Final

Comets 64

 

    Coverage: ABC

    3:30 PM ET, August 19, 2006

    1 2 3 4 T
    HOU 18 17 16 1364
    SAC 21 24 24 2392

    Top Performers

    Houston: M. Snow 16 Pts, 7 Reb, 3 Ast, 4 Blk

    Sacramento: Y. Griffith 17 Pts, 7 Reb, 2 Ast

    Monarchs beat Comets, advance to Western finals

    SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- Though the Sacramento Monarchs' regular season felt like a mess, their first two playoff games have been works of art.

    Yolanda Griffith scored 17 points, Rebekkah Brunson added 14, and the Monarchs advanced to the WNBA Western Conference finals with a relentless 92-64 victory over the Houston Comets on Saturday in Game 2 of their first-round series.

    Ticha Penicheiro had seven assists and hit two 3-pointers for the defending-champion Monarchs, who easily won Game 1 of the best-of-three series in Houston before rolling into the conference finals for the fourth straight season.

    Even notoriously picky coach John Whisenant could only applaud his starters when they left their second straight blowout win in the closing seconds. Defense, accurate shooting, heady rebounding, tenacity -- Sacramento had it all, and not even Houston's veteran club could compete.

    "We have that confidence," Griffith said. "We have that little swagger that we did last year. ... Right now, we're playing the best basketball we can possibly play. We don't have a (playoff) switch in the locker room. We just know we can play the game."

    The Comets managed just 29 points in the second half, never getting within 10 points of the Monarchs in a 28-point loss -- nearly double the four-time champions' previous largest margin of defeat in a playoff game, a 75-60 loss to Los Angeles in 1999. Houston allowed 90 points just four times in 34 regular-season games, but Sacramento reached the mark in both postseason games.

    "The way Sacramento is playing, I don't think there's a team that can beat them," said Comets guard Dawn Staley, who played her final WNBA game.

    The regular season was a drag in Sacramento -- from Griffith's knee injuries to DeMya Walker's return from pregnancy, from Kara Lawson's mysterious preseason illness to the death of Whisenant's mother.

    Sacramento still finished with the West's second-best record, and none of the problems mattered during the Monarchs' two-game postseason warning shot to the rest of the league.

    "Our goal for the whole year was to hang tough during the season, get into the playoffs and then have the depth to go from there," Whisenant said. "I'm just happy with my team."

    Nicole Powell, Walker and Lawson had 10 points apiece for Sacramento, which set a franchise playoff record with 24 assists and committed just six turnovers, tying another postseason best.

    Sacramento will open the conference finals Thursday against Los Angeles or Seattle, which beat the top-seeded Sparks in Game 1 of that series Friday night. The Monarchs have been in the conference finals in five of the last six seasons.

    Michelle Snow scored 16 points and Tina Thompson added 14 for the Comets, who haven't won a WNBA title since claiming the league's first four crowns. Despite a wealth of veteran talent including reigning MVP Sheryl Swoopes, who scored 12 points while playing passively, the Comets are headed home with another disappointing finish.

    "(If) Sacramento shoots the ball as well as they shot it against us the last two games, nobody is going to beat them," said Houston coach Van Chancellor, who didn't address the retirement rumors surrounding him. "They're going to repeat as WNBA champs."

    The loss was the final game for Staley, who announced her retirement as a player earlier during her fifth All-Star season. The Temple coach is a three-time U.S. Olympian -- and the American flagbearer at the Athens Games -- who has been in the WNBA since 1999, playing her first 6½ seasons with Charlotte.

    Staley, who will be an assistant with the U.S. team at the world championships this fall, went scoreless with three rebounds and two assists. She got lengthy hugs from most of the Sacramento players after the game.

    "There was nothing we could do," Staley said. "I don't think there's anything any team could do against two games the way Sacramento played. It was incredible. ... They just put us on our heels for 80 minutes, and you don't usually see that in basketball."

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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    Team Stat Comparison

      Houston Sacramento
    Points 64 92
    FG Made-Attempted 25-54 (.000) 38-74 (.000)
    3P Made-Attempted 1-8 (.125) 5-12 (.417)
    FT Made-Attempted 13-18 (.000) 11-18 (.000)
    Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 6-27 15-35
    Assists 15 24
    Turnovers 13 4
    Steals 2 8
    Blocks 6 1
    Fast Break Points 0 4
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 15 (0/0) 17 (0/0)