Kiana James (13 points, 11 rebounds) and Aaliyah Whiteside (13 points, seven rebounds).
The Lightning won the rebound battle 45-33 in a game that saw the two teams combine for a spectacular 54-for-63 shooting from the free throw line.
Tennessee made it 3-for-3 against the Reign this season the next day, as they blew open a close game at halftime with a tremendous performance over the last 20 minutes.
The Storm outscored the Reign 63-28 after the break to turn a 46-38 game at the intermission into an easy win.
Shields (26 points, nine rebounds), Shonice Sprouse (24 points) and Mitchell (22 points) paved the way for Tennessee while the Reign got 17 points and eight rebounds from Jasmine Thompson and 14 points and six rebounds from Tasha Johnson while Bree Walker chipped in with 13 points.
Tennessee forced 23 Reign turnovers and shot 57 percent from the field to the Reign’s 50 percent.
In the win against the Reign, Dallas’ Okoye (27 points, 14 rebounds), Simpson (13 points, 12 rebounds) and Antoinette Thompson (12 points, five assists, four rebounds) led the way for the Lightning to help complete the weekend sweep.
The ladies from Kansas City were paced by Jasmine Thompson’s 26 points and eight rebounds, while  Leah Smith (16 points) and Fowler and Johnson (13 points apiece) helped keep the team in contention.
The Lightning broke out to a 33-19 lead after one quarter, but from there on, the Reign kept things manageable, but could not put a big enough dent on the deficit to make a serious rally.
  • Alan Dale, Women’s Minor League Basketball Association (WMLBA) Media

Grinding Out A Win

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SAN ANTONIO – It was the definition of grinding out a win. The Midwest Reign made the 10-plus hour drive to San Antonio Friday, jumped off the bus and soon took care of business to record the franchise’s first-ever win.

The Reign, led by Jasmine Thompson (22 points) and Rician Walker (11 points) rolled to a 71-49 win in Women’s Minor League Basketball Association (WMLBA) play to move to 1-2 on the season.

“The defense was a key, we are taking pride in our defense and it led to great offensive transition points and opportunities,” Reign owner and head coach Jeff Graves said. “I felt like it was impressive to see us deal with adversity like we have recently and then rolling off the bus and coming out and performing at a top level? I am very proud of these women. We only had eight players to go to and they found a way to get it done.”
The following night, the Reign fell to 1-3 and managed only a split on its first road trip of the season, when the team fell 65-55 to the Houston Galaxy in San Antonio.

Thompson (20 points), Tasha Johnson (15 points) and Bree Fowler (13 points) led the Reign in the defeat.

The squad will next travel to Dallas on Saturday to take on the Tennessee Storm at 7 p.m. and then face the host Lightning at 3 p.m. on Sunday.

– Alan Dale

Storm Take Two in Kansas City

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KANSAS CITY, Kansas – From good to bad, to ick to ‘OK that’s what we’re talking about,’ the Midwest Reign basketball team ran the gamut of performance levels in its first weekend of play during this inaugural season of Women’s Minor League Basketball Association (WMLBA) play.

Saturday, the host Reign saw a solid start melt away to a 101-76 defeat to the visiting Tennessee Storm and then 24 hours later witnessed a less than memorable first three quarters give way to a gut-check last dozen minutes that showed their heart and resilience.

The Reign (0-2) fell to the Storm (4-0) 102-92 on Sunday in the second of two games played at Kansas City Kansas Community College (KCKCC), but not before making a statement that their pride will not be denied.

On Sunday, the Storm’s Brianna Mitchel led all scorers with 31 points while teammates Shonice Sprouse added 16 points, Aaliyah Whiteside 14 points and Keona James pitched in 12 points in the win.

Leading the way for the Reign were Leah Smith (23 points), Jasmine Thompson (17 points), Raven Garry (15 points) and Tasha Johnson (12 points).
The Reign rallied from 30 down to pull within a few possessions late in the game, but with enough time to still execute a famous comeback.

“That is something we can build off of and take off and use it for a fundamental push for the next practice,” Midwest Reign owner and head coach Jeff Graves said. “(The big deficit) was caused by conditioning and (not being in shape) leads to a lack of thinking the game and I think we will be alright once we get past that point.

“What we have to grow on is the fundamentals and the team’s basketball IQ and team chemistry.”

The Reign head on the road next weekend with two games in San Antonio against the host San Antonio Troopers Friday (7 p.m.) and Saturday at 7 p.m. against the Houston Galaxy.

