Sparks 63

(17-17, 6-11 away)

    10:00 PM ET, September 2, 2005

    1 2 3 4 T
    LA 29 34 63
    SAC 43 38 81

    Top Performers

    Los Angeles: N. Teasley 14 Pts, 2 Reb, 5 Ast, 1 Stl

    Sacramento: T. Penicheiro 13 Pts, 6 Reb, 6 Ast, 3 Stl

    Monarchs eliminate L.A. to advance to West finals

    SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- Frequently victimized by the Los Angeles Sparks during the playoffs in previous years, suddenly it's the Sacramento Monarchs who own the upper hand. The Monarchs got 13 points apiece from Ticha Penicheiro and Yolanda Griffith, and swept the Sparks out of the WNBA playoffs with an 81-63 victory Friday night. The Monarchs pulled away in the second half to win the Western Conference series in two games. It was the second straight first-round exit for the Sparks, who also lost to Sacramento in 2004. The Monarchs will play the winner of the Seattle-Houston series. Game 3 of that matchup is Saturday night in Seattle. Prior to last season, the Sparks had eliminated the Monarchs from the playoffs three straight times and dominated them in the regular season as well. A year ago, the Monarchs upset the conference champions by winning the pivotal third game in Los Angeles. "We have grown, we're not scared of them, maybe before there was an intimidation factor, we got beat all the time," said Penicheiro, who also had six rebounds, six assists, three steals and two blocks. "Now we're over the hump, we've got their number." It was a rough season for the Sparks, who struggled through injuries and inconsistent played and needed a late run under interim coach Joe Bryant to even make the playoffs with a 17-17 record. With six games left in the season, Bryant replaced head coach Henry Bibby, who departed through a mutual agreement with Los Angeles management. "We played eight games in the last 15 days, it was really difficult to change things," said Bryant, who would like to return as head coach. Rebekkah Brunson had 13 points and nine rebounds for the Monarchs, who defeated Los Angeles 75-72 in Game 1. Kara Lawson added 11 points and Hamchetou Maiga 10. Tamika Whitmore had 15 points and Nikki Teasley 14 for Los Angeles, which committed 18 turnovers. Making only her second career start, Raffaella Masciadri connected on three 3s and had a career-high 13 points. "We've only won what we've won before, we have to win the next series to get into the finals for the first time," Sacramento coach John Whisenant said. "But beating them two straight is quite an accomplishment." Leslie never got going offensively. Holdsclaw shot 3-of-12 and had seven points. Bothered by foul problems, Leslie was 1-for-5 with six points and eight rebounds. "Give credit to the Sacramento defense, they did an exceptional job," Teasley said. "Their guards really pressure the ball and made it tough for us to get the ball inside to Lisa and Chamique. Then when we did, they would double- and triple-team them." This will be Sacramento's fourth appearance in the Western Conference finals. The Monarchs, who lost last year to eventual league champion Seattle in the conference finals, never have advanced to the WNBA Finals. With Los Angeles coming out strong in the second half and cutting the lead to two points, it was the Monarchs regaining control, running off 16 straight points for a 72-54 lead with 5:47 remaining. "I looked at the scoreboard and saw we were only up by two points," Penicheiro said. "I said, 'Uh oh, I better do something.' I tried to push the ball and be more aggressive." Two of those points came when Bryant and Teasley vehemently argued a call and were whistled for technicals. Lawson made them pay, making both free throws to the dismay of Bryant, who took off his suit jacket for much of a physical second half. "Let the players determine the outcome of the game," Bryant said. "When you have a good game going on you don't call ticky-tack fouls." Trailing by 14 points, the Sparks opened the second half showing some offense for the first time all game. They had a 14-3 surge, highlighted by Masciadri's rare four-point play. Getting production inside from Brunson and also on the perimeter from an unlikely source in Chelsea Newton, the Monarchs held a 43-29 halftime lead. The athletic Brunson scored nine points and Newton had eight for Sacramento, which used a 9-0 run to take control of the game.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

      Los Angeles Sacramento
    Points 63 81
    FG Made-Attempted 19-54 (.000) 26-60 (.000)
    3P Made-Attempted 6-15 (.400) 5-13 (.385)
    FT Made-Attempted 19-25 (.000) 24-37 (.000)
    Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 8-24 9-34
    Assists 13 17
    Turnovers 18 11
    Steals 7 7
    Blocks 3 4
    Fast Break Points 5 9
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 30 (1/0) 22 (0/0)