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In Brief: Brittney Griner leads Phoenix Mercury past Seattle Storm 86-62

From staff and wire reports

WNBA: Brittney Griner scored 21 points and Penny Taylor had eight in her final regular-season home game to help the Phoenix Mercury beat the visiting Seattle Storm 86-62.

Taylor announced her retirement at the end of July. The Australian international was a three-time All-Star during 13 WNBA seasons, beginning her WNBA career with the Cleveland Rockers in 2001 and joining Phoenix in 2004.

The Mercury (15-18) clinched a playoff spot before tipoff with Washington’s 94-91 loss to Atlanta.

The Storm (15-18) fell into a tie with Mercury but retained their hold on the No. 7 seed due to winning the season series. Both teams conclude the season Sunday when Phoenix visits San Antonio, and Seattle hosts Chicago.

Phoenix led by as many as 17 in the first quarter and maintained a double-digit lead the rest of the way.

McCoughtry leads Dream: Angel McCoughtry scored 31 points and the host Atlanta Dream beat Washington 94-91 to stay in contention for a double-bye while eliminating the Mystics from the playoff race.

Fourth-ranked Atlanta (17-16) can still surpass Chicago (17-15) for the No. 4 seed in the playoffs. The Phoenix Mercury clinched the No. 8 seed with Washington’s loss.

Lynx sign Augustus, Whalen: The Minnesota Lynx have signed stars Seimone Augustus and Lindsay Whalen to multiyear contract extensions. Terms were not disclosed, but the deals ensure that the two veterans plan to continue playing for the immediate future.

Ward’s touchdowns rally No. 6 Houston

College FOOTBALL: Greg Ward Jr. returned from a one-game absence and ran for two fourth-quarter touchdowns to help No. 6 Houston – steadied by its fabulous defense – pull away to a 40-16 victory over Cincinnati.

The Cougars (3-0, 1-0 American Athletic) trailed 16-12 early in the fourth quarter before Ward and the defense took over. Ward had the scoring runs to regain the lead, and the Cougars returned a pair of interceptions for touchdowns to close it out.

Kiev to host final for Champions League

SOCCER: The 2018 Champions League final will be played in Ukraine’s capital Kiev just weeks before neighboring Russia hosts the World Cup.

UEFA’s executive committee confirmed Thursday that Kiev’s 70,000-capacity Olympic Stadium will stage its highest-profile club match on May 26, 2018. One barrier to awarding the 2018 final to Kiev had been potential visa problems for Russian officials and guests from Champions League sponsor Gazprom.

EPL’s West Bromwich Sold: The takeover of English Premier League club West Bromwich Albion by Chinese investors has been finalized.

West Brom said in a statement that the purchase of the club by Yunyi Guokai (Shanghai) Sports Development Limited, announced in August, was completed on Thursday. The takeover had been subject to approval by the league and English financial authorities.

Lai Guochuan will head the new ownership group. He oversaw the development of the landscaping company Palm, which started out as a plant nursery business and now develops eco-towns in China.

Trial date for death of Saints’ Smith delayed

NFL: The trial date has been pushed back for the suspect in the shooting death of former New Orleans Saints star Will Smith.

Jury selection for the second-degree murder trial of Cardell Hayes is now set for Dec. 1, with opening statements scheduled for Dec. 5. Hayes was arrested after Smith was shot to death following an automobile crash on April 9.

Rams Brockers agrees to deal: Defensive tackle Michael Brockers has agreed to a three-year contract extension through 2019 with the Los Angeles Rams.

The team announced the extension Thursday.

Brockers is a key component of the Rams’ defensive line, considered one of the NFL’s best units. Playing alongside Aaron Donald on the interior of the line, Brockers had career-highs with 74 tackles and 12 tackles for loss last season.

Hopkins fined for Yeezy cleats: Houston receiver DeAndre Hopkins won’t be wearing his Kanye West-designed Yeezy cleats again anytime soon after the shoes earned him a fine from the NFL.

Hopkins, who has a multi-year contract with Adidas, said he received a fine of $6,000 for wearing the shoes in the popular turtle dove color. NFL rules say that shoes must have one dominant base color, which the Yeezy’s do not.

Las Vegas NFL stadium moving forward: A plan to build an NFL stadium in Las Vegas and lure the Raiders from Oakland crossed a major hurdle Thursday when a Nevada oversight committee voted unanimously to recommend $750 million in public funding for the project. The Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee recommended raising the hotel tax in the Las Vegas area to help pay for a 65,000-seat domed venue. Proponents still need to win over the governor, the Legislature and three-quarters of NFL owners.

Chun, Park share first- round lead in France

GOLF: South Koreans In Gee Chun and Sung Hyun Park shot 8-under 63 to share the first-round lead in the Evian Championship in Evian-les-Bains, France, the last of the LPGA Tour’s five majors.

Top-ranked Lydia Ko’s bid to defend her title – and win a third career major by the age of 19 – got off to a rocky start with a 70.

“It was tricky for me because on the back nine I was not hitting fairways,” said Ko, who has 14 career wins on the U.S. LPGA Tour.

Johnson remembers ‘Baja Bob’ Gordon

AUTO RACING: Six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson remembers vividly the first time he rode in an off-road desert car with “Baja Bob” Gordon about 25 years ago.

Johnson retold the story Thursday while saying he was in “complete and utter shock” to learn Gordon, father of former NASCAR and open-wheel driver Robby Gordon, had been found dead with his wife in their Southern California home. Police said 68-year-old Robert Gordon strangled 57-year-old wife Sharon Gordon and fatally shot himself in their gated house in Orange.

Sonnen returns to MMA with Bellator

MMA: Chael Sonnen is returning to mixed martial arts with the Bellator promotion.The 39-year-old signed a multiyear, multi-fight deal with the UFC’s largest competitor.

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