Archive for Thursday, September 7, 2006

Detroit shocks Sacramento, forces fifth game

September 7, 2006


— The Arco Arena court was quiet and clean, free of any confetti or streamers. The celebratory T-shirts stayed in their boxes, and the WNBA championship trophy remained hidden.

The crowd thought it would see the Monarchs' coronation Wednesday. Instead, the Sacramento players got tickets back to Detroit for the decisive Game 5 in the WNBA finals.

Katie Smith scored 22 points, Cheryl Ford had 13 points and 10 rebounds, and the Detroit Shock tied the finals with an emphatic 72-52 victory in Game 4.

Swin Cash and Deanna Nolan scored eight points apiece for the Shock, who made a remarkable mental turnaround after seeming disorganized and disinterested in most of the series' first three games. After taking a six-point lead into the fourth quarter, the Shock held Sacramento to two points on 1-of-12 shooting in an improbably one-sided final period.

"We understand that they had everything ready for a celebration, but we really wanted to get it back to Detroit," Cash said. "We came together in the last two days. When we play as a team, it's about us getting the championship."

After another remarkable momentum shift in this unpredictable series, Saturday's finale will be played at Detroit's downtown Joe Louis Arena because the Palace in suburban Auburn Hills is playing host to a Mariah Carey concert.

While the Monarchs sat stunned at their lockers after Game 4, the Shock answered the dozens of messages left on their cell phones by excited friends and fans.

"This is what the WNBA is all about - competing and not giving up," said Nolan, who battled through foul trouble. "That's what we did. They came out very focused and determined to win the championship on their own court, and we took that away."

The Monarchs intended to duplicate last season's title celebration at home, where they hadn't lost a playoff game in 11 tries since 2001. Instead, they scored 26 points in the final three quarters of a blowout loss.

"It was like our minds weren't working tonight," said Yolanda Griffith, who had 10 points on 3-of-13 shooting. "We were thinking of other things. Everything we preach and say we're going to do, we didn't do it."

The Shock broke Sacramento's home playoff streak with Smith's scoring and all the defensive tenacity demanded by coach Bill Laimbeer, who publicly challenged his players to hate the Monarchs before Game 4.

Nicole Powell scored all 13 of her points in the first half for the Monarchs, who shot poorly and got outrebounded 40-26.


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