Area players strive for WNBA supremacy
Swin Cash and Ashley Battle were teammates at Connecticut, where they played on the same NCAA women's basketball championship team.
The Western Pennsylvania natives will begin separate quests for a title tonight.
Cash, a McKeesport graduate, plays for the defending champion Detroit Shock.
Battle, who is from the North Side but attended Linsley School in Wheeling, W. Va., is a member of the New York Liberty.
The teams open a best of three-game series at 7:30 p.m. tonight at Madison Square Garden in New York. Game 2 is at 1 p.m. Sunday at Detroit's Palace of Auburn Hills. Game 3, if necessary, will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Detroit.
"The thing about playing at Connecticut is you know you will eventually play against a teammate in the WNBA," Cash said. "We have fun before and after the game talking and joking with each other. But on the court, we all want to win for our team."
Cash said she wants to win back-to-back titles because that is something she hasn't accomplished.
Cash and Battle learned a lot about what it takes to win a championship by playing at powerhouse Connecticut.
"I think that coming from a program like Connecticut that was a winner helped me when I came to Detroit and then met with (Detroit coach) Bill (Laimbeer) when he took over," Cash said. "We decided to set the bar high and compete for a championship every year. We expect to be competitive to every year."
ESPN women's basketball analyst Doris Burke said playing for a coach such as UConn's Geno Auriemma is an invaluable experience.
"Expectations are so high at Connecticut," Burke said. "Those expectations are there all the time, even at practices. Geno demands so much from his players that it prepares them for playing at the next level and for life outside of basketball."
Burke said Cash has had an outstanding regular season, and she's done it quietly. She is one of the best finishers in the WNBA, Burke said. As for Battle, she is an interesting story in that coaches debate which position she is most effective. Burke said the fact that Battle can score, play defense and rebound gives coaches many options.
Cash is versatile, too.
That quality is one that Laimbeer likes. He said he feels comfortable playing Cash at multiple positions. She is the kind of player who increases her intensity at playoff time.
"Swin has always had a championship attitude, even before she went to Connecticut," Laimbeer said. "She won a championship in high school and has always been a competitor."
Laimbeer said Cash is an intelligent player who rarely makes mistakes.
"That is important, especially in big games," he said. "Swin doesn't make many mental errors. She understands her role on this team, and her perimeter game has gotten better each season. She has found a comfort zone here in Detroit and definitely is a leader for this team."
New York Liberty coach Pat Coyle said Battle's leadership comes in the form of a spark off the bench. That was Battle's role at UConn.
Battle was unavailable for an interview because of a family emergency.
"AB has been in many pressure situations when she was at Connecticut, and I think that has really helped her in the pros," Coyle said. "AB gives us that extra boost we need. Her energy is contagious. Her teammates feed off her."
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