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Dixon Carries the Sparks to a Tense Overtime Victory

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Tamecka Dixon’s four free throws in the last 19 seconds of overtime Wednesday night enabled the Sparks to beat the Sacramento Monarchs for the first time this season, 81-76, before an announced 5,774 at the Great Western Forum.

In regulation, the Sparks (5-9) seemed determined to fritter away their third straight to Sacramento (4-11), after blowing a 35-24 halftime lead and letting the Monarchs catch them at 63-63 with a 10-0 run with three minutes left in the final half.

Dixon, the second-year guard out of Kansas, helped keep it close at the regulation finish with a three-point basket at 10:31 to give Los Angeles a 54-47 lead. Then she added a layup with 1:10 left to give the Sparks a 68-65 lead.

But Sacramento rookie Adia Barnes made a 17-footer with 45 seconds left and Spark nemesis Latasha Byears made a quick shot underneath over Mwadi Mabika with 17 seconds to go for a 69-69 tie.

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Dixon, who had a poor first half with several missed layups, finished with 22 points.

She made the first overtime basket, then made the four winning free throws, the first two with 19 seconds to go, the last two with 17 seconds remaining.

A major defensive stop was registered by 6-foot-3 Spark Sandra VanEmbricqs, with three minutes left and the Sparks ahead, 73-71. She tipped away a Monarch pass that Ticha Penicheiro fumbled out of bounds. Mabika scored on a fastbreak play 50 seconds later and Los Angeles had a 75-71 lead.

Sacramento’s Tangela Smith cut it to 75-73 with 1:40 to go by scoring over Mabika, but then the Monarchs began fouling the wrong player--Dixon.

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Coach Julie Rousseau paid tribute to Dixon’s second-half surge and her coolness down the stretch.

“Tamecka was horrible in the first half, but she and her teammates showed a lot of character and guts in the second half by never quitting, by staying strong,” Rousseau said.

Sacramento, which outrebounded Los Angeles, 46-34, got a game-high 13 rebounds from Byears. She also had 16 points.

Lisa Leslie and Penner Toler had 16 points apiece for the Sparks.

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Now comes WNBA champion Houston, 14-1 and on a nine-game win streak, visiting the Forum Friday night.

Second half lapses, Rousseau figures, should best be cured by then.

“We’re at our worst as soon as the second half starts,” she said.

“If we can figure out why that is, we can beat some of these teams more often.”

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In other WNBA games:

Phoenix 73, Detroit 60--Jennifer Gillom scored 17 points as the Mercury (11-3) spoiled Nancy Lieberman-Cline’s coaching debut with the victory over the Shock (7-9) before 13,002 at Phoenix.

Lieberman-Cline, also the Shock’s general manager, ended her Hall of Fame career last season as a reserve guard for the Mercury.

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Michelle Griffiths added 12 points for the Mercury, who have won a franchise-record four in a row. Gillom has led Phoenix in scoring 10 times this season, including the last six games.

Korie Hlede scored 16 points and reserve Rachel Sporn 12 for the expansion Shock, which has lost five of six.

Charlotte 72, New York 65--Vicky Bullett scored 19 points as the Sting (12-3) defeated the visiting Liberty (8-8) before 10,424.

Charlotte scored 19 fastbreak points and converted 18 turnovers into 20 points, helping the Sting stretch its lead over New York to 4 1/2 games.

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Sophia Witherspoon had 17 points for the Liberty.


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