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July 27, 2008 at 5:03 PM

Monarchs game thread

STORM WINS: Bird made six of the Storm’s final eight made FTs to secure the 77-71 win. Bird’s big message was “I do not care, we won.” Seattle, which finished 3-2 without Jackson, takes the season series against Sacramento at 3-0 with one game remaining on Sept. 9 in Sacramento. Seattle is an impressive 13-1 at home. Next up is the Olympic break where Agler, who turns 50 on Saturday, said he’s returning to Ohio to be with his family. Most of the players said they are just going to “chill.” Enjoy the Games!
GOODBYE POWELL: She was personally dragging Sacramento back in the game, scoring five consecutive points. But Powell just fouled out with a penalty against Bird, who made the ensuing two FTs. Bird has made four consecutive FTs to make the score 73-66 with 1:21 remaining. Looks like Seattle will remain the fiercest team at home, having only lost once to Connecticut in June.
BIRD PUSHING: Powell’s three-pointer with 4:06 remaining in the game cut the lead to seven points for Seattle. Bird is trying to score for Seattle, but threw up two bricks instead. The third possession ended in a Griffith turnover, when she was stripped by Sacramento defenders. There’s 2:44 remaining and the score is still 69-62.
INTERESTING AGAIN: Turnovers, fouls, and an increased defensive intensity has allowed Sacramento make it reasonable to get back in the game, down 69-55. The starters are back in the lineup and Bird just hot a shot to keep the Storm ahead with 6:34 remaining in the game.
OI! Oi! Oi!: The public address announcer just had KeyArena wish Olympians Bird, Jackson, and Santos (Brazil) good luck in the Games, this being the final game before the break. And for old times’ sake, he led the crowd in a “Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Oi! Oi! Oi!” chant for Jackson, who’s already training with her national team. Santos is departing Monday, going directly to China.
CALLING IT?: It could just be to give the starters some rest, but with a 20-point lead, Agler may be calling it. He has normal reserves Ely, KG, Kelly Santos, and Wright in the game with Swoopes to close out the third quarter with a 67-49 lead. Bet he tries to hold with the bench players to get them some needed playing experience before the month-long break. It would also do Team USA a favor if Bird could get a breather. She’s got a game-high 16 points with just three assists. Wright could finish with a double-double, leading the game with six assists to go with 12 points. Seattle has held all of Sacramento’s starters in single-digit scoring.
KG4THREE: Just when the game was headed toward a lull, KG hit back-to-back three-pointers. Add a turnover by Sacramento that Cash converted into two made free throws and the Storm has regained their commanding lead at 63-49 with 2:20 left in the third quarter.
RUNNING AWAY: The Storm is up 51-39 because of some sweet defensive plays, including forcing two shot clock violations. A pretty Bird fast break layin off a Wright steal and dish made the 12-point advantage. It was Bird’s first basket since the opening quarter.
BRUNSON OUT?: Boucek said she’d play it by ear if Brunson could play or not and so far the team’s leading rebounder (7.4) isn’t in the game to start the second half. She’s on the bench talking to the team’s trainer. On the court, Wright just scored to make the Storm lead 45-39 with 8:49 left in the third.
OLYMPIC UPDATE: I should mention that The Seattle Times is also traveling to California tomorrow to cover Bird and the Olympic team’s training camp prior to leaving for China for the Games. I’m going to blog from practices, which start tomorrow at 5 p.m., and from the luncheon honoring Good Morning America co-anchor Robin Roberts.
FOUL TROUBLE: Griffith couldn’t escape the opening half without getting into foul trouble. She was just called for her third and replaced by Katie Gearlds. Gearlds made it all worthwhile, hitting a three-pointer with 3.9 seconds remaining before halftime. The shot was setup by Bird for the PG’s first assist of the night. Storm is taking a 43-39 lead into the break.
SLOPPY PLAY: Well, two Storm turnovers and a missed shot has opened the door for Sacramento to wiggle back into the game. Lawson’s layin at the 1:43 mark made the score 37-34 at the 1:37 timeout. Understandably not liking what he saw, Agler called time to discuss.
