Kelly Lifts Monarchs Over Dream

Sacramento 77, Atlanta 73

SACRAMENTO, Calif., July 18 (AP) - Although they played sloppy and nearly squandered a 19-point lead to the WNBA's worst team, the Sacramento Monarchs are still pleased with the win.

Crystal Kelly scored 15 points for the Monarchs, who held off the Atlanta Dream on Friday night for a 77-73 victory and moved into fourth place in the Western Conference where the top four teams make the playoffs.

It was the third straight win for Sacramento (11-11), which took over fourth place from idle Minnesota.

"We did what we needed to to get this win,'' said Monarchs forward Nicole Powell, who had 11 points and nine rebounds. "No, we're not happy with the way we played, but at this point in the season you're happy with any win you get. Every game is important the rest of the season.''

After having nearly a week off, the Monarchs are in a stretch of six games in 10 days. They were scheduled to take a flight after the game to Detroit, where they play Sunday afternoon.

Against Atlanta, the Monarchs won despite shooting 28 percent in the opening half, committing 20 turnovers and getting outscored 32-20 in the fourth quarter.

"I don't know if it is these gaps in the schedule that kind of take us out of our rhythm,'' Monarchs coach Jenny Boucek said. "No excuses though. We just got into a really sloppy game and it took us out of some of our systems.''

Kara Lawson scored 12 points and Rebekkah Brunson and Scholanda Robinson both had 10 for the Monarchs, who seemingly had the game in hand with a 16-point lead in the third quarter. Ticha Penicheiro added six points and nine assists.

Former Monarchs point guard Kristen Haynie came off the bench to score a season-high 12 points for Atlanta in its first visit to Sacramento. Betty Lennox and Ivory Latta each had 11. Lennox, who is averaging nearly 19 points a game, missed her first nine shots and scored her 11 points in the final 6:51.

"I'm sure it did mean something (to Haynie), but we have 13 players who are all from somewhere,'' said Atlanta coach Mayrnell Meadors of her expansion team. "She was awesome tonight, Kristen deserved all the minutes she got.''

The Monarchs never trailed and eventually stretched the lead to 19 points early in the fourth quarter when Atlanta finally got untracked offensively. Lennox ended an 11-0 run with a 3-pointer in transition, cutting Sacramento's lead to 71-70 with 1:32 remaining.

"They have an ability to get hot and you saw that at the end of the game,'' Lawson said.

The Monarchs answered with six straight free throws, and their defense forced consecutive turnovers in building the lead to 77-70.

"We had a set play, had a couple of people open and didn't get the ball to them. Instead we had a turnover,'' Meadors said of a key possession in the final minute.

The Dream (3-20), who opened the season with 17 losses, are 2-3 on their six-game road trip, which concludes Saturday night in Phoenix.

After a terrible first half offensively, the Monarchs got going in the third quarter, receiving production from both their starters and deep group of reserves. They made their first three shots, and a 15-2 run later in the quarter put Sacramento ahead 57-41 heading into the fourth.

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