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Monarchs Count on Griffith

From Associated Press

Yolanda Griffith has the chance to carry Sacramento to one more victory, and the franchise’s first WNBA championship.

Griffith, a power forward, had 19 points and 11 rebounds in the Monarchs’ 66-55 victory over the Connecticut Sun in Game 3. Leading the series, 2-1, Sacramento can clinch the title with a win in Game 4 tonight.

“Even though we’re playing at home, nothing is guaranteed,” Griffith said. “You’ve got to stay focused. You’ve got to execute offensively. You’ve got to shut players down defensively.”

Griffith is averaging 20 points, six more than her regular-season average, and 9.7 rebounds in the Finals despite being guarded by Taj McWilliams-Franklin, her rival since both played in the defunct ABL.

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Griffith’s relentless inside play and hard-nosed attitude have defined the Monarchs and their roster of relative unknowns.

Coach John Whisenant’s game plan is built on a suffocating defense, with 35-year-old Griffith and 31-year-old point guard Ticha Penicheiro leading the way.

The Monarchs are relying heavily on Griffith, and when they forget to make her their first option, the Sun has succeeded. Sacramento led Game 3 by 14 points midway through the second half but began settling for outside shots while Connecticut cut its deficit to two.

Griffith then made a layup to stop the Sun’s 12-0 run, and she grabbed a key offensive rebound off a missed free throw in the final minute to seal the victory.

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“That was so huge, but that’s Yo,” said Kara Lawson, who scored 16 points in a reserve role in Game 3. “Everybody knows what she means to this team. She’s the center of what we do.”

Connecticut has kept it close in all three games, but point guard Lindsay Whalen’s leg injuries have hurt the Sun’s late-game execution. Whalen made five turnovers in 23 ineffective minutes in Game 3, and her backups struggled to run Thibault’s offense.

If the Sun wins, Game 5 will be Thursday.


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