- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 19, 2007

Win and wait.

As the WNBA regular season finishes today, that’s all the Washington Mystics can do. They begin the day tied for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with the New York Liberty. However the Liberty (15-18), which took three of four games from the Mystics (15-18) this season, hold the tiebreaker.

Two things must happen for Washington to make the postseason. First, it must win at Connecticut today at 1 p.m. Then, Chicago needs to upset the Liberty in New York three hours later. Any other combination would send the Liberty into the postseason as the fourth and final seed and end the Mystics season.

“We still have one lifeline left and we are going to call and see if we can get it,” Washington interim coach Tree Rollins said. “We didn’t get it done ourselves and now the postseason could boil down to how somebody else does. We allowed the door to open and New York came in.”

It is fitting that the Mystics’ roller-coaster season comes down to the final stop. Washington seemed like it could be in for a historically bad season when it lost its first eight games, with coach Richie Adubato resigning after the first four.

However, the Mystics responded after Rollins took over, winning 14 of their next 21 games to improve to 14-15 and in the process, becoming postseason contenders.

“We can only control what we can control,” Mystics guard Alana Beard said. “If we don’t do what we need to do, the other game doesn’t matter.”

Lately, the team has struggled, losing three of its last four games, including Thursday’s 73-72 loss to New York at home that could have clinched a postseason berth.

“We missed out on a huge opportunity,” forward DeLisha Milton-Jones said. “I know I have replayed out scenarios in my mind. If I had gotten that one rebound or made that one layup, would it have been different? Hopefully, this will be an opportunity gained and not another opportunity lost.”

New York enters this afternoon having won back-to-back games for the first times since July 8. The Liberty had lost 10 of their previous 13 games before their win in Washington and have not won three straight since opening the season 5-0. Last-place Chicago beat New York five days ago.

Washington’s best hope is to leave Mohegan Sun Arena with a win and its season in limbo. The Mystics can only put pressure on the Liberty with a victory but should have an advantage against the Sun as Connecticut forward and second-leading scorer Asjha Jones (15.3 points) is expected to miss the game with a sprained right ankle. The Sun are locked in as the East’s No. 3 seed and will meet the second-seeded Indiana Fever in the playoffs.

“Come Monday, I know we are going to have a meeting,” Milton-Jones said. “When we land, we will know what kind of meeting. Will it be an exit meeting or practice? Hopefully, it will be practice.”