WNBA: Washington Ties Win Mark Beating Minnesota
WASHINGTON -- The dagger and Jersey Girl finished a Washington rally from an 11-point halftime deficit that gave the Mystics a narrow 61-58 win over the Minnesota Lynks in a WNBA crossover game at the Verizon Center Friday night.
Olympic gold medalist Katie Smith, signed in the offseason as a free agent, nailed a three-pointer with 43.5 seconds left in the game that put Washington ahead. Shortly afterwards, former Maryland star Crystal Langhorne hit two foul shots to force the Lynx to take outside shots attempting to force overtime.
Smith had played on two of the former Detroit Shock's three WNBA champions after playing for Minnesota during her WNBA career.
Langhorne, a native of Willingboro, N.J., near Philadelphia, had another double double with 12 points and 14 rebounds.
It was her 13th double double of the season and the Mystics set a season rebounding high, dominating Minnesota 46-34 on the backboards.
"It was ugly but we won so you can't be mad at that," Langhorne said after the Mystics reduced the magic number to two to clinch a playoff spot for the second straight season.
Marissa Coleman, a former Maryland teammate of Langhorne, had eight points and nine rebounds off the bench.
Minnesota (11-19) suffered its second straight tough loss after Tina Thompson hit a shot before the buzzer to give Los Angeles a win over the Lynx Thursday night in Minneapolis.
"I heard about that and they kind of lost it almost the same way tonight when Katie hit that big shot," Langhorne said. "We were down the whole game and then Katie put us ahead. I feel bad for them -- that's two tough losses but we needed that win."
The Mystics (18-12) moved into third place in the Eastern Conference logjam two games behind the Indiana Fever (20-10), which clinched a playoff spot by beating the defending WNBA champion Phoenix Mercury 110-90 in Indianapolis.
Washington tied its 2006 record for most wins in the regular season while Indiana set a franchise record for points in a game.
Minnesota fell into a fourth-place tie with Los Angeles, 15 games behind the Seattle Storm (25-5), which has won the West in the regular season but got routed at Connecticut (15-15) Friday night in Uncasville.
The Storm visits here Sunday while Indiana will be at Connecticut.
The Sparks have the tie-break over the Lynx, winning the season series, and would get the last playoff spot in the West.
Though two local major sports attractions were home in the nation's capital -- baseball's Nationals and football's Redskins -- the Mystics still drew 7,752 fans whose vocal chords were in enhanced stereo mode cheering the Mystics the entire night.
Washington coach Julie Plank cited the crowd in her postgame remarks in discussing her halftime comments she made to her players.
"I said we didn't show anything the first half and we need to put on a show for them," Plank related. "Our fans are so great. They've been our sixth player all year and I want this to be a special place. I think our team came out fired up. I did say, relax, have fun and just play in the second half."
Washington yielded 23 turnovers to 10 by the Lynx but made a defensive stand in the second half, outscoring the Lynx 32-18 over the final two quarters.
Former Duke star Lindsey Harding had 15 points for Washington, and Smith finished with 11, including connecting on 3-of-6 three-point attempts.
Lindsay Whalen and rookie Monica Wright, a first round pick out of Virginia, each scored 13 points for Minnesota, while Nicky Anoskie, a former Tennessee star, scored 11.
Elsewhere, the New York Liberty (18-11) broke a second-place tie with Atlanta (18-13, edging the Dream 90-83 in the Peach Tree State, as former Rutgers star Cappie Pondexter scored 31 points to keep the winners 1.5 games behind the defending conference champion Fever.
New York, which has won seven straight and 11 of its last 13, will host Phoenix in Madison Square Garden Saturday night.
Angel McCoughtry had 22 points for Atlanta, which could have clinched a second straight playoff spot in its three seasons with either a win or Connecticut loss. Erika de Souza scored 21 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for the Dream.
Atlanta is at Chicago Saturday night while Los Angeles, attempting to break out of a fourth-place deadlock with Minnesota, will be at Tulsa.
The top two teams in each conference will get home court advantage in the first round in the 1-1-1 best-of-three format.
The San Antonio Silver Stars (11-18) moved a game ahead of the Lynx and Sparks in third place 13 games behind Seattle and two behind Phoenix by beating Tulsa 94-74 in Texas to keep the last-place Shock (5-25) behind Seattle 20 games off the pace.
Not only is Washington on the verge of playoff participation, the Mystics remain alive in the hunt for first or second place and the Eastern home court advantages.
"Right now we're trying to take care of ourselves," Langhorne said recalling the team's development after being taken in the first round in 2008. She helped lead the Terrapins to the 2006 NCAA title in overtime against Duke in Boston.
Harding and Currie, both acquired in recent seasons after having played for other teams, were members of the Blue Devils squad that lost to the Terrapins.
