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SPORTS BRIEFS

Predators

The first-place Utah Predators can clinch a NVA regular season title with a win over second-place San Jose Saturday when the teams meet. The Predators (6-2) defeated the Storm three weeks ago in San Jose (4-2), giving the winning team the tie-breaking edge if both teams should finish 7-3.

The 7 p.m. showdown match will be played at Salt Lake Community College South City Campus, a change from their regular court at the College's Redwood site.

Utah is on a five-game winning streak but will be without Kristin Klein, who will be away on personal business. Annette Ewasek will fill in for Klein.

Boxing

DE LA HOYA, CHAVEZ WIN EASILY: Oscar De La Hoya led the way, and Julio Cesar Chavez followed with a fight that lasted only six seconds longer. Now they get each other in what may be the most anticipated non-heavyweight fight in nearly a decade.

De La Hoya and Chavez both scored second-round knockouts Friday night in Las Vegas tuneup bouts against outclassed opponents, setting up a June 7 megafight that will make each fighter more than $9 million.

"I've always dreamed about that fight," De La Hoya said after stopping Darryl Tyson at 2:39 of the second round. "Now my dreams are coming true."

Chavez followed De La Hoya's short work by stopping Scott "Pink Cat" Walker at 2:45 of the second round to fullfill his part of the bargain for the fight at Caesars Palace.

"I'm not afraid of him," Chavez said of De La Hoya. "I can take a punch. I'd like to see if Oscar De La Hoya can hold my punches."

Oddsmakers immediately made De La Hoya a 3-1 favorite against Chavez, the great Mexican champion who will go into his 100th pro fight with a record of 97-1-1.

Swimming

HEDGEPETH WINS 7TH TITLE: Whitney Hedgepeth won the 100-meter backstroke Friday night at the U.S. swimming championships in Orlando, Fla., giving her seven national titles in seven different events during her career.

Hedgepeth won in a time of 1:02.36. Earlier in the meet, she won the 200-meter backstroke.

Horse racing

NOT CLOSE - IT'S CIGAR: Cigar, who won all 10 of his starts and earned a record $4.8 million in 1995, won the Horse of the Year award Friday in a near-unanimous vote. Cigar received 304 of 306 votes in balloting by three racing organizations.

Racing

A LATE NIGHT MINORITY OWNER: David Letterman is expected to join Team Rahal as a minority interest owner, according to broadcast and newspaper reports.

Football

MOON WON'T PLEAD: Warren Moon has rejected several plea offers from prosecutors in a spousal abuse case set for trial next week, the player's lawyer said Friday. Moon faces a Class A misdemeanor assault charge accusing him of striking and choking his wife, Felicia, last summer at their Missouri City home.

VIKINGS RELEASE THREE: The Minnesota Vikings released guard Chris Hinton, linebacker Broderick Thomas and safety Charles Mincy, the team announced Friday.

DALLAS DUMPS DUO: The Dallas Cowboys have released troubled cornerback Clayton Holmes and overweight center Derek Kennard.

SURGERY FOR SMITH: Buffalo Bills defensive end Bruce Smith underwent arthroscopic knee surgery Friday and should recover before the team opens training camp.

CENTERS' TROUBLES: Arizona Cardinals fullback Larry Centers says his removal from what would have been his first Pro Bowl was precipitated by troubles that involved a tug of war between good and evil.

NFL officials last week listed illness as the reason for removing Centers from the game played Sunday in Honolulu, where Centers was described as appearing emotional and agitated during the Jan. 31 media day and failed to return for a workout.

While friends of Centers had expressed concern for him amid rumors that he had suffered a breakdown, Centers himself described the week as tumultuous. He said his faith in God was restored, his marriage was saved and his life put back in order.

HOUSTON GROUP WANTS BUCS: A group of investors shopping for an NFL team to bring to Houston is targeting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but a Bucs spokesman said Friday the team is not for sale.

Baseball

BRAVES SIGN WOHLERS: The Atlanta Braves avoided arbitration with relief ace Mark Wohlers when the right-hander agreed to a one-year deal believed to be worth $1.4 million. The Braves also announced a one-year agreement with Jason Schmidt, expected to become the fifth starter.

CUBS INK WARD: The Chicago Cubs took a chance Friday in an effort to shore up their bullpen, signing ex-Toronto Blue Jays closer Duane Ward to a minor league contract and inviting him to spring training.

ENNIS DIES: Del Ennis, a Whiz Kid on the Philadelphia Phillies' 1950 National League champions and a two-time All-Star, has died at his Huntington Valley, Pa., home. He was 70.

Basketball

MAGIC SUIT DISMISSED: A discrimination lawsuit filed by an Orlando Magic scout in 1992 was dismissed Friday.

Circuit Judge Linda Gloeckner said that George Scholz and his lawyers failed to provide enough evidence of discrimination or defamation for the case to be presented to the jury. The ruling came after weeks of testimony.

K-STATE SUSPENDS COACH: Kansas State women's basketball coach Brian Agler was suspended pending an NCAA rules violation investigation, and former men's coach Jack Hartman was named as the interim replacement, the school said Friday.

SERVICES FOR DANIELS: A funeral service for Dayton center Chris Daniels is scheduled for Monday in Dayton, Ohio.

Daniels, 22, died Thursday at Miami Valley Hospital after collapsing at his off-campus home. A cause of death had not been determined. Test results are expected in about two weeks.

Tennis

U.S. LEADS MEXICO: Michael Chang and Todd Martin swept straight-set victories Friday to give the heavily favored U.S. team a commanding lead over Mexico in the first round of the Davis Cup in Carlbad, Calif.

Chang downed Leonardo Lavalle 6-1, 6-2, 6-4, and Martin beat Alejandro Hernandez 6-3, 6-3, 6-0 to put the defending Davis Cup champions up 2-0.

Golf

BUICK INVITATIONAL: Lennie Clements is the latest San Diegan with a chance to win the hometown Buick Invitational.

Twenty-six years after he started playing the Torrey Pines layout, Clements shot a 7-under-par 65 on the North Course on Friday to take the lead with a two-round tournament record of 15-under 129.

Clements had a two-stroke lead over John Wilson, who shot a 66 on the North Course for a two-day total of 131.

DIMENSION DATA PRO-AM: Mark McNulty fired a 5-under-par 67 Friday and surged to a four-stroke lead in the $600,000 Dimension Data Pro-Am at Sun CIty, South Africa, while Ian Woosnam faltered in his bid for a third straight PGA European title.

INTELLINET CHALLENGE: With a 6-under-par 66, Bruce Crampton tied Jim Dent for the first round lead at the Greater Naples IntelliNet Challenge at Naples, Fla.

One stroke back at 67 are Raymond Floyd, Jimmy Powell, Tommy Aaron and Jay Sigel.

FORD OPEN: Australian Glenn Joyner, with an assist from a chiropractor, shot a par 72 in the second round of the Ford Open at Adelaide, Australia, and took a three-stroke lead Friday with a 137 total.