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Archive for Monday, September 4, 2006

Sacramento one win from crown

Monarchs roll, 89-69, over Detroit in Game Four; Laimbeer miffed at effort of Shock

September 4, 2006

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— Erin Buescher just hoped to catch some iron with her awkward fling at the basket, yet her shot-clock-beating three-pointer went in.

She ran upcourt with her arms spread wide, wearing a look of exhilaration - but not disbelief.

Everything was going the Monarchs' way again in the WNBA finals, and they moved to the brink of their second straight championship with an 89-69 victory over the Detroit Shock in Game 3 on Sunday.

"Yeah, I've been practicing that a lot, and my practice paid off," Buescher said with a smirk, recalling a shot that wouldn't please any coach. "Throw them up, and they go in."

That basket and the win weren't as easy as they looked, but the Monarchs have a chance to end their tumultuous season with another championship banner in Game 4 of the best-of-five series on Wednesday night.

Yolanda Griffith scored 15 points for the Monarchs, and Nicole Powell had 14.

Buescher and DeMya Walker had 11 points apiece as Sacramento shook off its fourth-quarter collapse in Game 2 with a wire-to-wire victory based on defense and depth - the two foundations of coach John Whisenant's back-to-back powerhouses.

"I think my team believes that we can win, but I just told them it's like playing with the rattlesnake," Whisenant said. "You get too close, get overconfident, and they will bite you."

Sacramento never trailed and led by 27 points while eight Monarchs scored at least seven points. The defense forced 23 turnovers by the demoralized Shock in their third straight blowout loss in Arco Arena, where the Monarchs have won 11 straight playoff games since 2001.

"It's always good to finish a championship with your home crowd," Griffith said.

Sacramento's reserves led a decisive 14-3 run to close the third quarter, doubling the Monarchs' lead to 22 points in three minutes.

Buescher punctuated that surge with the strange three-pointer that somehow seemed natural when Sacramento was rolling.

Nothing was nearly as easy for Detroit, which received 22 points from Deanna Nolan but precious little from the rest of its vaunted starting lineup. Coach Bill Laimbeer blasted his team both during and after the game - saying the Shock "lost our brain," calling center Ruth Riley "overmatched" and saying Nolan "floated" throughout.

"It was clear before the game started, we were going to be in trouble," Laimbeer said. "I didn't think we were ready to play as hard as we had to win a game in their building. ... In the middle of this game, we stopped playing. That's unacceptable behavior for a professional athlete."

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