Houston loses in first round again


HOUSTON (AP) -- Ticha Penicheiro didn't follow instructions, but
the Sacramento Monarchs aren't complaining.

Yolanda Griffith had 27 points and 17 rebounds, and Penicheiro
made the decisive basket with 2.1 seconds left as the Sacramento
Monarchs advanced in the WNBA playoffs by ousting the Houston
Comets 70-68 Tuesday night.

"I wanted Tish to freelance a little more, and I didn't really
want to shoot it that quickly," Sacramento coach John Whisenant
said. "But our post players were covered really well. Usually she
thinks pass first, but this time she did a great job."

The Monarchs, who won two of three games in the first-round
matchup, will play the Los Angeles Sparks in the Western Conference
finals. Game 1 will be Friday night in Sacramento with the next two
games Sunday and Monday in Los Angeles.

The Monarchs built a 14-point bulge late in the first half and
led 44-32 at the break. But the four-time WNBA champion Comets
forged a 68-68 tie on a layup by Sheryl Swoopes with eight seconds

"The difference is that our teammates looked into the mirror
and knew they didn't bring their best game Sunday," Griffith said
of Sunday's Game 2 loss. "We did that today. Everybody brought
their best game. We pulled together on this one and did what we

And Penicheiro?

"That was probably the biggest shot of her life," Griffith

Sacramento got the ball to Penicheiro, whose 11-foot running
jumper hit for the clincher. The Comets got one more shot, but
Swoopes missed the mark.

"On that last play, we had everyone covered that we wanted
covered," Comets coach Van Chancellor said. "We forced them to
make a play. She made a tough shot at the right time."

DeMya Walker added 15 points and Edna Campbell had 12 for the

Houston, sluggish in the first half, came alive to start the
second and cut Sacramento's lead to 53-47 with 14:58 to play.

Houston cut the lead to 61-58 with 8:29 to go on a tip-in by
Michelle Snow. Griffith's basket with 7:25 to play kept Sacramento
in the lead. But Tina Thompson hit a layup and Janeth Arcain a
10-foot jumper, cutting the lead to 63-62 with 4:06 to play.

Houston pulled to 67-66 with 1:09 to go, but Penicheiro's free
throw made it 68-66.

Thompson led the Comets with 21 points and Snow had 16 points
and 15 rebounds. Swoopes finished with 15 points and five assists.

"That's an outstanding team that we just beat," Whisenant
said. "I feel for them because they played so hard. I like the way
we responded to the shellacking we took on Sunday. We came out with
more energy, moved around more and got a hand in their faces."