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MONARCHS 89, SHOCK 69

Monarchs on brink of title

Balanced attack crushes Shock

SACRAMENTO -- Everything was going the Monarchs' way again in the WNBA finals, and they got to the brink of their second straight championship with an 89-69 victory over the Detroit Shock in Game 3 yesterday. Sacramento leads to the best-of-five series, 2-1.

The Monarchs have a chance to clinch the title at home in Game 4 Wednesday night.

Yolanda Griffith scored 15 points for the Monarchs, and Nicole Powell had 14. Erin Buescher and DeMya Walker had 11 points apiece as Sacramento shook off its fourth-quarter collapse in Game 2 with a wire-to-wire victory based on defense and depth -- the two foundations of coach John Whisenant's back-to-back powerhouses.

``I think my team believes that we can win, but I just told them it's like playing with the rattlesnake," Whisenant said. ``You get too close, get overconfident, and they will bite you."

Sacramento never trailed and led by 27 points while eight Monarchs scored at least 7 points.

The defense forced 23 turnovers by the demoralized Shock in their third straight blowout loss in Arco Arena, where the Monarchs have won 11 straight playoff games since 2001.

``It's always good to finish a championship with your home crowd," Griffith said.

Sacramento's reserves led a decisive 14-3 run to close the third quarter, doubling the Monarchs' lead to 22 points in 3 1/2 minutes. Buescher punctuated that surge with an awkward fling at the basket, yet her shot-clock-beating 3-pointer went in. She ran upcourt wearing a look of exhilaration -- but not disbelief as everything was rolling for Sacramento.

Nothing was easy for Detroit, which got 22 points from Deanna Nolan but precious little from the rest of its vaunted starting lineup.

Coach Bill Laimbeer castigated his team both during and after the game, saying the Shock ``lost our brain," calling center Ruth Riley ``overmatched" and saying Nolan ``floated" for much of the game.

``It was clear before the game started, we were going to be in trouble," Laimbeer said. ``I didn't think we were ready to play as hard as we had to win a game in their building . . . In the middle of this game, we stopped playing. That's unacceptable behavior for a professional athlete."

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