- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 22, 2002

MIAMI Much has been made of Washington's offensive prowess so far this WNBA season. But it was the Mystics' defense that made the difference yesterday.

Washington held Miami to three field goals in the final six-plus minutes while Chamique Holdsclaw and Coco Miller combined to make six free throws in the final seconds as the Mystics held off the Sol 65-60.

The win extended Washington's Eastern Conference-leading record to 8-2, the best 10-game start in franchise history. Miami fell to 2-7.

"Our defense really, really pulled it out down the stretch," said Holdsclaw, who led all scorers with 19 points. "That's what has to happen on the road."

Holdsclaw scored seven of her 19 points in the final five minutes, leading a game-ending 23-13 run that rallied the Mystics from a five-point deficit. Rookie Stacey Dales-Schuman had six of her 11 points during that burst, and Miller sealed the game with four free throws in the final 12.1 seconds.

"After the loss at Charlotte, we needed this win," Miller said. "And we knew Miami was better than their record, so we had to come in here and play with a lot of energy, which we did."

The Mystics, who entered the game with the WNBA's second-best scoring average (77.6 a game), made four consecutive shots in a quick 8-0 run to take a 30-19 lead with 2:31 remaining in the first half.

But Washington missed 14 of its next 17 shots, and Miami capitalized with a 20-8 run, capped by a Pollyanna Johns Kimbrough layup with 11:32 left to give the Sol its first lead of the game 39-38.

Vanessa Nygaard connected on a 3-pointer with 8:07 remaining to give Miami its biggest edge at 47-42. But the Sol only mustered one more field goal in the next 6½ minutes as the Mystics pulled away.

"It's always tough to come back on the road," Holdsclaw said. "It's their homecourt; they played with a lot of energy and emotion. We're just glad we were able to make plays down the stretch."

Five straight Sandy Brondello points in a 40-second span pulled Miami within 59-58 with 1:01 left, but after Brondello missed a potential go-ahead shot with 25 seconds left, Holdsclaw made two free throws with 19.2 seconds remaining to give Washington breathing room. The lead was never smaller than three again.

"Now, when a game boils down to defense, rebounding and being physical, we've shown we can step up and play that kind of game," Mystics coach Marianne Stanley said. "We took care of our business and didn't back down. It was a huge statement on our part."

Before Holdsclaw and Miller went 6-for-6 from the line down the stretch, Washington had made only three of eight from the line in the game. The Mystics also missed their final eight 3-point tries and were outrebounded 33-28.

The win was Washington's second over the Sol in as many meetings this season. Sheri Sam's 18 points led Miami, which dropped to 1-4 in games decided by five points or less.

"We're going to keep losing games if we keep breaking down at the end," Sam said.

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