10:00 PM ET, August 24, 2006
Los Angeles: M. Mabika 23 Pts, 2 Reb, 2 Stl
Sacramento: Y. Griffith 18 Pts, 6 Reb, 3 Ast, 3 Stl
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- Kara Lawson could feel the Sacramento Monarchs' season slipping away through three terrible quarters.Yet after a remarkable fourth-quarter comeback, the Monarchs' emotional leader felt their championship drive was in better shape than ever.Yolanda Griffith scored 18 points and hit the go-ahead layup with 10.3 seconds left in the Monarchs' 64-61 victory over the Los Angeles Sparks in Game 1 of the WNBA's Western Conference finals on Thursday night.Nicole Powell scored 17 points and Lawson hit a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 48 seconds left for the defending league champion Monarchs, who rallied from a nine-point deficit late in the third quarter of a physical opener to their fourth straight trip to the conference finals."We turned the ball over. We weren't clicking offensively. They dominated us at times on the boards," Lawson said. "There were a lot of reasons for us to lose, but we didn't give in. We kept grinding."Indeed, it wasn't pretty for either of these longtime rivals. Sacramento was outplayed for much of the night while getting just three points from its vaunted bench, and the Sparks -- who couldn't score a point in the first 5:55 -- were perhaps two good fourth-quarter possessions away from a win.But the Monarchs hit one clutch shot after another, and now Sacramento has two chances at one victory to earn a return to the WNBA Finals."I really thought my team showed determination, character, courage, whatever you want to call it," Monarchs coach John Whisenant said. "We needed this one badly."Sacramento couldn't replicate its two outstanding performances in a first-round sweep of Houston, but still shook off three poor quarters with a remarkable rally against top-seeded Los Angeles and Mwadi Mabika, who nearly carried the Sparks to victory with 23 points.Lisa Leslie had 11 rebounds but just seven points on 3-of-13 shooting for Los Angeles, which led throughout the second half until Powell hit her third 3-pointer with 4:17 left to tie it at 51.Temeka Johnson, who scored 14 points, made two tough layups for the Sparks, but Sacramento tied it again on Ticha Penicheiro's 3-pointer. The Monarchs went ahead on a 3-pointer by Lawson, who scored 13 points on a poor shooting night.Mabika tied it at 61 on a 3-pointer with 34 seconds left, but the Monarchs ran down the clock until Griffith scored over two defenders on a pass from Lawson. Johnson missed a tough layup on the other end, and Lawson hit one free throw with 3.1 seconds left.Lisa Willis missed a long 3-pointer at the buzzer, and the Monarchs hit the road for Game 2 on Saturday night -- which will be played in Anaheim while an American Idol-related concert takes over Staples Center.
Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images
Ticha Penicheiro hit a key 3 down the stretch to fuel the Monarchs.
Team Stat Comparison
|FG Made-Attempted||22-60 (.000)||23-60 (.000)|
|3P Made-Attempted||7-14 (.500)||6-17 (.353)|
|FT Made-Attempted||10-12 (.000)||12-21 (.000)|
|Fast Break Points||2||6|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||20 (0/0)||16 (0/0)|