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Sparks flying in home games

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Monarchs 73, Miracle 66

INGLEWOOD, Calif. — The Los Angeles Sparks have won at home all season. Now they'll have to finish up strong on the road.

Lisa Leslie had 18 points and seven rebounds as the Sparks defeated the Seattle Storm 76-63 Thursday night.

Los Angeles (23-3) concludes the regular season with a six-game road trip that begins Saturday at Houston. The Sparks lead the rival Comets by one game in the WNBA's Western Conference.

"We're looking forward to the challenge. We'll have to play hard and play together for 40 minutes like we've done before," Leslie said.

DeLisha Milton scored 13 points, and Tamecka Dixon, Allison Feaster and Mwadi Mabika added 10 each as Los Angeles won its seventh straight game and 19th of 20.

Sonja Henning scored a career-high 19 points — including six 3-pointers — for expansion Seattle (4-21), which lost for the eighth time in nine games. Simone Edwards added 12 points, and Kamila Vodichkova 10 for the Storm.

Los Angeles led 39-28 at halftime, and Seattle — one of just three teams to beat the Sparks this season — was unable to get any closer than 11 points in the second half.

"I thought we battled from the beginning to the end," Storm coach Lin Dunn said. "We never gave up, played hard. At times, we did a pretty good job of dealing with their Olympic players, Mabika, Leslie and Milton. For our baby team to come in here and hang around and get good shots is what I was most pleased with."

Henning's two 3s, and a third by Edna Campbell, capped a 9-3 run with 4:04 left.

The Sparks responded with six unanswered points on three free throws by Leslie, two by Feaster and one by Dixon.

Los Angeles took the lead for good with a 9-1 run that put them up 19-12 with 11:10 remaining in the first half.

Dixon and Mabika each made 3-pointers as the Sparks outscored Seattle 12-3 to increase the lead to 33-19 with 4:10 left in the half.

MONARCHS 73, MIRACLE 66: A veteran player and a valuable reserve wouldn't let the Sacramento Monarchs squander a huge first-half lead.

Ruthie Bolton-Holifield scored 18 of her 24 points in the second half Thursday night as the Monarchs held on for a 73-66 victory over the Orlando Miracle.

Bolton-Holifield made five 3-pointers and keyed a late 9-0 run that helped Sacramento (17-10) win for the fourth time in five games. Reserve Lady Hardmon added 16 points as the Monarchs improved to 11-2 at Arco Arena.

"With this system, you're never sure if you are going to play or not, so you have to be prepared," said Hardmon, who averages 4.3 points per game. "I try to do whatever is needed, whether it's rebounding or defense. Luckily tonight it was points, that was a bonus."

Nykesha Sales kept the Miracle (14-12) close, making seven 3-pointers and finishing with 25 points.

It was the fourth straight loss for Orlando, which has dropped six of seven and is tied with Cleveland for third place in the WNBA's Eastern Conference.

The Miracle trailed by as many as 18 points in the first half.

Adrienne Johnson had 16 points and nine rebounds for the Miracle, and Taj McWilliams added 11 points and nine rebounds.

Using a zone defense in the opening half, the Monarchs never trailed and took a 34-21 halftime lead.

Orlando, which shot 8-for-34 in the opening half, made four straight 3-pointers in the second half, getting back in the game quickly. The Miracle tied the score at 50 with 9:21 remaining on a shot from close range by McWilliams.