Final

Comets 65

 

    Coverage: ESPN2/WatchESPN

    5:30 PM ET, September 10, 2005

    1 2 3 4 T
    HOU 30 35 65
    SAC 44 30 74

    Top Performers

    Houston: S. Swoopes 24 Pts, 6 Reb, 4 Ast, 2 Stl, 2 Blk

    Sacramento: K. Lawson 18 Pts, 9 Reb, 7 Ast, 1 Stl

    Griffith, Lawson lead Sacramento to first Finals

    SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- The Sacramento Monarchs earned the city's first chance for a basketball championship.

    Yolanda Griffith scored 19 points and Kara Lawson had 18 points, nine rebounds and seven assists Saturday, leading the Monarchs to a sweep of the Western Conference finals with a 74-65 win over the Houston Comets.

    After three previous failed attempts, the Monarchs reached the WNBA Finals for the first time. The NBA's Kings have never played for the title.

    "I've been here seven years and Ticha (Penicheiro) has been here eight, it's somewhere we've wanted to be for a long time, in the Finals," said Griffith, who had seven rebounds. "It feels great. We're excited. But there is something bigger we want -- a title."

    Sacramento will face Connecticut, which is there for the second straight year, in the opener of the best-of-five championship series Wednesday night at Uncasville, Conn.

    The Monarchs set the tone early against the Comets, scoring the game's first two baskets and never trailing. The lead was 14 points by halftime, and Houston never cut it below six the rest of the way as Sacramento improved to 17-2 overall at home this year.

    Sheryl Swoopes played all 40 minutes for Houston and had to work for her 24 points, shooting 9-for-23 from the field. Tina Thompson had 13 points and Janeth Arcain added 12. Both Swoopes and Thompson had six rebounds.

    "Sacramento is playing very well right now, they are hungry for a championship," Swoopes said. "It's probably because I'm in the Western Conference, but I think they will win it all."

    Getting their latest victory was much easier thanks to Lawson, who started at point guard in place of the injured Penicheiro. Typically a shooting guard, Lawson alternated with rookie Kristin Haynie at the point and also played off guard as well.

    It was Lawson's best game of the year as she recorded playoff career highs in points, rebounds and assists. Lawson made all four 3-pointers, finishing 6-for-9 from the field overall for the Monarchs, who shot 53 percent and outrebounded the Comets 43-30.

    "I wanted to be more of a table-setter in this game, but if I had the looks I was going to take them," Lawson said. "I'm a shooter. I'm always looking for my shot."

    DeMya Walker, who missed the first round series with Los Angeles due to a knee injury, made all five shots and scored 13 points. Haynie scored eight points in just 14 minutes and Rebekkah Brunson added seven points and six rebounds.

    "Offensively, that's the best Sacramento has ever played against us," Houston coach Val Chancellor said. "I've never seen them shoot the ball so well from the outside."

    It was another playoff exit for Houston, which won the league's first four championships but has not been back in the Finals since winning its last title in 2000.

    "I'm tickled to death to win and beat a first-class team, that makes the fact that we were able to beat them even sweeter," Sacramento coach John Whisenant said. "Now we have a chance to achieve something that's never been done in franchise history."

    Swoopes, who led the league in scoring this year, got going late in the first half. She made consecutive 3-pointers to pull the Comets to within 54-48 with 11:39 remaining, but the Monarchs gradually built the lead back to double figures.

    Sacramento swept the series without Penicheiro, who sprained her left ankle in practice on Tuesday. Her status listed as questionable for Game 1 of the Finals, although she says otherwise.

    "I would have played tomorrow (Game 3) if we didn't win this one," Penicheiro said. "Now I have four more days to get better, which is great. I expect to play Wednesday."

    The Monarchs established themselves early, with their typical hounding defense and considerable balance on offense. Sacramento shot 70 percent and mad all four 3-point attempts in taking a 44-30 lead at the break.

    "You don't expect to shoot 70 percent and Kara was making NBA threes," Whisenant said.

    Griffith had seven early points inside and finished with nine in the opening half. She was getting plenty of help from the athletic Brunson, who had seven points and five rebounds. Lawson took control during a late stretch, making consecutive 3-pointers and converting a steal into a layup for a 42-27 lead with 1:31 left.

    "There is a certain level of satisfaction (getting to the Finals), to be one of the two teams left," Lawson said. "We're here and now we have the opportunity to win a championship."

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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    Team Stat Comparison

      Houston Sacramento
    Points 65 74
    FG Made-Attempted 25-63 (.000) 29-55 (.000)
    3P Made-Attempted 2-6 (.333) 5-10 (.500)
    FT Made-Attempted 13-19 (.000) 11-14 (.000)
    Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 12-25 9-36
    Assists 13 15
    Turnovers 8 20
    Steals 9 5
    Blocks 2 3
    Fast Break Points 4 17
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 18 (1/0) 23 (0/0)