In the first meeting between the two teams, Tennessee got 31 points from Sprouse, 18 more from Whiteside, James contributed 14 points and 14 more points from Ami McNear.

Thompson had 29 points, Reece Walker poured in 20 points and Smith added 15 points.

“The trip itself, up here, was OK,” Storm head coach Tiffany Porter said. “The weather was great and these are great facilities. (The Reign) is a hard-nosed and scrappy. (Saturday) we started out a little slow and ended pretty good and (Sunday) we came out up and ended kind of slow. For the most part, they competed and I am proud of them.”

Porter knows that the outside game, that came up big, made the difference these two contests.

“My team is an outside shooting team,” Porter said. “I like to play the inside-outside game, but when my shooters are on, they’re on. I tell them all the time, if the shot is not working, drive that ball as much as you can and try to get to the free throw line. (The Reign) was doubling and tripling on our bigs so that gave us a lot of room and confidence to get that shot up and make it.”

The Storm have two games next weekend at the Carolina Stars, a team they swept last weekend back at home.

The Storm staked its way to a 18-13 lead with three minutes left in the first quarter behind four, 3-point bombs from deep, but otherwise the teams were locked up in an early duel.

That was until a late 11-3 run by the Storm catapulted them into a 29-16 edge after 10 minutes.

The Reign got things back in order over the next 3-plus minutes to cut the lead to 33-28 thanks to some silky offensive sets and a renewed sense of defensive purpose.

The Storm’s prowess from the money line helped push them quickly back up 44-28 just two minutes later, with three big bombs paving the way for a bigger push.

Tennessee led 55-34 going into the break thanks to nine three-pointers, four by Mitchell.

The Storm outscored the Reign 27-12 from beyond the arc in the first 20 minutes.

Tennessee built the lead to 30 points late in the third quarter, but the Reign battled back to within 91-80 with just over three minutes left on a

Jasmine Thompson layup following a Storm turnover.

Ultimately, the Reign pulled within seven with 90 seconds left before the Storm finally put a cap on the win with some late free throws and an ability to possess the rock while the hosts scrambled to stay in contention.

Add WMLBA To The Texas Triangle

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The Texas triangle is synonymous with basketball rivalries, namely the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs.

Well it’s time to add the Women’s Minor League Basketball Association (WMLBA) to that list of top spots to watch those three cities wage battle on the hardwood.

This past weekend, the WMLBA launched its first season at the Pearland Recreation Center, home site for the Houston Galaxy who played host to the Dallas Lightning and San Antonio Troopers for a 3-games in 3-days showcase for a new home for professional women’s basketball.

The host Galaxy came out of the round-robin weekend of action with two wins in the same number of contests while the Lighting salvaged a .500 split of the weekend at the expense of the Troopers, who tipped off the 2017 campaign winless.

In the season opener, the Galaxy held off the Lightning, 65-63 on Friday, as Mercedes Johnson led the hosts with 15 points while guard Brittany Maxey added 10 points and four rebounds.

Dallas was led by Shaunte Smith (17 points, nine rebounds), Brandi Leal (12 points), Shaconda Roseman (11 points, four rebounds) and Antoinette Thompson (10 points).

Houston outshot Dallas 41.33 to 33.71 percent and out rebounded the Lightning, 53-30, which included 23 offensive boards that helped the Galaxy get 19 more shots off over the course of the contest.

On Saturday, the Lightning came out looking to bounce back and did so in dominant fashion, pulling away for a 106-48 win over the Troopers.

Smith finished with 24 points and seven rebounds, while Leal and Antoinette Thompson each scored 20 points apiece and Kelsey Wilson contributed 16 points and six rebounds. Roseman added 11 points.

The Lightning shot a blistering 58 percent from the field and committed an impressive eight turnovers compared to 17 for the Troopers, who were held to 30 percent shooting from the field.

San Antonio was led by Ashanti Davis (14 points, seven rebounds) and Ruth Gutierrez (12 points and four rebounds).

The Galaxy closed the weekend out Sunday with a comprehensive 74-48 win over the Troopers.

Houston shot 56.3 percent from the field and were led by Maxey (13 points, five rebounds), Donielle Breaux (12 points) and Johnson (11 points).

Houston also out rebounded San Antonio, 52-31, despite efforts of Trooper forward Tyler Gibson who finished with 14 points and 16 rebounds. Davis finished with 19 points and Rosy Ofoebu chipped in with 10 points in a losing effort.

-Alan Dale, WMLBA media