Subsitutes Play Big Role In 89-69 Victory
Monarchs’ Deep Bench Drowns Detroit
Matthew Brennan, WNBA.com
SACRAMENTO, September 3 -- When asked to use one word that describes the Sacramento Monarchs, players, coaches, and fans all seem to arrive upon the same description --- deep.
On any given night the path from the Sacramento bench to the scorer's table is a well-trodden one, as Coach John Whisenant often uses up to ten different players who see significant action. The Monarchs' reserve corps has consistently made an impact throughout the 2006 WNBA Finals, with Erin Buescher, Rebekkah Brunson, Kristin Haynie, Scholanda Dorrell, and Hamchetou Maiga-Ba all demonstrating that they can do whatever is necessary to contribute to a Sacramento victory. Playing against a Detroit Shock team that rarely utilizes more than three players off their bench, the Monarchs have been successful in sending out waves of seemingly interchangeable, highly athletic players who never seem to lose their intensity.
"Well, you know, we've always been pleased with our bench," said Whisenant after the game. "And I thought one of the things that might have changed out the outcome of the game in Detroit was when I substitute, I have to use my bench and I have to use certain combinations. So long story short, I was very conscious tonight of keeping combinations, not letting anyone play to fatigue level before I got them out, and I was much more aware of that than I perhaps was at Detroit."
Buescher was a vital player for the Morarchs through the season, earning WNBA Most Improved Player honors in 2006, and ranking second on the team in scoring with 9.7 ppg in the regular season. Her contributions had been limited in the playoffs so far, but she enjoyed a breakout game on Sunday with 11 points, five rebounds, and two steals, along with physical defense on Detroit's vaunted front line. She fired up the crowd with an acrobatic, fadeaway 3-pointer as the shot clock ran down in the third quarter, which gave the Monarchs a 67-50 lead. "Yeah, I've been practicing that a lot and just came, my practice paid off," Buescher said. "No, I saw the clock ticking down on the other side of the court and just turned around and did some ice skating moves. Throw them up and they go in."
Dorrell, a rookie out of LSU, brings plenty of athleticism to the court for Sacramento. She scored eight points in Game 3, and also played excellent, harassing defense on Detroit guard Katie Smith, who was limited to nine points. Throughout her career, Dorrell has been used to coming off the bench.
"I've always been a role player," Dorrell said. "My first year in college I started for half of the season, and went to being the first person off the bench and the next year I went to a different role. I've always had to play into a role and I've always been satisfied with that. I'm a competitor and anything I can do to help my team win is what I'm willing to do."
When asked about how Sacramento's depth plays such a large part in its success, Dorrell stressed how crucial it was to the Monarchs.
"It's extremely important," she said. "I think it's so much to our advantage that we can go down our bench to ten, eleven players sometimes, while most teams in this league can go to maybe a seven man rotation. It helps us when we go down to the later quarters, and deep into a long series like this because nobody gets tired, so I think it really helps us when we are playing out there."
"It's very important, we know what we are capable of doing, so when we get out on the court we don't want any letdowns off the bench and that's what we did tonight, and hopefully we can continue that in Game 4," Haynie said. "I think it's a great advantage to have a team that is nine, ten, eleven deep. It helps fatigue, we are a lot better off than teams where the starters play 30 to 35 minutes. I think it plays a big part in our success where we have a bench that is a sparkplug and where everybody can score."
Game 3 also saw solid performances from Brunson and Maiga-Ba, who also provided athleticism and defensive intensity off the bench. Brunson, arguably the Monarchs' best athlete, scored nine points with two rebounds, while Maiga-Ba added four points and two assists.
Starting guard Kara Lawson summarized how the bench players will play such a key role in this series. Lawson struggled in Game 3, but the bench coming through ensured that the Monarchs can still be very tough to beat even if their starters aren't firing on all cylinders.
"We need them to play well," Lawson said. "You look at our teams, and Detroit is probably the best starting five in the WNBA. We feel like what makes us a great team is that we have players who can come in off the bench and help us, and sometimes take the level up a notch. It was great, everyone came out focused and we were able to sustain leads. In that third quarter, that stretch where we were able to put the game away, that was all our bench players. We don't really have pressure on us offensively, but it gives you confidence as a player. You know you dont have to have an unbelievable game to win. You just have to go out there and play your role, and you know that those guys are going to come off the bench and play well. It gives you confidence as a player knowing that you don't have to win the game on your own all the time."
A few years ago, the Monarchs' NBA counterparts on the Sacramento Kings were known for their successful group of bench players, the "Bench Mob." While the Monarchs reserve corps may not have a catchy nickname, they are only one win away from something far more valuable... their second straight WNBA Championship.