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Silver Stars-Monarchs Preview
By MATT BECKER, STATS Writer

San Antonio Silver Stars guard Becky Hammon and Sacramento Monarchs forward Rebekkah Brunson each had career years last season as they led their respective teams to the postseason.

They'll likely need to do even more to get back to the playoffs in 2008 after season-ending injuries and significant roster changes have affected their teams.

The Silver Stars and Monarchs open the new season on Saturday night at Arco Arena in a playoff rematch from last year.

San Antonio finished 20-14 last season to make its first trip to the playoffs since 2002 when the franchise was in Utah. The Silver Stars went on to beat Sacramento in three games in the Western Conference semifinals before being swept by eventual champion Phoenix in the finals.

In her first season with the team, Hammon was instrumental to San Antonio's playoff run. The nine-year veteran was fifth in the league in scoring at 18.8 points and averaged a league-high 5.0 assists.

"We built a lot of trust last season," Hammon said. "We just want to build on that trust and that chemistry and keep moving forward."

San Antonio will be without the only player to appear in every game for the Silver Stars over the past two seasons, though. The team suffered a major blow in Monday's final preseason game when Shanna Crossley tore the ACL in her left knee and will be out for the season.

Crossley, who was scheduled to have surgery on Thursday, averaged 9.2 points last season and was tied with Hammon for the second-most 3-pointers in the league with 74.

While Hammon will be responsible for carrying much of the offensive load, the Silver Stars will also turn to Sophia Young and Ann Wauters. Young averaged 16.8 points and 5.8 rebounds in the regular season, and turned it up in the playoffs, averaging 20.2 points and 9.0 boards.

San Antonio's biggest offseason addition acquiring Wauters from expansion Atlanta. The 27-year-old Wauters took the last two years off after averaging a career-high 13.7 points and 4.9 rebounds for New York in 2005.

The Monarchs went 19-15 last season to make their fifth straight trip to the playoffs, but this year's team will have a new look.

Yolanda Griffith, who spent her first nine seasons with Sacramento, signed with Seattle in the offseason. Griffith was a six-time All-Star, league MVP in 1999 and was named finals MVP in 2005 - the Monarchs' only championship.

Sacramento is also without All-Star forward DeMya Walker, who went down with a season-ending knee injury last month in Russia.

"There is a huge void,'' guard Kara Lawson said. "You're talking about two All-Star players but also players who are huge presences for us in the locker room and day to day in practice."

Last season, Brunson averaged 11.5 points, was second in the league in rebounds (8.9) and was named to her first All-Star game. She'll likely have to do more this season, but she should be up to the challenge after averaging 20 points and 14 rebounds in Italy over the winter.

"There's definitely a little bit more pressure on me,'' said Brunson, who averaged 15.0 points and 6.3 boards against San Antonio in the playoffs last season.

The Monarchs and Silver Stars split their four games last season with each team winning twice at home.

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