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Sparks defeat Storm to reach West finals

September 24, 2008|From the Associated Press

SEATTLE -- The Seattle Storm acquired all the players it could before the season to try to end its habit of early playoff exits. It just didn't have the chance to draft Candace Parker.

The dynamic rookie scored 20 points, including a key layup with two minutes left, to lead the Sparks into the Western Conference finals with a 71-64 victory over the stunned Storm on Tuesday night.

Seattle was a WNBA-best 16-1 at home in the regular season, then held the Sparks to a season-low 50 points in a 14-point win in Game 2 on Sunday to force the decisive game.

"Brilliant," Sparks Coach Michael Cooper said of Parker.

The Sparks will play San Antonio in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals on Thursday at the Galen Center. The Sparks split four regular-season games with the Silver Stars, with each team winning twice at home.

Parker, still wearing a shoulder brace from an injury she sustained in the NCAA tournament earlier this year, slashed for powerful layups and spun for smooth jump hooks. And she bulled through defenders on the few times she wasn't racing free while going eight for 13 from the field.

"The first two games I wasn't going through contact. I was expecting to get the foul," said Parker, who had 21 points combined in the first two games of the series. "I worked on powering through contact."

Cooper wasn't surprised.

"Nothing new," he said of the former star at Tennessee. "This young lady played in the NCAA tournament with a dislocated shoulder -- and she got it done then too."

Lisa Leslie scored 15 points, then hugged Parker after the final buzzer as the celebration began for the Sparks, who beat Seattle in the first round two years ago in their last postseason appearance.

"I was just not ready to go home," said Leslie, who had a baby in June 2007 and sat out last season while the Sparks went 10-24. "I knew we had the better team. It just didn't feel like it was time to lose."

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