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McKeesport's Cash leads Shock into WNBA finals

| Monday, Sept. 8, 2003

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Swin Cash scored 20 points and Deanna Nolan added 17 before leaving with a back injury, as the Detroit Shock earned a berth in the WNBA finals with a 79-73 win Sunday night over the Connecticut Sun.

Detroit, which swept Connecticut in the best-of-three series and 6-0 for the year, will play the winner of tonight's decisive Game 3 in the Sacramento-Los Angeles series. The finals begin Friday.

Nolan was taken off the court on a stretcher after she fell violently on her back with Detroit ahead 65-64 with 5:28 to play. The shooting guard went up high in an attempt to block a layup attempt by Nykesha Sales and fell hard on her back.

Connecticut led 69-65 with four minutes to play, but the rest of the game was all Detroit.

Elaine Powell put the Shock ahead 70-69 with a runner off the glass with two minutes left.

Then, Cash showed why she is one of the league's most exciting players.

The forward sprinted for a loose ball near the Shock bench, grabbed it and threw it blindly over her head to Kedra Holland-Corn. Cash then sprinted for the basket, accepted a feed from Holland-Corn, put it in and was fouled by Rebecca Lobo.

She converted the free throw for a 73-69 lead with 52 seconds to play.

Cheryl Ford made two free throws with 39 seconds left to make it 75-69 and cap a 10-0 Shock run.

The teams traded free throws the rest of the way.

The Shock are a season removed from a league-worst 9-23 record. They entered former Piston great Bill Laimbeer's first full season as coach with one of the WNBA's youngest rosters.

But the former Bad Boy not only has the Shock in the playoffs for the first time since 1999, but they earned home court advantage throughout, thanks to a league-leading 25-9 regular-season record.

The Shock, which used a dominating inside game in a 73-63 series-opening win Friday night, used more of a balanced attack.

Nolan was able to score from the outside while Ford, the league's Rookie of the Year, provided a strong inside presence, scoring a career playoff-high 17 points. The daughter of NBA star Karl Malone also pulled down 14 rebounds.

The Shock, who were 20-2 during the regular season when they scored at least 70 points, improved to 4-0 during the playoffs when reaching that plateau.

Each time the Sun made a run in the first half, the Shock answered with a run of their own.

The Sun scored five straight to pull to within 44-37 on a 3-pointer by Shannon Johnson, but Detroit responded with an offensive rebound and put-back by Ford and a fast break runner by Nolan for a 48-37 advantage with a minute to go.

Neither team scored in the final 60 seconds of the half.

Taj McWilliams-Franklin led the Sun with 17 points and 13 rebounds. Johnson added 16 points.

WNBA

  • Mwadi Mabika scored 24 points, as the Los Angeles Monarchs rolled to a 79-54 victory over the Sacramento Monarchs and evened the WNBA Western Conference finals at 1-1. The Sparks led by as many as 28 points before halftime, allowing coach Michael Cooper to rest many of Los Angeles' starters for Game 3 today at Staples Center. Lisa Leslie sat for the final 10 minutes and scored 16 points, Tamecka Dixon had 14 points in 29 minutes and point guard Nikki Teasley tied Mabika with a team-leading eight rebounds and added 10 assists.

    BASKETBALL

  • Tony Parker of the champion San Antonio Spurs scored 21 points, as France beat Slovenia, 88-82, and joined Greece, Lithuania and Spain in the quarterfinals of the European Basketball Championships. France finished first in Group A after its third straight win and will play in Stockholm on Wednesday against an undetermined opponent.

    MEN'S HAMMER

  • European champion Adrian Annus of Hungary won the men's hammer, and Libor Charfreitag of Slovakia, a double NCAA champion for SMU, finished second at the IAAF World Athletics Final. The women's winner was world champion Yipsi Moreno of Cuba.

    RUNNING

  • A weary Hicham El Guerrouj won the mile at the Rieti Grand Prix but came up short in his attempt to improve his world record. The Moroccan was timed in 3 minutes, 50.20 seconds, the best time in the world this year but far off his world record of 3:43.13 set in Rome in 1999. The United States had a 1-2 finish in the 110-meter hurdles, with Chris Phillips winning in 13.35, followed by Ron Bramlett in 13.45.

  • Paula Radcliffe won a 6.2-mile road race in her first competition since running a world best in the London Marathon in April. She was timed in 30:51, more than two minutes faster than Ireland's Sonia O'Sullivan. Kenya's Isaac Arusei won the men's event in 29:28.

    SOCCER

  • Landon Donovan scored the game-winning goal in the 52nd minute, and the San Jose Earthquakes beat the New England Revolution, 2-1.

  • Sixteen of the 24 teams in Italy's second division boycotted the start of the soccer season for a second straight weekend to protest expansion of the league by four clubs. League president Adriano Galliani warned the teams refusing to play that they would forfeit the game and be penalized an extra point in the standings.

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