- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 10, 2002

The Washington Mystics let Phoenix rise from the ashes, then buried it again with 3-pointers.

An aerial barrage by the first-place Mystics in the final nine minutes put away a determined Phoenix Mercury team looking for its first road win of season, 68-54 before 15,217 last night at MCI Center.

The Mystics did their best to accommodate the visitors by squandering a 17-point first-half lead, then made six of 11 3-pointers down the stretch to remain the only WNBA team undefeated at home (8-0). Rookie forward Stacey Dales-Schuman and guards Coco Miller and Helen Luz combined to score 18 points from behind the 3-point arc as the Mystics pulled away.

The Mystics matched their franchise record for wins in a season, improving to 14-5. The victory was the first in franchise history against the Mercury.

Trailing 45-44 with 9:52 left, the Mystics' perimeter weapons went on a tear. Dales-Schuman scored seven of her team-high 16 points in the final 7:52. Miller scored eight of her 11 points in the second half, and all of Luz's 13 points came in the second half.

"We had great looks, and there weren't too many bad shots I can think of. If you keep giving us shots, we're going to make them sooner or later," Mystics coach Marianne Stanley said.

The Eastern Conference-leading Mystics won again without star forward Chamique Holdsclaw, the WNBA's leading scorer and rebounder. The Mystics are 5-2 this season without Holdsclaw in the lineup.

After the game, Holdsclaw said she would not play in Monday's WNBA All-Star game at MCI Center. Holdsclaw, who was the leading vote-getter in the Eastern Conference with 89,381 votes, said she would return to the lineup after the All-Star break. Holdsclaw, who was placed on the injured reserve list June 30 with a left ankle sprain, likely will return for next Thursday's game against the lowly Detroit Shock (1-16) at MCI Center.

Miller, who played point guard in place of injured starter Annie Burgess (calf), had a strong game. In addition to her 11 points, Miller tied her career-high with seven assists and finished with five rebounds. Forward Murriel Page pulled down a season-high 12 rebounds.

The Mystics overcame an outstanding performance by Mercury center Jennifer Gillom. Gillom led all scorers with 26 points, hitting four of five 3-pointers.

Luz nailed a 20-footer from the top of the key to give the Mystics a 47-45 lead with 8:47 remaining a lead the Mystics would not relinquish. Before that, Luz had made just two of 18 3-pointers over her last 4½ games.

Luz broke out of her slump when the Mystics needed her the most trailing at home to a team that beat the Mystics 71-65 in Phoenix on June 3. When Luz made her 3, she fell back, stretched her arms and looked skyward.

"I just said 'thank you God' because the situation was important in the game," Luz said. "I didn't lose my confidence. Marianne has confidence in me. So do all the players and the fans, too. Every time I touch the ball, the fans shout 'Luuuuzzz,' and I feel better."

Said Stanley: "[After Luz's 0-for-4 3-point shooting performance Monday at Orlando], I went up and told her she was still the best shooter in this gym. You let people do what they do best, and it will work out."

The Mystics could have put away the game in the first half but played sloppy ball the last 10½ minutes. The Mystics' 27-10 lead was reduced to 30-22 at halftime.

Poor shooting and bad halfcourt execution by the Mystics allowed the Mercury (7-10) back into the game. The Mystics made 11 of their first 16 shots of the first half, but in the final 10:33 they made just two of 16 shots. They finished the first half shooting just 40.6 percent.

Perhaps it was too easy. During the first 10 minutes, the Mystics did a terrific job of moving the ball around and finding open shooters. Dales-Schuman, who scored just 10 points in Monday's 63-51 win against the Miracle, led the Mystics with nine points in the first half. Vicky Bullett contributed seven points and four rebounds in 14 minutes.

Luz, the Mystics' super sub, helped drop the Mystics' first-half shooting percentage. She missed all four of her shots from the field all 3-point attempts.


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