Monarchs’ Defense Turns Silver Stars to Lead

Sacramento 73, San Antonio 64

SACRAMENTO, Calif., May 17 (AP) -- Although many familiar faces are gone from the roster, the Sacramento Monarchs still played with their trademark tough defensive style Saturday night in winning their season-opener at home.

Adrian Williams-Strong and Nicole Powell each scored 13 points and the Monarchs held off the San Antonio Silver Stars for a 73-64 victory.

Despite a revamped starting lineup and bench, the Monarchs dominated the opening stages of the first quarter and led most of the way against the Silver Stars, who defeated Sacramento in the opening round of the playoffs last year.

The Monarchs played without DeMya Walker, who was injured in preseason and released by the team on Friday. Also gone from the Monarchs' once-formidable front court is Yolanda Griffith, who signed as a free agent with Seattle in the offseason.

But 10 Monarchs played significant minutes, including three rookies and two players who saw limited action a year ago.

"That was impressive the way our rookies came in and played,'' said Powell, who didn't start the game and joined the team late this week after finishing her season in Russia. "Our rookies are very mature, they have no fear. They aren't intimidated by anyone.''

Rebekkah Brunson and rookie Laura Harper each scored 10 points for the Monarchs, who won despite 23 turnovers. Kara Lawson had nine points and Ticha Penicheiro had six points, seven assists and five rebounds.

Harper, the team's top draft choice out of Maryland, admitted to some early jitters, but still produced well in 21 minutes. A post player, she made 3 of 5 shots, hit all four free throws and added five rebounds and two blocks.

"The veterans on this team have instilled a lot of confidence in the rookies,'' Harper said. "They've been telling us you can't be nervous and have helped us be more composed. This was a fun, an exciting win. It's great to know I will be coming in and getting some minutes right away, which doesn't happen to all rookies.''

Sophia Young scored 22 points for San Antonio, which missed 16 of 19 3-point attempts and shot 32 percent. Becky Hammon and Erin Buescher each scored 11 points and Vickie Johnson added eight.

Hammon, who shot 4 of 19 and had one assist, wasn't ready to give too much credit to the new-look Monarchs.

"We know they are a good defensive team that is scrappy, but I thought we had a lot of good looks, open shots that we just didn't make,'' Hammon said. "We made a lot of mistakes, things that really hurt us.''

Trailing 65-53 early in the fourth, the Silver Stars scored seven straight to cut the lead to five points midway through the quarter. Bothered by Sacramento's constant defensive pressure, San Antonio scored just four points the rest of the fourth quarter.

"We started missing shots again, and they were able to run. It's a lot easier to run when you're getting a rebound on a missed shot, rather than a basket,'' Hammon said. "We let the game get away from us at the end.''

Brunson scored nine points in the opening half and nine of the 10 Monarchs who played also scored, helping Sacramento take a 41-35 lead into halftime.

"They (San Antonio) are hard to get a rhythm against, but I thought we showed great perseverance and resilience and got a lot of good minutes from a lot of good people and we found a way,'' Monarchs coach Jenny Boucek said.

Shooting 31 percent in the opening half, the Silver Stars were fortunate they didn't trail by more. Hammon typified San Antonio's shooting woes in the first half, missing 7 of 9 shots and scoring five points.

Notes: Sacramento Kings forward Ron Artest did three quarters of the game as a color radio commentator and spent the second quarter in front of the TV cameras. ... San Antonio was playing without projected starting center Ann Wauters, who is having passport problems and is expected to join the team next week.

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