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Starzz end up one shot short

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. — In a game featuring nearly half of the Western Conference representatives in the 2001 WNBA All-Star game, it wasn't those players who starred in a made-for-TV nail-biter that went down to the last second.

Actually, ESPN was supposed to televise the meeting but instead opted to show Houston playing Portland. While the Comets overcame a nine-point deficit to win 71-57, the game between Utah and Sacramento wasn't decided until the last Starzz play failed (with 4.1 seconds left), and the Monarchs escaped with a 69-67 victory.

"It was a great basketball game," said Utah coach Candi Harvey. "We got better tonight. . . . We gave ourselves a chance to win at the end, and you can't ask for more than that." The Monarchs are on fire, winning six of their last seven games. The loss was Utah's second in a row, but the Starzz will get another shot at the Monarchs on Saturday afternoon when the teams meet at the Delta Center at 1 p.m. It will be the last of three meetings between the teams, with the Monarchs beating Utah both the previous games.

Sacramento has more representatives on the All-Star team than any other in the Western Conference. But it wasn't one of those players who found a way to thwart a very tough Utah defense. Instead, it was forward Tangela Smith, who scored a season-high 27 points (she averages 10), including the free throw that broke the tie and gave the Monarchs the lead with 17 seconds left in the game.

For Utah it was forward Adrienne Goodson and center Margo Dydek, who each scored 20 points and carried the team in the first half when the Starzz overcame a 12-point deficit in the early minutes.

"Adrienne Goodson played her guts out," Harvey said. "She kept us in the game in the first half."

Goodson scored 14 of her 20 points in the first half. Dydek, whose play has grown better and more reliable in the past four games, also had 10 rebounds and seven blocks, including one that should have been key in the final seconds. With 50 seconds left, Jennifer Azzi hit a jumper to tie the score at 67. Dydek then blocked a Sacramento shot on the other end and Azzi picked up the ball.

As she made her way down the court, Ruthie Bolton-Holifield — one of the All-Star starters — stole the ball, leading to Yolanda Griffith being fouled on a shot. She made just one free throw, but it was enough to edge Utah, which managed only one more shot before time expired.

Despite losing the heartbreaker, Harvey said the Starzz spirits were high.

"Sacramento is one of the top teams in this league right now, and we actually outplayed them except for the last two minutes of the game," she said. "There is nothing but positive in that. This is the team today that we need to continue to be out of the All-Star break."

Utah's only All-Star, Natalie Williams, was plagued by foul trouble in the second half and only finished with 11 points and four rebounds. Sacramento's Griffith had an all-star like performance finishing with 20 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks. The other All-Star starters (decided by fan votes): Point guard Ticha Penicheiro finished with 5 points, and Bolton-Holifield had two points.