The Sacramento Monarchs is a Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) team based in Sacramento, California. The team is one of the WNBA's eight original franchises and was noted early on for standout players Ticha Penicheiro, Ruthie Bolton and Yolanda Griffith.
While the Monarchs have been one of the more successful WNBA franchises, they have often trailed behind perennial Western Conference champions the Houston Comets and the Los Angeles Sparks. However, in 2005, the team brought Sacramento its first major championship in a professional sport, winning the WNBA Finals for the first time.
The team name has a double meaning. In one sense it is named after the Monarch butterfly (and you can see a suggestion of butterfly wings in the logo) and in addition the monarch is "a person or thing that holds a dominant position", or is "the hereditary ruler of a kingdom" and so on. As the name "Monarchs" suggests, they are the sister team of the Sacramento Kings.
After losing to the Seattle Storm in the 2004 WNBA Western Conference Championship, the Monarchs made major roster moves to improve the team - obtaining younger players and emphasizing Head Coach John Whisenant's defense-oriented system. Bolton, one of the team's original players, became a free agent and the Monarchs made the difficult decision not to keep her on the active playing roster, though they did offer her a position in their front office. Edna Campbell, a breast cancer survivor and another fan favorite, was not signed by the Monarchs and later signed with the San Antonio Silver Stars.
On March 3, 2005, the Monarchs traded Tangela Smith and a 2006 second round draft pick to the Charlotte Sting in exchange for former Stanford University standout Nicole Powell, Olympia Scott-Richardson, and Erin Buescher. After signing two Chinese players, Miao Lijie and Sui Feifei, the Monarchs traded Chantelle Anderson to the San Antonio Silver Stars for a 2006 draft pick. During the 2005 WNBA Draft, the Monarchs drafted point guard Kristin Haynie from Michigan State University and Chelsea Newton from Rutgers University. The Monarchs did sign Ruthie Bolton as a free agent for the purpose of her trying to win a spot on team's roster during its pre-season training camp, but eventually waived her. Bolton later joined the Monarchs to work in their promotions and public relations department.
The offseason moves immediately paid off for the Monarchs as the team finished with a franchise-best 25-9 win/loss record. Whisenant was later named the WNBA Coach of the Year, and Powell received the WNBA Most Improved Player Award. After previous seasons of being eliminated from the WNBA Playoffs by either the Houston Comets or the Los Angeles Sparks, the Monarchs finally defeated both, sweeping both teams en route to their first appearance in the WNBA Finals. The Monarchs won their first ever WNBA Finals by defeating the Connecticut Sun, three games to one in a best-of-five playoff series, which brought the city of Sacramento its first major championship in a professional sport.
The Monarchs remained strong in 2006, finishing second place in the West. The Monarchs would catch fire in the playoffs, once again sweeping both Houston and then top seeded LA to reach the Finals for the second straight season. But in the Finals, they were defeated by the Detroit Shock 3 games to 2, in the first WNBA Finals to go 5 games.
In 2007, the Monarchs finished strongly again, but blew a chance to get the #2 seed at the end of the season. They were matched up against the San Antonio Silver Stars. After defeating the Silver Stars in game 1 at home, the Monarchs would lose games 2 & 3 (and the series) in San Antonio, ending their two-year run as Western Conference champions.
In 2008 the Monarchs were markedly less good, but hung around the Western Playoff picture all season and finished with the #4 seed. Facing the Silver Stars again in the first round, the Monarchs were hoping for some payback for 2007. The series did not start well for the Monarchs, as they dropped Game 1 at home 85-78. Now the series shifted to San Antonio, and it seemed the series would come to a quick end. But the Monarchs would not back down, blowing out the Silver Stars in Game 2 84-67, forcing the critical Game 3. In Game 3, the Stars came out strong and at one point had a 14 point lead. But the Monarchs put together a furious rally, scoring seven points in the final 90 seconds of play to even the game and force it to overtime. But unfortunately for the Monarchs, the Silver Stars came out strong in the extra period and won the game, 86-81, ending the Monarchs' season.
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