GETTING DIRTY: The Storm is mixing it up under the hoop to force consecutive turnovers against the Monarchs. Swoopes missed a three-point attempt that could have made the score really ugly. Still, Seattle leads 37-30 with 3:01 remaining in the second quarter.
SAY WHAT?: The Monarchs reserves shouldn’t have any question about what Boucek wants when they enter the game. When the players on the court screw up, she immediately turns and harps orders at the bench with a voice that would make a NCAA cheerleader jealous. Boucek hasn’t liked her team’s defense, which has led to the Monarchs falling behind 31-26 with 5:41 remaining in the opening half.
END OF FIRST: The Storm led 21-20 at the end of the opening quarter, trying to cool the Monarchs’ 56.3 percent shooting with their own crisp offense and a defensive boost from Swoopes off the bench. Bird is no longer caged, going 5-for-8 in the quarter for 12 points with no assists while Wright had three assists.
ANOTHER SEVEN DAYS?: Forward Kristen O’Neill’s fourth seven-day contract is scheduled to expire on Tuesday, but will mostly likely be extended two days into the post-Olympic break since the league is suspended after the Storm’s game. O’Neill will most likely be signed to another seven-day contract to buoy Seattle until the Olympic players return. UPDATE: O’Neill’s contract doesn’t expire until after the team resumes play Aug. 28. She’ll have two days remaining on the fourth seven-day contract before Agler has to make a decision.
OFFICIAL VISIT: Dee Kantner, supervisor of officials, made her return to Seattle. She spoke prior to the game to season-ticket holders about her department, but didn’t dive into the Detroit Melee, according to those who attended.
Text messages have been floating around the league between the Team USA Olympic players, asking each other what they packed for China and what to expect. Indiana forward Tamika Catchings had to have her bags ready Friday for the Fever’s two-game road trip, the Americans’ four-day practice session in Palo Alto, Calif., and the month in China competing at the Olympics.
Once Catchings packed, she text’d Sacramento guard Kara Lawson, who’ll fly to California after tonight’s game in Seattle. Storm guard Sue Bird packed on Saturday after returning from a four-game road trip.
“It’s been difficult off the court more than anything — all the logistics that come along with getting your travel itinerary and getting your family there,” said Lawson, whose husband and parents among others are making the trip to Beijing. “Once I got here, I could focus on this team and trying to get this win.”
The Monarchs are on a league-best seven-game win streak, challenging the Storm for second in the Western Conference. Coach Jenny Boucek, a former Seattle assistant, said it’s “deceptive” because the team was making headway, but lost a five-point lead in 30 seconds against San Antonio, which “had the wind knocked out of us.”
Otherwise, the team has been growing and they were able to collect some key wins against struggling teams, defeating expansion Atlanta twice.
But Bird equally wants to get a win to leave “with a good taste in my mouth.” Seattle returns after going 2-2 on the road. Veteran Sheryl Swoopes is back in the rotation, but coach Brian Agler won’t know until after warm-ups whether she’ll be able to play. Swoopes definitely won’t start, keeping guard Tanisha Wright at that position.
The Monarchs are waiting to make a decision on forward Rebekkah Brunson (fibula). She may just play sparingly. And Lawson isn’t concerned.
“We’ve always been a team that’s taken a little long to mature than other teams because we play a lot of players,” she said. “But once we get to that point in the season, like now, for us to lose a player or have people hurt, it doesn’t affect us as much because we play our bench. It’s us coming together chemistry-wise and playing a lot of people gives us an advantage at the end of the season.”
Well, here are tonight’s starters:
F Swin Cash
F Camille Little
C Yolanda Griffith
G Tanisha Wright
G Sue Bird
F Nicole Powell
F Rebekkah Brunson
C Adrian Williams-Strong
G Kara Lawson
G Ticha Penicheiro
Tonight’s officials are Shelley Nakasone, Scott Twardoski, and Kurt Walker.



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