SALT LAKE CITY, Aug. 23 (UPI) -- DeLisha Milton had 17 points and seven rebounds and Lisa Leslie added 12 points, eight rebounds and seven blocks Thursday night to carry the Los Angeles Sparks past the Utah Starzz, 75-67, in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals.
Los Angeles won all three regular-season meetings with the Starzz and the first playoff game between the teams produced the same result. The defending champions used a balanced attack to overwhelm Utah in the final 20 minutes.
The Sparks trailed most of the first half, but took a 34-32 edge into halftime. Mwadi Mabika, who had 11 points and seven rebounds, made consecutive layups to open the second half.
Tamecka Dixon made a jumper with 14:23 remaining to give Los Angeles a 50-40 lead and spark a 15-9 run. Dixon scored six of her 13 points during the spurt, which gave the Sparks their largest lead, 65-49, with 7:32 to go.
Nikki Teasley scored 11 points for Los Angeles, which shot just 35 percent but scored 23 points off 21 Utah turnovers.
In Washington, Chamique Holdsclaw had 20 points, nine rebounds and six assists as the Washington Mystics rallied for a 79-74 victory over the New York Liberty in the opening game the Eastern Conference finals.
Holdsclaw was the WNBA's leading scorer and rebounder during the season but received just one MVP vote after missing 12 games with an ankle injury. She dominated the first round of the playoffs as Washington swept Charlotte and took over in the final minutes against New York.
The Liberty had a 62-54 lead with 8 1/2 minutes left before the Mystics scored 15 of the next 20 points. Holdsclaw made a basket with 4:02 left to give Washington the lead for good at 69-67.
Holdsclaw buried a jumper at 2:34 to give Washington a 73-69 edge and Stacey Dales-Schuman added two free throws 38 seconds later. New York's Crystal Robinson sank a three-pointer with 60 seconds remaining to pull her team within 75-72.
Holdsclaw responded with a baseline runner and grabbed the rebound on Robinson's miss before making two free throws with 23 seconds left to seal the win.
Cameron stays hot against Tigers
DETROIT, Aug. 23 (UPI) -- Benched last week in an attempt to shake him out of his season-long slump, Mike Cameron capped a big series with a key two-run single Thursday night as the Seattle Mariners downed the Detroit Tigers, 4-2.
But the move apparently has sparked the former All-Star, who went seven for 11 with a homer and four RBI in the series. He delivered the game's biggest hit Thursday night, highlighting a three-run sixth inning with a two-run base hit up the middle.
Seattle starter Ryan Franklin (5-3) allowed two runs and four hits in six innings. He won for the first time since May 17 and for just the second time in six career starts.
Jeff Nelson tossed two hitless innings before Kazuhiro Sasaki retired the side in order in the ninth for his 32nd save.
Detroit starter Mark Redman (7-12) was tagged for four runs and eight hits in eight innings.
Other American League results: New York 4, Anaheim 2; Baltimore 3, Tampa Bay 2 in 11 innings; Oakland 9, Cleveland 3; Boston 12, Texas 3; Minnesota 8, Kansas City 6.
Mets lose 11th straight
SAN FRANCISCO, Aug. 23 (UPI) -- Ryan Jensen allowed a run in six innings and combined with three relievers on a six-hitter Thursday as the San Francisco Giants completed a season sweep of the New York Mets, 3-1.
It was the Mets' 11th straight loss, their longest losing streak in 11 years.
San Francisco had lost a season-high four straight games prior to salvaging the series finale in Florida on Sunday. When the Giants arrived home at Pacific Bell Park, they were greeted by the Mets -- who at the time had lost eight in a row.
San Francisco, in the thick of the National League West and wild card races, took advantage of a struggling team, wiping out the Mets with three well-pitched games.
Jensen (11-8) allowed five singles and a double. He walked two and struck out two in improving to 2-0 in three career starts against the Mets.
Former Met Rich Rodriguez, Tim Worrell and Robb Nen each tossed a hitless inning with Nen notching his 31st save. The Giants won all six meetings with the Mets this season -- just the second time they have ever taken an entire season series from an opponent.
During the three-game series, New York scored just two runs.
Other National League results: Philadelphia 7, Milwaukee 0; Colorado 14, Montreal 6; Los Angeles 6, Florida 2; San Diego 9, Atlanta 2; Houston 9, Chicago 1; St. Louis 5, Pittsburgh 4.
Colorado State wins college football opener
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va., Aug. 23 (UPI) -- Colorado State linebacker David Vickers recovered a fumble by Virginia Tech quarterback Marques Hagans at the one-yard line Thursday night to preserve a 35-29 victory for the Rams over the Cavaliers in the opening game of the college football season.
The lead changed hands six times in a wild game that saw Virginia miss out on a chance for the win when Hagans lost the ball with 10 seconds to play.
Colorado State's Cecil Sapp scored on runs of 72 and 16 yards and Jeff Babcock added four field goals for the Rams.
The season-opening weekend continues Friday night with Fresno State playing at Wisconsin.
Izawa, Goosen share NEC lead
SAMMAMISH, Wash., Aug. 23(UPI) -- Japan's Toshi Izawa and South Africa's Retief Goosen both fired a 6-under 65 Thursday that left them tied for the lead after one round of the NEC Invitational.
