- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 16, 2003

NEW YORK — The clock kept stopping in the final minute because of fouls and free throws. But considering the Washington Mystics had waited 35 days for a victory, what were a few more seconds?

Annie Burgess put an exclamation point on the triumph by drilling a 3-pointer at the buzzer as the Mystics ended an 11-game losing streak by defeating the New York Liberty 77-64 last night before 13,051 at Madison Square Garden.

“What a relief,” Burgess said, undoubtedly speaking as well for all her teammates.

Burgess’ 3 came in front of the players on the Mystics bench as they hopped and yelled in celebration of the skid that had plagued them for the past month.

“The losses start working on you,” coach Marianne Stanley said. “This is as much an emotional victory and a psychological victory as a victory on paper. It really is. We showed people what we’re all about.”

Had the Mystics (3-14) lost, they would have broken the franchise record for losses in a row and moved within one of tying the WNBA mark. Instead, the Mystics stopped the skid, which equaled their longest in 1998.

New York native Chamique Holdsclaw led the Mystics with 24 points and 13 rebounds, and Burgess tied her career high with 15 points, ending a span of four games without scoring. Washington also got 11 points from Murriel Page and 10 from Coco Miller.

“Going through an 11-game losing streak isn’t easy,” Holdsclaw said. “It’s tough, but you can’t quit. Everybody throughout the league has been wondering what’s going on with this Washington team. We’ve just had some bad breaks. It’s special to finally end this thing.”

It was the third straight loss and fourth in five games for New York (7-8), and this one was even more painful because it came against the league’s worst team. Afterward, a few Liberty fans voiced their displeasure as the players walked off the court.

“The word is disappointing,” said New York’s Tari Phillips, who scored 12 points. “This one hurts a lot.”

Washington jumped to a 43-34 lead to open the second half before New York rallied with an 11-3 burst to cut the deficit to 46-45 with 11:53 to play and had the crowd and the momentum back on its side.

Yet in the next three minutes, the Mystics put together an 11-0 run that began and ended with running jumpers by Miller, the second of which gave Washington a 56-45 lead with 8:45 left. Holdsclaw’s 3-pointer provided the Mystics’ largest lead at 61-46.

“That’s an adrenaline play,” Holdsclaw said. “As a basketball player, it’s one of the best feelings to have.”

New York was led by Vickie Johnson’s 18 points and Crystal Robinson’s 15. Tamika Whitmore, who scored 21 points in New York’s 70-57 win over Washington on June 1, was held to seven.

The game started well for Washington as Miller chased down the tip and took it to the hoop for a quick basket, starting a 9-0 run that was capped by a 3-pointer from the top of the key by Burgess at the 18:03 mark.

“I think it was obvious, right from the start, that [the Mystics were] a desperate team,” Liberty coach Richie Adubato said.

Washington took its largest lead of the first half on a 3-point play by Page that made it 22-12 at the 10:09 mark, but it still wasn’t enough to finish New York. The Liberty cut it to 31-30 on a layin from Vickie Johnson but trailed 33-30 at the half after Page converted an airball from Stacey Dales-Schuman into an assist with a layin at the halftime buzzer.

“If you think this [victory] was an accident, it’s not,” Stanley said. “If you think this is a one-time thing, it’s not. If you think this is something that just happened overnight, it’s not. It’s been building. Our locker room believed we could do it. Maybe no one else did, but we did.”

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