AUBURN HILLS, May 19, 2007 (AP) -- Plenette Pierson was moved by the pregame title celebration. Then she played like she planned to repeat as a WNBA champion.
Pierson came off the bench to score 14 points in 14 minutes of the first half Saturday as the Detroit Shock opened with a 75-68 win over the team they beat in the finals, the Sacramento Monarchs.
Pierson finished with 20 points, eight rebounds, four assists and three steals after a pregame ring ceremony and banner-raising before 13,689 at The Palace.
Diamond-encrusted rings with the word "Shock'' were presented before the game. A banner was raised with the words "WNBA World Champions'' down the left side and "Detroit Shock'' across the bottom below an image of the championship trophy.
"It was spectacular,'' Pierson said. "To have all this happen, especially right before the game, gave us extra motivation. We had some players who didn't get rings tonight, and you could see the look in their eyes.''
Deanna Nolan, last year's finals MVP, and backcourt partner Katie Smith each had 12 points. Forwards Swin Cash and Cheryl Ford added 10 points apiece to help celebrate Coach Bill Laimbeer's 50th birthday.
But the best present was Pierson's play after a busy offseason at Laimbeer's insistence.
"We knew when Plenette came back that we have something special on our hands,'' Laimbeer said. "Her confidence level was tremendous. She was in great shape. She knew what she wanted to get accomplished. She's at another level now, which is great to have.''
Chelsea Newton and Kara Lawson each had 14 points for the Monarchs, who lost to the Shock in five games in last year's finals. Sacramento cut an 18-point deficit to seven and trailed 42-35 at the half. The Monarchs also trimmed a 13-point lead to four in the final two minutes.
But with Pistons guard Chauncey Billups and his family watching from courtside seats, the Shock showed why they won their second WNBA title last season and are favored by many to become the first repeat champion since the Los Angeles Sparks in 2001-02.
Detroit had a 36-22 edge in rebounds and went 17-for-18 at the foul line, including six in a row in the final minute, to seal the win.
"We were fortunate to be able to pull it out,'' Nolan said. "We've got to able to put teams away. But the big thing was Plenette's play today. She's a quality all-around player.''
Sacramento took advantage of 22 Shock turnovers and hit three 3-point shots in the fourth quarter to remind fans what made last year's finals so competitive.
"We learned how hard we need to play,'' Monarchs coach Jenny Boucek said. "Unfortunately, we have not had a lot of practice. We have to rely on mind over matter, and we did not start in the right mind-set.''