- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 10, 2003

Washington Mystics coach Marianne Stanley could only shake her head.

After her team showcased its true potential in a 97-91 loss to Los Angeles last night at MCI Center, Stanley still was asked about the Mystics’ current 11-game losing streak.

“You [reporters] amaze me,” Stanley said. “On a night where we showed what kind of team we are, you come with that? We put 91 points on a three-time champion. I’ll take my chances with that. I told our team that if we come with that energy, that effort, that execution, we’re going to beat a lot of teams in this league.”

True, the way the Mystics played last night would indeed produce a victory on most nights.

Just not last night. Not with the two-time defending WNBA champion Los Angeles Sparks in town.

Los Angeles, the league’s best team at 15-3, still managed to dispose of Washington, the league’s worst team at 2-14, before an electric crowd of 17,227 and a national television audience.

Washington now enters the All-Star break on an 11-game losing streak, tying the franchise record set by the dismal 1998 team that went 3-27 in its inaugural year.

The Mystics will get six days off before trying to break out of their slump at New York on Tuesday. Should the Mystics lose to the Liberty and the Charlotte Sting two days after that, they would tie the WNBA record of 13 losses in a row, set by Detroit in 2002.

After this latest effort, though, the Mystics are convinced wins will soon follow — especially after scoring their most points since a 97-89 win at Utah on June 4, 2002.

“We’re at the bottom of the barrel so nobody expects anything from us,” said Chamique Holdsclaw, who scored a team-high 27 points. “If we can play like this consistently, I think we’re going to turn this thing around and shock a lot of people.”

Washington, which has lost 14 of 15 since winning its season opener, dropped to 1-7 at home. Los Angeles, meanwhile, improved its league-best road mark to 10-1 and beat Washington for the sixth straight time.

The Sparks, winners of three straight and six of seven, had all five starters in double figures, including Tamecka Dixon with a career-high 28 points. Lisa Leslie contributed 18, followed by DeLisha Milton and Mwadi Mabika with 16 and Nikki Teasley with 15.

The game remained competitive to the end, even after Los Angeles seemingly put the game away with a 6-0 run that ended on a strong move by Leslie in the post to take a 76-60 lead with eight minutes remaining.

But the Mystics weren’t about to let a strong performance end with a whimper.

Aishya Smith started an 11-2 run with a free throw, Coco Miller followed with a 3-pointer and the scoring spurt was capped by a crowd-pleasing 3-pointer from Stacey Dales-Schuman that swished through the net to cut the lead to 78-71 with 5:30 left.

Los Angeles went back on top 93-80 with 1:50 left, and the Mystics whittled that down with one final surge. Kiesha Brown closed out the scoring with a 3-pointer with six seconds left that gave her a career-high nine points and gave her team some optimism, if not a victory.

“Moral victories are huge,” said Dales-Schuman, who scored 19 points. “You have to learn how to win. Once we win a couple games, it’s back. It’ll be contagious.”

Note — Holdsclaw and Leslie gave their respective teams a scare with 18:14 remaining in the first half when they collided while going up for a rebound and fell to the floor. Holdsclaw was the first one up and Leslie later followed during a timeout break. Both remained in the game. … Holdsclaw will travel to Saturday’s All-Star Game in New York, where she was voted a starter, but said she’ll wait until she gets her sore right hamstring re-evaluated to decided whether she will play.

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