A double bogey at the 17th hole forced Tiger Woods to settle for a 3-under 68 that put him in an 11-way tie for ninth place at the World Golf Championship event.
Woods is trying to become the third player in PGA Tour history to win the same tournament four straight years.
Rich Beem, who captured last week's PGA Championship and who is trying to win his third consecutive start, shot a 74.
Chargers run away from Rams
ST. LOUIS, Aug. 23 (UPI) -- Doug Flutie, finding himself in the role of backup, threw a touchdown pass Thursday night and Antuan Simmons returned a fumble 35 yards for a score to boost the San Diego Chargers past the St. Louis Rams, 31-10.
The defending NFC champion Rams did not score until the fourth period.
Drew Brees, handing the starting quarterback job by Coach Marty Schottenheimer this week, completed 12 of 17 passes for 150 yards. Flutie was perfect in his four throws for 84 yards and a touchdown to Josh Norman early in the third quarter that gave the Chargers a 10-0 lead.
Astros trade for Tom Gordon
HOUSTON, Aug. 23(UPI) -- The Houston Astros, in contention for both the National League Central Division title and a wild card berth, Thursday bolstered their bullpen by obtaining veteran righthander Tom Gordon from the Chicago Cubs.
In exchange for Gordon, the Cubs acquired minor league lefthander Russ Rohlicek and two players to be named.
The Astros began play Thursday five games behind the division-leading St. Louis Cardinals and six games back in the wild card chase.
Houston already has a proven closer in lefthander Billy Wagner and one of the best setup men in the game in righthander Octavio Dotel. In Gordon, they add a 34-year-old who is pitching his best baseball of the season. After missing most of the first half with a torn muscle in his right shoulder, Gordon has gone 1-1 with a 3.42 ERA in 19 appearances this season. But over his last six outings, he has logged 8 2/3 scoreless innings.
A 14-year veteran, Gordon is 106-99 with 98 saves and a 4.12 ERA. He broke in with the Kansas City Royals in 1988 and also spent time with Boston before joining the Cubs in 2001.
Haas moves into quarterfinals
BLOOMFIELD HILLS, Mich., Aug. 23 (UPI) -- Medalist Bill Haas rallied from three holes down at the turn Thursday to defeat D.J. Trahan, 2 & 1, and earn a spot in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Amateur Championship.
Teen-agers Spencer Levin and Henry Liaw, either of whom would be the youngest winner in the history of the tournament, also advanced to the quarterfinals but Kevin Stadler, son of veteran touring pro Craig Stadler, bogeyed the 17th and 18th holes and was eliminated by John Klauk, 1-up.
Haas, whose father Jay was in the field this week at the PGA Tour stop in Reno, Nev., stormed from behind to defeat the 2002 collegiate player of the year. Trahan, the 2000 U.S. Amateur Public Links champion and a member of the 2001 U.S. Walker Cup team, had rallied earlier in the day to win his second-round match against David Skinns of England, 2 & 1.
In his second-round match, Haas was a 4 & 3 winner over Greg Kennedy.
Haas will face Klauck in the quarterfinals in what should be Friday's feature attraction.
Klauck fell behind by a hole when Stadler chipped in from 100 feet for a birdie at the par-4 16th at the Oakland Hills Country Club. But Stadler missed the green at the par-3 17th and then drove into the deep rough at the par-4 18th, leading to bogeys on both holes.
Johansson, Canas withdraw from Open
NEW YORK, Aug. 23 (UPI) -- Australian Open champ Thomas Johansson of Sweden and Guillermo Canas of Argentina withdrew from next week's U.S Open due to injuries, the USTA announced Thursday.
Johnansson, who was seeded 12th, was forced to skip the tournament because of a right arm injury. The 27-year-old Swede has captured seven career titles and reached the fourth round or better three times in his last five U.S. Open appearances.
Canas had to withdraw because of a stress fracture in his right wrist. The injury could not have come at a worse time for the 15th seed. He defeated four top-10 players en route to winning the Tennis Masters Series Canada last month.
Greg Rusedski of Great Britain and Jarkko Nieminen of Finland will take the place of the two injured players in the draw in accordance with Grand Slam tournament regulations. Rusedski takes Canas' spot while Nieminen replaces Johansson.
Leon Barmore retires
RUSTON, La., Aug. 23 (UPI) -- For the second time in less than three years, Louisiana Tech women's basketball coach Leon Barmore has announced his retirement.
Barmore announced prior to the start of the NCAA Tournament in 2000 that he planned to retire, fully expecting assistant Kim Mulkey-Robertson would succeed him.
But Mulkey-Robertson took the head coaching job at Baylor, where she has gone 48-15 over the past two seasons. So Barmore was persuaded by university officials to stay on.
"I wish I could coach the Lady Techster basketball team and work for president Dan Reneau and athletic director Jim Oakes forever, but I can't," Barmore said Thursday. "I am retiring from being the head women's basketball coach at Louisiana Tech University."
Barmore compiled a 576-87 record in 20 years for a winning percentage of .869, which ranks first among women's and men's coaches. Under Barmore, Louisiana Tech made 20 straight NCAA Tournaments, nine Final Fours and five national championship games.
The Lady Techsters won the national championship in 1988.
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