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Your Day in Women’s Basketball, September 10: Dream are (mathematically) stayin’ alive

Atlanta Dream (really!) have an outside shot at the playoffs

Wow. What a day of basketball. What a day of basketball coverage.

The Atlanta Dream’s season seemed lost. Now, somehow, the Dream are not mathematically-eliminated from the playoffs. But they’ll need a miracle to get in there.

They already completed the first piece of the puzzle, shocking the Chicago Sky on Wednesday night to keep their hopes alive. The Dream lost to the final two teams on their schedule earlier this year (the Connecticut Sun and Washington Mystics), the latter of whom will also be fighting for the final playoff spot. Mark your calendars for their matchup on September 13.

Not all teams will enter the final week of the season as motivated as Atlanta. The Indiana Fever have had a season of untimely injuries and suffered a tough 8-game losing streak down the stretch. Their playoff hopes are officially over.

Indiana will have plenty to be happy about moving forward, though. For starters, All-Star Erica Wheeler will return in the 2021 season. They’ll also keep Julie Allemand on the roster, a third-round pick from this year who almost gave up on her WNBA dreams, but decided to sign with the team after a push from head coach Marianne Stanley.

Allemand became a league-wide sensation this season, averaging the second-most assists per game (5.7) with the second-highest three-point percentage (48.2%) in the entire WNBA.

“Over time, I just hope that we can get it,” said Kelsey Mitchell. “The proof is in the pudding, we’re really good when we can get things going… individually and then collectively, we can just piece it together on so many levels. I think over time we’ll get it.”

The Fever have a knack for these hidden gems, lest we forget that Erica Wheeler went entirely undrafted and was the first-ever undrafted WNBA All-Star. They’ll have a valuable first-round pick to use in the upcoming draft and will hope to add a difference-maker to the roster.

Unlike some of the other teams mentioned in this column, the Los Angeles Sparks are focused on their success in the present-day. They certainly don’t have much to complain about. Even after several key pieces opted-out before the season began the Sparks have shown that they have some of the best depth in the league. In particular, Riquna Williams, Te’a Cooper, and Kristine Anigwe showed out in Tuesday’s win over the Liberty, combining for 49 points.

On the other end of the court, the New York Liberty’s Jocelyn Willoughby had a career game, scoring 21 points on 87.5% shooting. Get her the ball more!

Sadly, her performance felt empty, or at least lost, in the team’s 30-point loss. Head coach Walt Hopkins certainly deserves a share of the blame, as Amanda Zahui B. and Jazmine Jones’ offensive talents were sorely missed. There’s an argument to be made against playing them, as New York stood almost no chance of defeating Los Angeles in the first place, but the move stings for Liberty fans.

The Minnesota Lynx, meanwhile, have faced challenges in their final stretch of the season as they try to hang on to a top-4 seed against the streaking Phoenix Mercury. Head coach Cheryl Reeve sounds defeated, to put it bluntly. She’s not happy with the team’s performance defending the interior, and Las Vegas won’t be an easy challenge in their next game.

“We’ve got to figure it out, we’ve got to push through some stuff,” Reeve said. “I don’t have … in terms of Vegas in this next game, Vegas really doesn’t matter; I think how we play matters. If we continue to play like we’re playing, it’ll be another 100-point game. This is the best offense in the league. It’s a team that gets to the foul line, a team that gets to the paint, and it’ll be on national TV again. So I don’t know, we’ll have to see if we can figure it out again. It’s not likely, though.”

Down in the NCAA, FSU head coach Sue Semrau will be taking a leave of absence after 15 NCAA tournament appearances. Her move is certainly admirable from an outsider’s perspective, as her forgone salary will be used to offset budget cuts in the department caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This decision allows me to support my family while providing much-needed resources for Seminole Athletics,” Semrau said.

In her place, 10-year assistant and 9-year WNBA veteran Brooke Wyckoff will lead the Seminoles’ season.

She Got Next with Pepper Persley, Episode 6, is here! Persley talks to Joyner Holmes of the New York Liberty regarding her growth in the league and Texas basketball background.

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