Sun even series with Monarchs

Posted: Friday, September 16, 2005

UNCASVILLE, Conn. — Taj McWilliams-Franklin can’t remember the last time she jumped as high.

And it seemed just about every time the Connecticut forward went up, she came down with a rebound.

McWilliams-Franklin grabbed five boards in overtime and hit the go-ahead jumper, helping the Sun beat the Sacramento Monarchs 77-70 Thursday night to tie the WNBA Finals at 1-all. She finished with 24 points and 16 rebounds.

‘‘Our post coach always says, ‘Get to every rebound.’ I just wanted to make sure I got my hand on a few,’’ she said. ‘‘I missed a couple of good shots there in regulation, so I wanted to so something else to help them.’’

McWilliams-Franklin’s wide-open jumper with 4:18 left in the extra period was all the Sun needed as they held Sacramento scoreless in overtime.

Game 3 in the best-of-five series is Sunday in Sacramento.

Nykesha Sales finished with 19 points and Katie Douglas added 16 for the Sun, who were playing without point guard Lindsay Whalen, sidelined by an ankle injury.

‘‘I’m more impressed with some of the defensive plays we made, steals, tips in the lane, rebounds in traffic,’’ coach Mike Thibault said. ‘‘I thought they all stepped up and did that.’’

Connecticut’s Brooke Wyckoff hit a 3-pointer with 2 seconds left in regulation to send the game to overtime tied at 70.

McWilliams-Franklin dueled the entire game against Yolanda Griffith, in a matchup of two of the oldest players on the floor. Her post defense in the extra period frustrated Griffith and the Monarchs, who are known for their harassing defense.

But it was Connecticut making all the right moves when it counted.

McWilliams-Franklin pulled down a defensive rebound with 1:55 left in overtime and fired a pass nearly full-court, hitting Sales in stride for a breakaway layup. Sales then stole a pass and found Douglas in transition for another layup to extend the lead.

‘‘From beginning to end, they had a lot of energy,’’ Griffith said. ‘‘They were more hungry than we were. I think we kind of put it in the back of our heads that we were going back home.’’

Griffith, who starred in Wednesday’s series opener, and Nicole Powell scored 16 points apiece for Sacramento. DeMya Walker added 14 points.

Wyckoff, who missed the entire 2004 season with a knee injury, hit 3-of-4 from behind the arc, none bigger than her shot to send the game to overtime. McWilliams-Franklin made the assist.

‘‘I just watched it all develop like in slow motion,’’ Wyckoff said. ‘‘Just seeing Taj bounce it twice, look, decide not to shoot then find me, lock eyes and here it comes.’’

Sun guards Jen Derevjanik and rookie Jamie Carey ran the point in place of Whalen and combined for eight assists and six points.

Whalen’s absence did little to slow the Sun, who matched the Monarchs’ up-tempo play in the first half.

McWilliams-Franklin scored the first nine points for Connecticut, which led by as many as seven midway through an opening period marked by scoring runs for both teams.

The Monarchs countered with a 13-3 outburst, largely on transition baskets. Kara Lawson’s pull-up jumper with 9:57 left in the first half gave the Monarchs their first lead at 22-19, but it didn’t last long.

Katie Douglas hit a jumper to start a 10-0 Connecticut run that featured a couple of key defensive stops from Margo Dydek.

Griffith rallied the Monarchs with six points and a steal, and Sacramento led 39-38 at the half.

‘‘I came in here expecting that we could win two,’’ Sacramento coach John Whisenant said. ‘‘I think that’s the way our players think. We’ve got two at Arco (arena) now, but I don’t think home court makes a lot of difference. With these two teams, they are very close.’’

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