Powell Helps Monarchs’ Playoff Push
By JANIE McCAULEY, AP Sports Writer

Monarchs 78, Lynx 71 (F)
Nicole Powell had 22 points, seven rebounds and four assists and the Monarchs boosted their playoff chances with a 78-71 victory over Minnesota on Sunday night, eliminating the Lynx from postseason contention.
Sacramento 78, Minnesota 71

SACRAMENTO, Calif., Sept. 7 (AP) -- Kara Lawson isn't in favor of her team committing 27 turnovers at this crucial stage in the season - or ever.

The fact the Sacramento Monarchs did so by pushing the ball and trying to create scoring opportunities in transition against scrappy Minnesota made the glaring statistic slightly more easy to swallow.

Nicole Powell had 22 points, seven rebounds and four assists and the Monarchs boosted their playoff chances with a 78-71 victory over Minnesota on Sunday night, eliminating the Lynx from postseason contention.

"It was a physical game with a great deal of urgency for both teams,'' said Lawson, who was limited late after she bloodied her lip in a collision with Candice Wiggins. "We don't want to turn it over that much, but we want to be aggressive.''

Lawson - the Beijing Olympic gold medalist - added 17 points for the Monarchs, who overcame their inconsistent offense early and received significant contributions from five reserves to pull off a key victory. The bench accounted for 31 points.

"One area we felt we had an advantage was just our depth,'' Monarchs coach Jenny Boucek said. "We wanted to exploit that. As always, our bench was important.''

Sacramento maintained a two-game lead over the Phoenix Mercury for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference and moved three games in front of Houston, which lost 99-74 at Phoenix on Sunday night.

The Monarchs can clinch a playoff spot Tuesday with a win over Seattle or with losses by both Houston and Phoenix. Sacramento would reach the playoffs for the sixth straight season, the longest current streak in the WNBA.

Powell shot 9-for-14 with four 3-pointers, two early in the fourth quarter. Only three games earlier, at Los Angeles on Aug. 28, Powell began 3-for-4 before missing her final 11 field-goal attempts in a 78-63 defeat - so this performance sure came at a key time.

The Monarchs, who won their seventh straight home game, have three games remaining and host first-place Seattle on Tuesday. They haven't beaten the Storm all season.

"It's nice because we feel it's in our control,'' Powell said. "It's not up to anybody else. It's going to be a challenge. (This) wasn't pretty, but at this point it doesn't matter.''

Both teams approached this as though it were a playoff game.

Charde Houston scored 19 points and Seimone Augustus added 14 for the Lynx, who dropped their fourth straight but hung tough down the stretch in this one on the heels of a frustrating 96-88 loss at Seattle on Saturday. Nicky Anosike added 10 points and 10 rebounds, but her team was outboarded 38-28.

After Augustus scored the first four points after the break to tie the game at 36, the Monarchs answered with a 9-0 run to go ahead 45-36 - getting five points from Powell, including a 3-pointer at 6:51 that forced Lynx coach Don Zierden to use a timeout.

Wiggins, the former Stanford All-American and Lynx rookie, made her lone trip back to Northern California this season with Minnesota. This past spring, Wiggins led the Cardinal to the NCAA championship game and a runner-up finish to Tennessee. Wiggins scored 13 points on 6-for-17 shooting and dished out three assists.

"This is the end of the longest road trip in the history of life,'' Wiggins said. "It was fun to play here but it all flashed by really quick.''

Sacramento started the game 8-for-24 and missed its first six field-goal tries of the second quarter before Powell's 3-pointer at 6:14. The Monarchs were outscored 9-8 over the final 3:51 and held a 36-32 halftime lead.

Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer watched from courtside as two of her former stars faced off: Wiggins and Powell. They combined to win five Pac-10 player of the year awards during their Stanford careers, which didn't overlap.

Wiggins' former Stanford teammate, Jayne Appel, also attended. In addition, about 125 members of the Cardinal's booster club made the 2 1/2-hour trip to the game.

Several Sacramento Kings sat courtside, too.

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