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Griffith again the spark for Monarchs

Greg Beacham Associated Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – When the Sacramento Monarchs seemed ready to lose their lead and their heads in Game 3 of the WNBA Finals, Yolanda Griffith slid into her coach’s chair during a timeout.

Whatever instructions or encouragement she barked at her teammates, they worked – mostly because Griffith motivated herself to another big game.

Griffith had 19 points and 11 rebounds with relentless inside play, and the Monarchs moved to the brink of their first championship Sunday with a 66-55 victory over the Connecticut Sun.

After being named to the All-WNBA team earlier in the day, Griffith played with the relentless energy that’s driven her through seven seasons. She dominated the paint with five offensive rebounds and nonstop defensive energy, and her final basket with 3:24 left stalled the Sun’s last rally.

Kara Lawson scored 16 points and hit six free throws in the final minute for the Monarchs, and Nicole Powell tied a WNBA Finals record with four 3-pointers. But Griffith was the difference – and even after putting the Monarchs up 2-1 in the best-of-five series, she was still smoldering.

“Even though we’re home, (and) I know their backs are against the wall right now, even though we’re up (2-1), I should be happy. Am I? I don’t know,” Griffith said. “I mean, I’m just not satisfied, because I know we can play better ball. Tuesday, I hope it’s the game. We’re waiting for everybody to step up and bring it.”

Game 4 is Tuesday at Arco Arena, where the Monarchs hope to wrap up the best season in franchise history with a title. DeMya Walker said as much to the crowd afterward, screaming: “We need one more!”

Swoopes named league MVP

Houston Comets forward Sheryl Swoopes was honored as the WNBA’s Most Valuable Player for the third time, edging Seattle’s Lauren Jackson in the closest vote in league history.

Swoopes, a five-time All-Star and three-time Olympic gold medalist, became the league’s first three-time MVP. The nine-year veteran also won in 2000 and 2002.

“This one is probably the most special to me, for the simple fact that no one really expected the Comets to do what we did this year,” she said. “I think there were a few people out there that were kind of ready for me to retire. They said that I couldn’t compete with these players any more.”

Swoopes finished with 327 points from a national panel of sports writers and broadcasters. Jackson, the powerful Australian forward who won the award in 2003, drew 325 points and four more first-place votes.

“I want to thank everybody out there who voted for me and who did believe in me,” said Swoopes, who gets a $15,000 bonus from the WNBA for winning. “Because I felt all along that I still could compete with the best of them out there.”

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