Two Teams Trying to Make Strong Pushes

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.