Sacramento 69, Connecticut 65
Griffith Goes Off;
Monarchs Take Home Court
UNCASVILLE, Conn., Sept 14 (Ticker) -- In an electric atmosphere, Yolanda Griffith came through with a powerful performance.
Griffith scored 19 of her 25 points in the second half as the Sacramento Monarchs posted a thrilling 69-65 victory over the Connecticut Sun in Game 1 of the WNBA Finals.
With the crowd at Mohegan Sun Arena on its feet for virtually the entire second half, Griffith showed why she's one of the league's top players.
The 6-4 Griffith had her way near the basket over the final 20 minutes, making 8-of-10 shots. Her three-point play with 2:59 remaining gave the Monarchs a 63-59 lead.
"We know it's going to be a challenge," Griffith said. "We can't celebrate. We haven't done anything. We can go on from here and lose three in a row."
After the Sun pulled within 63-61 on Lindsay Whalen's basket, Kara Lawson drilled a huge 3-pointer with 1:59 left to put the Monarchs up by five.
"I had a good look at it," said Lawson, who made just 3-of-9 shots. "When you're shooting, you have to keep shooting. I had a good open look and I felt I can knock it down. I'm glad it went down."
Nykesha Sales hit a jumper with 1:24 to go, allowing the Sun to close to 66-63, but they squandered a pair of chances to tie. Katie Douglas missed a 3-pointer with 55 seconds left and Whalen hit the back rim from the arc on a wide-open attempt with under 20 seconds remaining.
Griffith made a free throw with 4.4 seconds left to seal things for the Monarchs, who are within two wins of their first title.
Nicole Powell added 10 points and Ticha Penicheiro collected eight assists for Sacramento, which shot 42 percent (28-of-67) and committed just seven turnovers.
Penicheiro returned to the lineup after missing the Western Conference finals against Houston with a badly sprained ankle.
"She struggled some with her foot," Sacramento coach John Whisenant said. "She wasn't the Ticha of old, but her heart was big. She gave us good minutes."
Whalen, who suffered a non-displaced fracture of the tibial plateau of the left knee Saturday in the first quarter of Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals against Indiana, had seven points and two assists in 25 minutes.
"The most impressive part is that she played 25 minutes without turnover," Sun coach Mike Thibault said. "She struggled a little bit with here shooting. She did a lot of other good things."
Sales scored 23 points and Douglas 14 for Connecticut, which lost at home in the playoffs for the first time since the 2003 Eastern Conference finals. The Sun are 8-2 all-time at home in the postseason.
Douglas accounted for all seven points in a 7-0 run that gave the Sun a 59-58 lead with 3:53 to go. But DeMya Walker hit a jumper 24 seconds later, giving the Monarchs the lead for good.
Connecticut, which lost in the Finals last season to Seattle, hurt itself by committing 11 of its 15 turnovers in the second half.
"There's not a lot of gray area in some areas, and turnovers was very specific to me," Thibault said. "The game was lost by turning the ball over."
"When we came out of the halftime, we had a few turnovers we don't usually have," Sales said. "We had 15 turnovers to their seven, which made a difference in the game."
Sales scored 12 points in the first half, when the Sun led by as many as seven points and settled for a 31-27 advantage at the break.
Connecticut hosts Game 2 on Thursday before the series shifts to Sacramento.