"The growth of this team has been great," Langhorne said. "My first year we were terrible. Last year we were a little bit better. This year even better. It's been great.
"I think the playoffs are going to be tough for anybody because how close these teams are to each other in the East."
Despite the mediocre records in the West a tight fit remains among Minnesota, San Antonio, and Los Angeles for two spots.
The Lynx, which hosts Minnesota Sunday, could have had breathing room but have suffered more than their share of narrow setbacks after leads in double digits.
"It was a hard fought game," said Minnesota first-year coach Cheryl Reeve, a former La Salle star from South Jersey. "Clearly we set the tone in the first half and caused a lot of turnovers.
"We expected to see more zone in the second half, we were ready for it, we just struggled putting the ball in the hole."
Reeve said she's holding up considering the tough setbacks and injuries that included missing Seimone Augustus in the front part of the season and Candice Wiggins, who was sidelined in the beginning and then later was re-injured and dispatched for the rest of the way.
"It's the hardest thing," Reeve said. "We probably lead the league in the number of times we had double digit leads and hadn't been able to secure win. We're playing hard enough. We're playing well enough. We just haven't been able to finish things off.
"We scored 18 points in the second half -- it's tough to win."
But Minnesota remains in the hunt despite the adversity.
"It's certainly building character," Reeve said. "We get knocked down. We get back up. We go and play a home game Sunday against San Antonio and then there's no doubt in my mind we're going to play our tails off and then we have three road games. We play OK on the road. This team is confident. We'll see how things play out."
Former Georgetown star Rebekkah Brunson made her annual homecoming visit but first from Minnesota after being claimed in the dispersal of the former Sacramento Monarchs roster. She had 10 rebounds but was held to three points in 28:32 minutes of playing time.
Coaches and officials from the collegiate Colonial Athletic Association also attended the game using an arena suite for the occasion. Lynx player Quanitra Hollingsworth played at Virginia Commonwealth, but didn't get into Friday's game. Hamchetou Maiga-Ba played at Old Dominion.
VCU coach Beth Cunningham, a former Notre Dame star, played with the Mystics' Chasity Melvin on the former Philadelphia Rage in the defunct American Basketball League.
Sun Stops Storm
Connecticut stayed barely alive for the playoffs in handling Seattle as Asjha Jones scored 19 points, Tina Charles scored 14, and Renee Montgomery scored 15 for the Sun, who prevailed 88-68..
Charles also set the Sun record for offensive rebounds in a season with 115, which is one ahead of the 114 from Taj McWilliams Franklin, now with New York, in 2001 when the franchise was located in Orlando, Fla.
Svetlana Abrosimova scored 19 for Seattle, which sat Lauren Jackson out because of back spasms.
The Sun, with four games remaining, trail fourth-place Atlanta by 2.5 games, and Washington by three. They host Indiana on Sunday with every game a must win the rest of the way.
Fever Get Even With Mercury Again
Though Indiana lost the playoffs to Phoenix last season in the fifth and deciding game in the desert after having held a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series, the Fever have made it a 2-0 sweep in the regular season at a time when the Mercury had seemed to have finally gotten on track.
Tamika Catchings scored 29 points for Indiana Friday night as the Fever stayed 1.5 games ahead of New York, which has bolted from sixth place to second place.
Temeka Johnson scored 23 points for Phoenix, Diana Taurasi scored 22, and former Temple star Candice Dupree had 20 as the Mercury moved close to clinching a playoff spot. Phoenix is two games in front of San Antonio and three in front of Minnesota and Los Angeles with four games remaining.
The Fever, incidentally, are 3-0 in games played on Friday the 13th.
Stars Absorb Shock
San Antonio stayed in the playoff-contending shuffle in the West with a 94-74 win over Tulsa in Texas that put the Silver Stars (12-18) into third place in the West 13 games behind Seattle, two behind Phoenix and one ahead of Minnesota and Los Angeles.
They travel to Minnesota Sunday already owning the season-series tie-break with Los Angeles.
Chamique Holdsclaw had 18 points for San Antonio, while Roneeka Hodges scored 15.
Scholanda Robinson had a team-high 14 points for Tulsa, which will have the best shot in the draft lottery for the No. 1 pick next April -- likely to be UConn senior Maya Moore.
Minnesota is close to having at least one shot in the four-team lottery, owning Connecticut's pick if the Sun fail to advance to the postseason. If the Lynx fall short on their own behalf of playoff participation, then they will also have their own pick in whatever device is used to name the 1-4 order.
All games for Sunday are already spoken to, as in the case of Saturday. The Guru most likely will return here Sunday after attending the New York game Saturday.
Now it's time to pack up, dine, and head north to Philly. Because the Guru drove he won't be locked inside the Verizon Center this time around -- but he will shut out the lights, which used to be in his job description when he rose to No. 1 in staff writers seniority in the newsroom before his departure in April.