Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

WNBA Playoffs: Monarchs Champions At Last!

By Mel Greenberg

The long wait is over for both the newly-crowned WNBA champion Sacramento Monarchs and a slew of players on its roster after the 62-59 triumph over the Connecticut Sun Tuesday night at the Arco Arena deprived the visitors a chance to extend the series to a deciding fifth game back East.

For the third straight season, the WNBA winner is a franchise that had once been speculated headed for distinction.

In 2003, it was the Detroit Shock pulling the worst-to-first turnaround, followed by the Seattle Storm exciting the Emerald City a year ago.

The Monarchs, one of the surviving six charter franchises of the WNBA’s orginal eight from the summer of 1997, prevailed as the Maloof family, also owners of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings, stayed the course.

The triumph comes just a season too late for former Olympic gold medallist Ruthie Bolton-Hollifield, a member of the first Monarchs squad who retired in the offseason.

“Timing’s everything,” the former Auburn star quipped last week when the best-of-five series began in Connecticut.

Let’s go down the list of Monarchs who reversed unhappy endings, beginning with finals MVP Yolanda Griffith.

Although she has two Olympic gold medals to her credit, this was only the second time “Yo” had a chance to appear in a professional league championship series in the United States.

The other time was in 1998 as a member of the then-expansion Long Beach StingRays which captured the first two games of a best-of-five series against the Columbus Quest in the former American Basketball League and then lost the next three when the games moved to Ohio.

Five months ago, rookie point guard Kristin Haynie helped lead Michigan State on a Cinderella ride to the Women’s Final Four and a stunning comeback against Tennessee in the semifinals, only to lose in the championship game against Baylor.

Third-year pro Kara Lawson suffered four straight NCAA disappointments with Tennessee from 1999-2000 through 2003, but was one of the key members of the youthful side of the Monarchs roster.

Nicole Powell’s sensational career at Stanford ended with a missed three-pointer against Tennessee that cost the Cardinal a trip to the Women’s Final Four in 2004. Then she languished on the bench as a rookie with the Charlotte Sting a year ago before an offseason trade brought her to Sacramento, where her three-point shooting helped make the Monarchs best in the West and life easier in the playoff run.

Veteran point guard Ticha Penicheiro helped lead Old Dominion to an upset of NCAA tournament-favorite Stanford in the national semifinals, but the Monarchs failed in the championship game against Tennessee in 1997.

DeMya Walker’s odyssey as a pro was recounted in a blog report about the former Virginia star in the playoffs earlier in the tournament .

WNBA all-rookie Chelsea Newton never made it to the NCAA tournament her first season at Rutgers and failed at three attempts thereafter with the Scarlet Knights to get to the Women’s Final Four, including last March when the squad lost to Tennessee in Philadelphia at the Elite Eight level of the tournament.

Second-year pro Rebekkah Brunson, a former Georgetown star, never made it to the NCAA tournament at all with the Hoyas.

When the championship series began in Uncasville in the East, it was mentioned to Brunson, who was standing near Newton, that some things never change. Here’s a couple of Big East Conference women trying to beat a team in Connecticut.

“Oh, this is different,” Brunson quipped. “I never got to beat a team in Connecticut, before.”

The Monarchs did this time, however, and now they’re all champions.

Chicago: Reach for the Sky.

The nickname and logo of the new Chicago team was unveiled in the Windy City, Tuesday, and it will be known as the Sky.

Here’s an idea for next summer. Play the first preseason game in an outdoor setting in one of the parks.

The nickname is cool, but we can see those headlines now, including the one we put above this item.

The first losing streak will prompt: “The Sky is Falling!”

If the post players are tall and effective, will we call them Skyscrapers on the backboards??

Finally, do we now refer to owner and successful real estate entrepreneur Michael Alter as Sky King???

-- Mel

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