By: Jim Wallin (LFL360.com)
Photos: Joe Petro/LFL PHOTOS, Don Montague
Ontario, Calif. — The Los Angeles Temptation won the Western Conference Championship for a record-setting third consecutive year, soundly defeating the Las Vegas Sin 27-18 in an electric atmosphere at Citizens Business Bank Arena.
Led by the stand-out performances of Game MVP Ashley Salerno (10/15, 142 YDS., 3 TD.), Audrey Latsko (3 REC., 35 YDS., 2 TD) and Melissa Margulies (4 REC., 74 YDS., TD), the Temptation passing attack continued a recent trend of strong play, ignited by Margulies’ 35-yard touchdown reception on the first play from scrimmage to vault L.A. to an early 8-0 advantage.
Las Vegas countered, with Carrie Walters (5 REC., 51 YDS., TD) reeling in a Nikki Johnson (10/19, 82 YDS., TD, INT) pass for a seven-yard score which ultimately cut the early Temptation lead to two.
Little did the Sin know that this would be the closest they would come.
Salerno engineered an eight-play, 35-yard drive, scoring on a three-yard bootleg to push Los Angeles to a 14-6 lead. Then, after a key defensive stop, the Temptation offense was at it again, this time Audrey Latsko scoring on a 14-yard passing play to make the score 21-6.
After the Sin stormed down the field to counter-punch the defending champions, as Cassie Strickland bruised her way into the end zone to cut their lead to nine, the Temptation wasted little time in settling the score, as Salerno once again connected with Latsko as the clock ticked down to give the Temptation a 27-12 halftime lead; one they would not relenquish.
Las Vegas cut into the lead early in the second half, thanks to a Mia Chambers one-yard-run, but from there both defenses tightened and the final score ultimately was settled at that point in the contest.
Los Angeles’ defense was led by Chloe Butler (6 tackles, 1 sack), who sidelined Johnson late in the second half with a fractured wrist, similar to an injury she indirectly inflicted upon Minnesota Valkyrie quarterback Jana Skrtic earlier in the season.
Las Vegas’ secondary saw a lot of action, with Strickland (6 tackles) leading the team in tackles and Tamica Estrella (4 tackles) turning in a solid performance on her side of the field.
Las Vegas ends a perfect regular season in its first postseason contest in franchise history. The difference in the game proved to be L.A.’s big play threat surpassing that of the Sin’s 60-percent red zone efficiency.
Los Angeles will look to successfully defend their Lingerie Bowl Championship next Sunday in Las Vegas versus the Philadelphia Passion in a repeat of Lingerie Bowl VIII. Last year’s championship saw the Temptation defeat the Passion 26-25 in a thriller for the ages.
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