- The Washington Times - Monday, July 7, 2008

When San Antonio Silver Stars guard Becky Hammon received an inbounds pass late in Sunday’s game at Verizon Center, she looked surprised to see that no Washington defender was within five feet of her. She took her time, spun the ball in her hands and calmly made her fourth 3-pointer of the afternoon.

That was as much resistance as the Mystics could muster.

Hammon scored a season-high 28, and forward Sophia Young added 23 as Western Conference-leading San Antonio beat the Mystics 83-75 on Sunday.

“It all boils down to defense. We had bad defensive execution,” Mystics guard Alana Beard said.

Monique Currie’s two free throws briefly gave Washington (6-11) a 61-60 lead with 7:46 remaining in the game, its first advantage since early in the second quarter. But the outside-inside combination of Hammon and Young was too much down the stretch. The San Antonio duo combined to score the Silver Stars’ final 24 points to give them the push they needed to get past the Mystics.

“They have a great 1-2 combo with Becky and Sophia,” Beard said. “Sophia has drastically turned her game around from when she first came into the league.”

The Mystics kept Hammon quiet in the first half, holding her to just seven points by trapping every time she tried to use a screen to get free. But Hammon found more space in the second half and made Washington pay. She shot 4-for-9 from beyond the arc, and when the Mystics tightened up to contest her long-range shots, the elusive 5-foot-6 guard wriggled her way into the lane for easy looks. Fouling was no respite for the Mystics either; Hammon, a career 88.2 percent free throw shooter, made all 10 of her foul shots.

Washington also struggled to stop Young, who continued the best season of her career. She used her speed and athleticism in the post to get open shots against the bigger Washington defenders.

The Mystics had clawed back from a 12-point deficit before Hammon and Young took over the game’s final minutes.

“It came down to our defensive execution,” Mystics coach Tree Rollins said. “Our game plan tonight was to switch. We had two hard days of practice doing that, and it worked pretty good. But the miscues hurt us in the fourth quarter.”

The Mystics took a 21-13 lead early in the second quarter but then fell flat. They went cold from the floor as the Silver Stars ran off a 16-2 run over the next 5:32 to turn the eight-point deficit into a six-point lead that they extended to 36-28 at halftime.

The Mystics were in danger of getting blown out in the opening minutes of the second half. The Silver Stars extended their eight-point halftime lead to 48-36 before the Mystics fought back.

Captains Beard and Taj McWilliams-Franklin combined for all of the Mystics’ points during a 12-3 run that brought them within a possession of San Antonio. The Mystics continued to chip into the Silver Stars’ lead until Currie’s free throws.

Beard finished with 20 points, and rookie Crystal Langhorne added 17 for the Mystics, who will not have much time to regroup from their third straight loss before Tuesday’s game against Indiana.

“No loss is ever easy. I go home, watch film and try to find ways to win,” Beard said.

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