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7/3/04 vs Sacramento Monarchs

Final score: Storm 75 – Monarchs 61 (W) (10-4)

Attendance | 7467

Anthem Watch | We are 2 for 2 on solid anthem renditions.

Fan Psyche | #&$!* refs!

Game Highlight | Sue hits a layup, steals the inbounds and hits another layup. LJ hitting 3 threes to start the game.

Halftime | Dribbling and passing skills competition.

Flopometer | The Flounder Queen was in fine flopping form and went 4 and 1 — and she blew eclair a kiss.

SF.O Keyword of the Game | Ha-ha!

Game Photos | Game Photos (Scott Larson)

There are two elements of this game that deserve some big time appreciation — LJ's magnificent performance and the fact that the Storm won in spite of the refs and the Monarchs "we play ugly" game plan.

Yes, we always cry and complain about the refs — but tonight was one of those Hall of Sucking Fame nights that used to mess with the Storm players' heads. Certainly during the first three years, but even to an extent last season too, when the refs inserted themselves so intrusively into the course of the game the Storm would allow it to get to them. The refs' calls may not have decided the game outright, but the players and coaches would get so frustrated with the horrible calls that they would lose their focus and more often than not they would also lose the game.

Tonight I think we saw the benefits from having a more mature team. LJ shook off the refs and DeMya... I can't even type the rest of her name, my rage is still set at Volcanic... and reminded everyone that she is the league's reigning MVP. The Monarchs HAD to resort to flops, slaps and elbows to try to slow LJ down and it only made her play with more domination. Lauren may have had some poor performances against Sacramento in the past, but she's found a way to let their hack tactics roll off her back and keep her head in the game. When she does, she owns her opponents.

Starting the game out with three three-pointers certainly helped put the Monarchs on their heels immediately and reminded them that LJ can score from everywhere. It was LJ 11 and the Monarchs 0 before Sac was able to get a basket. The Storm kept them at arms' length for awhile, and then Sacramento turned on their vaunted defense and with some crappy assed calls from the Suck-o-bots were able to get within 6. Then the Storm turned on their much better and more appropriately vaunted defense and put the Monarchs back on their butts.

The Monarchs' starters were all kept to under 10 points each. The Monarchs' bench outscored their starters and the only Sac players in double figures were two of their bench players. Even with a world class player like Yolanda and the overrated Pinicherio, it was Brunson and Maiga that kept the game from being a 30-point blow out. Sacramento fans may see that as a good sign that their bench produced really well — while they ignore the fact that their five starters shot 9-37 combined.

I'll give the Monarchs a little credit. They didn't give up completely when the lead did get to 30. They stayed after it and took advantage of the Storm, who did relax a little too early and got the score down far enough that Coach Donovan pulled the bench and put the starters back in with a few minutes left in the game. Yes, we won, but I think the bench is going to be hearing it in practice this week.

Sue and Sheri both had solid games. Sheri did her part to keep the defense honest by driving to the basket again and again — either getting the basket, a foul or both. I think that any time the Monarchs got a little too settled in their focus on LJ, Sheri or Sue would drive hard to the basket or pop a jumper from outside and force the Monarchs to leave their double teams on Lauren. In a way, one of the reasons LJ was able to score 32 was because Sue and Sheri were taking more of the offense upon themselves. When they start scoring more and demand the defense's attention, LJ ends up with fewer double teams and is free to do her thing. It's beautiful when the offense is clicking.

That's not to say that Coach Donovan was satisfied with her players' performances. The Storm allowed waaaaay too many Monarchs' fast breaks, and again missed too many easy layups themselves. The Storm had a couple stretches were their offensive spacing was off and they looked a little confused as to where the ball was supposed to go. Okay, I'm nitpicking now, but this is the kind of stuff that will allow a good team to take control of the game and believe me when I say that these mental lapses were driving Coach D crazy.

The other thing that was driving Coach Donovan crazy was watching the Flounder in action — and watching the Three Asuckos buy the Flounder's act 4 out of 5 times. Talk about a spiraling whirlpool of negative reinforcement - the Flounder flops, the refs buy it and start thinking that LJ is playing too aggressively, they reward the Flounder who then flops again which confirms to the refs that LJ really is too aggressive and reward the Flounder again who then... and so on. The flop as performed by the Flounder is one of the laziest defensive moves a player can pull. She is basically admitting that she's got nothing left and is so overmatched that her only recourse is to act like she's been shot in the chest. Here's a hint to the Sucksters - when someone has actually been shoved or hit in the chest, they don't fall down like their feet are on a hinge and then slide back 10 feet. I doubt any WNBA player could hit another so hard to create that kind of reaction unless she was running at full speed. There is no way any player except Shaq has the kind of power necessary to knock a defender across the floor by doing a pivot move. When a person gets hit in the chest for real, they might stumble back or flail their arms a bit. In fact, if it real, their chest and torso get knocked back, but their arms don't immediately and it almost looks like they are jutting their arms forward. When the refs call an offensive foul after an obvious flop — and let's be honest, DeMya is not a good actress — it means they aren't really paying attention to the play and are instead reacting after the fact. So not only is a flop a piss-poor way to play defense, it's a piss-poor way to ref a game. The only way you can describe either is that they are admitting they are overmatched and aren't able to really do their jobs as a defender or a ref. Eclair was right last night when she yelled out during a free throw that DeMya is an embarrassment. So are the refs.

The best part of all of this — the flopping, the horrible calls, the ugly Monarchs' style — was that the Storm overcame all of it and firmly demonstrated which was the better team. Enjoy your stay in the basement, Sacramento.

Other notes:

A group of Monarchs fans made the trip and got to feel a little of our pain from last year when we went down there.

Michelle Greco joined the Street Clothes gang and looked like she was still limping a bit. A lot of people were looking forward to a UW / UCLA rematch of sorts with Michelle playing against Guiliana Mendiola, but Michelle was chilling on the bench and Guili stayed in Sacramento with the flu. We'll have to wait until Sept. 1 for another rematch opportunity. Michelle did do some shoulder warm-up exercises as the game wound down so that she was ready to toss t-shirts into the crowd.

We had a bigger crowd than I was expecting given that it is a holiday weekend. Have we gotten to the point that we can expect close to 7000 all the time (Spokane didn't count) and closer to 9000 for the big games? We still have about 2/3rds of the season to go, but I think the Storm may be seeing a glimmer of the light at the end of the attendance woe tunnel.

We went to the Kangaroo and Kiwi after the game for a little bit. As I expected, crowded to the walls, but it seemed like a pretty cool place.

Betty looked a TON better tonight. She is reportedly trying to stay away from the pain medication she was prescribed because she doesn't like how it makes her feel. I can appreciate that as an athlete she wants to be very careful about what she puts into her body and that she is tough as nails and don't need no stinkin' pain relievers, but we won't think any less of her if she were more comfortable and pain-free.

Mini-Bringy got to be one of the kids who gets an autographed ball from the players during the introductions. Good for her.

Tully came out with a trail of blood down one of her shins from a cut on her knee. She also had a nice floor burn raspberry on the side of the same knee. As the trainer patched her up, one of her teammates asked her if she was okay. She waved her hand and said, "Meh." Ah, Tully.