By Brad Friedman,

UNCASVILLE, Conn., Sept. 14 -- Yolanda Griffith carried the Sacramento Monarchs on her back Wednesday night in their Game 1 WNBA Finals victory. Prior to the start of the season, she didn't even want to be part of the team.

Griffith, who scored 25 points and collected nine rebounds in the 69-65 victory, issued a trade demand to Monarchs coach John Whisenant after a slew of changes this offseason that left only her and point guard Ticha Penicheiro as the only original members of a group of five Monarchs who played together six years.

Legendary guard Ruthie Bolton was moved from the floor and offered a position in the front office and starting power forward Tangela Smith was traded to Charlotte in return for Nicole Powell, the third overall pick in the 2004 Draft, and Olympia Scott-Richardson and Erin Buescher. Locker room leader Lady Grooms decided to sit out this season and tend to family issues.

"Yolanda's only thing when I started making all the changes was she requested that I trade her because she thought that I was rebuilding," said Whisenant. "We had an old team; she knew we needed to rebuild, get younger. I told her, 'I'm not going to trade you. You're too good and I can't replace you, and I'm not rebuilding, we're just reloading.'"

"When she came to our preseason, she saw our (new) players and has been going strong ever since."

In search of her first title, Griffith didn't want to be a part of a rebuilding team.
Ray Amati/NBAE/Getty Images
Those newcomers helped Sacramento turn an 18-16 team from last season into the owners of the second best record in the league this year. Now in the Finals, with Griffith in search of her first-ever WNBA Championship at the age of 35, the 1999 WNBA MVP was nearly impossible to stop in the second half of Game 1, scoring 19 points on 8-of-10 shooting.

Connecticut coach Mike Thibault credited Griffith's sudden upsurge with off-the-ball movement that led to better looks at the basket and activity on the offensive boards, which included three post-intermission caroms.

"You know, she turned it on," he said. "She's got that will right now to go and try to win a championship just like everybody else, and you can see how possessed she is playing."

Part of the reason for Griffith's ability to continue to dominate a game so late in her career can be attributed to the outstanding shape she keeps her body in. Griffith plays year-round -- in Russia and in Sacramento -- and works out daily during the three-month break between those seasons.

"Yolando doesn't have an ounce of fat on her," said Whisenant, who compared her workout habits to that of Karl Malone. "She eats right. Doesn't drink or smoke. She could play until she's 40."

If she plays that long, Griffith won't necessarily want the world to know it. When a reporter brought up after Game 1 that she was "not playing like a 35-year-old," Griffith interrupted him and said "Don't tell everybody that."

We won't, Yolanda, we won't.