Sunday, August 24, 2003

It was no surprise the Washington Mystics were involved in a tight game in their final MCI Center appearance of the season.

It was even less of a surprise they lost.

The Mystics lost to the Connecticut Sun 74-67 before 14,853 spectators who left with a familiar feeling of frustration after watching the team fold down the stretch.

One disgruntled woman wearing a Mystics jersey shook her head and said, “It’s like a rerun with you guys.”

It was Washington’s 14th defeat in 17 home games, 13 of them decided by 10 or fewer points. The latest loss helped the Mystics break their own dubious WNBA single-season record for lowest home winning percentage (.176). The previous mark of .200 was set in Washington’s inaugural season of 1998, when it went 3-12 at home en route to a 3-27 overall record.

“The [home] record looks bad,” coach Marianne Stanley said. “We don’t like it. We’re not happy with it. But we’re not getting blown out by 30. There’s no consolation prize for that, but it’s a combination of a lot of little things. Confidence is a part of that.”

Chamique Holdsclaw, who again led the Mystics with 24 points and eight rebounds, apologized to the fans in a postgame radio interview carried on the P.A. In the locker room, she again showed remorse for the way her team has played this season after being Eastern Conference finalists a year ago.

“We didn’t do what we were supposed to do,” Holdsclaw said. “We wanted to come back and do well. We’re disappointed. We haven’t lived up to the hype that we created last year.”

Coco Miller (18 points) was the only other source of offense for Washington, with the next highest total being Helen Luz’s six points on two 3-pointers. The lack of multiple scorers proved costly in the final minutes as Connecticut went on a 12-1 run to turn a 58-57 deficit at the 5:38 mark into a 69-59 lead with 1:09 remaining.

The spark plug for the Sun was guard Katie Douglas, who scored the first eight points of the run and ended with a career-high 28 points on 11-for-15 shooting.

“I thought clearly that Katie Douglas was the difference in the game,” Stanley said. “She made shots from everywhere. We really had a difficult time keeping her in check.”

Washington ended a nearly five-minute field goal drought when Holdsclaw rebounded her own miss with 42.8 seconds left to bring the Mystics within 69-61. Miller and Luz each added a 3-pointer in the final 22 seconds to cut the deficit to five, but Connecticut’s Shannon Johnson sank two free throws to seal the important win for her team.

“We are going to keep turning it up,” said Sun forward Nykesha Sales, who had 15 points. “The way you want to go into the playoffs is on a roll.”

The Sun (17-16) control their own destiny in the race for one of the Eastern Conference’s four playoff spots and can clinch it with a victory over Indiana tomorrow.

The Mystics (9-24), meanwhile, only can look toward tomorrow night’s season finale at Detroit as a chance to avoid the second-worst overall record in team history.

“One more left,” Holdsclaw said. “Hopefully, we’ll all grow up from this season and use it as a lesson.”

Note — Former Mystics center Vicky Bullett was honored during an emotional halftime ceremony. Bullet, who announced her retirement April30, averaged 10.8 points, 6.4 rebounds and had 288 blocks in her six WNBA seasons, the last three in Washington. Bullett said it’s been tough to attend Mystics games and watch her former team’s misfortune.

“I get frustrated,” she said. “It’s hard. They’ve struggled. They are missing that leadership.”

But she closed the door on a possible return to the league, despite the wishes of her fans.

“Oh no, not at all,” Bullett said. “I’m almost 36. It’s time for me to have some kids.”

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