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Monarchs reign over WNBA

Connecticut bid comes up short

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- When Yolanda Griffith raised the WNBA championship trophy, she turned to look for only one person. Ticha Penicheiro had been by her side with the Sacramento Monarchs since many of their teammates were in high school.

The power forward and her point guard finally came together to kick off a celebration that's been anticipated in Sacramento since the league's founding season.

Griffith had 14 points and 10 rebounds, and Penicheiro scored the final point as the Monarchs wrapped up their first title with a 62-59 victory over the Connecticut Sun in Game 4 of the WNBA Finals last night.

''We've been waiting a long time, a long time," said Penicheiro, who had six assists. ''I always knew it would get here, always. We finally got in a situation where everything came together."

The veterans taught a defense-first attitude that clinched the season's final victory: The Sun frantically looked for an open 3-pointer in the closing seconds, but the Monarchs simply wouldn't allow it. Nykesha Sales's desperate heave didn't make it to the basket.

Griffith was the unanimous series MVP, averaging 18.5 points and 10 rebounds.

Ashja Jones scored a playoff career-high 21 points, but Connecticut's stars struggled in the biggest game of the season. Taj McWilliams-Franklin and Sales combined for 20 points on 8-of-28 shooting in Game 4.

''We have a very persistent team here, but we didn't make shots when we needed to," Connecticut coach Mike Thibault said.

After blowing an 11-point first-half lead, Connecticut pulled to 57-56 with 2:57 to play. Griffith made a key deflection and hit two free throws with 1:44 left, but Katie Douglas hit a 3-pointer with 37 seconds to play.

Leading, 61-59, the Monarchs nearly turned over the ball before Penicheiro was fouled with 9.9 seconds left. Penicheiro made one of two free throws.

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