HOUSTON, Sept. 8 (Ticker) -- Nicole Powell's clutch shooting and Van Chancellor's strategic mistake gave the Sacramento Monarchs a big win.

Powell forced overtime with a 3-pointer and sank a key jumper in the final minute as the Monarchs edged the Houston Comets, 73-69, in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals.

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Playing without injured point guard Ticha Penicheiro, the top-seeded Monarchs remained unbeaten in the postseason and can reach the WNBA Finals for the first time in franchise history with a win at home either Saturday or Sunday.

"To be able to come at halftime, leading without your point guard, is a pat on our back," said Monarchs center Yolanda Griffith, who scored 14 points. "Every year, we hope this is the year you win it. This year we feel pretty good.

"Even though we won, our backs are still against the wall. They're not going to quit and we know that. We can't jump the gun and think we're going to win just because we're going home."

A pull-up jumper by Sheryl Swoopes, who scored 19 points, gave the Comets a 61-60 lead with 27 seconds left in regulation. Kara Lawson, who started for Penicheiro, missed an open jumper and Michelle Snow made two foul shots for a 63-60 lead with 6.3 seconds to go.

The WNBA's Most Improved Player, Powell took the inbounds pass and quickly drilled a 3-pointer that tied it with 4.0 seconds left.

"That was most definitely the biggest shot for me as a professional basketball player," Powell said. "To come down here and win, it was such a big game. ... Everyone played well tonight and everybody contributed when it really counted."

"On the last shot, I just told assistant coach Steve Schuman to draw up a play and I told them an old Yogi (Berra) saying - 'It's not over til it's over,'" Monarchs coach John Whisenant said.

In overtime, baskets by Griffith and DeMya Walker and a steal and layup by Lawson gave the Monarchs a 69-63 lead. Powell beat the shot clock with a jumper off an inbounds pass to keep the margin at 71-66 with 47 seconds remaining.

"That's what I try to do - knock down outside shots because we have such great inside players," Powell said. "I feel like the hired gun. That is my job."

Swoopes made a 3-pointer with 33 seconds left. With just three seconds difference between the shot clock and game clock, Chancellor - who guided the Comets to four straight championships from 1997-2000 - elected not to foul.

Lawson used dribble penetration to spread the defense before Griffith cut to the basket for the clinching layup with 4.2 seconds to play. In the ensuing timeout, Chancellor admitted he had given his players the wrong strategy.

Lawson scored 12 points and Walker 11 with six assists for Sacramento. Penicheiro sprained her left ankle in practice Tuesday and was on crutches.

"You have to give coach Whisenant credit for bringing his team in here without Penicheiro and beating us at home," Chancellor said. "They deserved it."

Tina Thompson scored 18 points and Snow added 14 for Houston, which upended defending champion Seattle in the conference semifinals.

"This is not something that we wanted," Swoopes said. "We dug ourselves into a pretty big hole, but we came back. But we really couldn't ever get into any kind of flow. I think we were more concerned tonight with what they were going to do and that really hurt us tonight."