Fever Secure Playoff Bid With Win Over Monarchs
By CLIFF BRUNT, AP Sports Writer

Indiana 63, Sacramento 55

INDIANAPOLIS, Aug. 5 (AP) -- Finally, the Indiana Fever have something to get excited about.

Tamika Whitmore scored 16 points to help the Fever beat the Sacramento Monarchs 63-55 and clinch a playoff berth on Sunday night.

The Fever had dropped six of seven since losing All-Star forward Tamika Catchings to a foot injury on July 20, and had lost to Connecticut 84-59 on Saturday night.

They responded by allowing their lowest point total of the season and holding Sacramento to 30 percent shooting from the field, also a season-best.

"I think it sends a message throughout the whole league,'' Whitmore said. "We're a very resilient team.''

The word "championship'' was even uttered in the locker room after the Fever showed flashes of the brilliance they displayed in starting the season 16-4. The Fever still hope to finish in the top two in the Eastern Conference and have home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Indiana (18-11) is 1 1/2 games ahead of Connecticut for the second spot.

"We're definitely not thinking about relaxing,'' said Tan White, who scored 14 points for the Fever. "I think there is still time for our team to continue to grow.''

Yolanda Griffith scored 11 points and Chelsea Newton added 10 for the Monarchs, who missed a chance to clinch a Western Conference playoff berth. Sacramento (16-11) committed 23 turnovers while Indiana committed 14.

Sacramento has dropped five of 10 after starting the season 11-6.

"With this team, there is just not a feel of any urgency,'' Griffith said. "A positive is we can play this defense, but we have to play it throughout the entire game.''

Indiana led 40-23 at halftime and 49-32 in the third quarter before the Monarchs closed the period on a 7-2 run to cut the lead to 51-39.

The Monarchs cut the Fever's lead to 60-55 on a 3-pointer by Newton with 1:19 left. Sacramento had a chance to trim Indiana's lead further, but Ticha Penicheiro threw an errant pass over Kara Lawson's head and out of bounds with 34 seconds left. White then beat the Monarchs downcourt for a quick layup to give Indiana a 62-55 lead.

Indiana coach Brian Winters was happy to see the Fever hang on.

"They have pride in the locker room,'' he said. "They didn't like what happened last night. That's a sign of a good team - how you bounce back from some adversity. We're showing some resolve and toughness, and that's good to see.''