SACRAMENTO, Aug. 21 (Ticker) -- Tangela Smith scored 14 points as the Sacramento Monarchs claimed the final playoff spot in the Western Conference with a 62-54 victory over the Houston Comets.

Sacramento is back in the playoffs after a one-year absence. The Monarchs stumbled to a 14-18 mark last season, due largely to an injury that sidelined star forward Yolanda Griffith for 15 games.

The Monarchs never trailed and built their largest lead, 50-36, on Griffith's basket with 7:12 to play. The Comets answered with a 12-2 tear and pulled within 52-48 on Sheryl Swoopes' basket with 3:19 to go.

Lady Grooms answered with a foul shot and Griffith, who netted 10 points, made a basket to restore a seven-point cushion.

Sacramento pulled into a tie with Minnesota for third place in the West. The win eliminated Seattle, which has lost five straight.

Tina Thompson led Houston with 17 points and Swoopes scored 11 of her 15 in the second half. The Comets, who have lost three of their last four, were whistled for four technical fouls.