- The Washington Times - Friday, July 18, 2003

A sign in the crowd read, “Most Wanted: A Winning Season.”

While that goal is still a ways off, the Washington Mystics are more than happy to settle for a winning streak.

The Mystics have one for the first time this season after they defeated a hot Charlotte Sting team 68-60 yesterday in a physical game before a season-high 19,683 at MCI Center.

Two days after beating New York on the road to end an 11-game losing skid, Washington (4-14) treated its fans to the season’s second home win in eight attempts.

“It’s great to win here at home for a change,” Mystics coach Marianne Stanley said.

Winning anywhere is a change of pace for Washington, which could have tied the WNBA record for most consecutive losses had it lost both of its games this week. Instead, the Mystics have come back from the All-Star break a rejuvenated bunch and that was evident in the way they broke away from a Sting (12-7) team that entered the game having won four straight and six of seven.

Chamique Holdsclaw led Washington with 24 points and Coco Miller contributed 14, but the real star of the game was Stacey Dales-Schuman. The second-year guard out of Oklahoma had a career-high five 3-pointers among her 18 points in her best game since scoring a season-high 20 against Charlotte in the May23 season opener.

“Since the first game, we’ve been waiting for her to break out again,” Stanley said. “She’s got to feel great and our entire locker room is happy for her. You saw today what she was capable of doing.”

Dales-Schuman’s 3-pointers helped start and end a 20-2 Mystics run in the second half that broke open the game.

Before the run, Charlotte led 43-38 with 13:40 to play and appeared to be shaking off the rust of its extended seven-day All-Star break between games.

But then Dales-Schuman drilled a 3 from the top of the key to cut the deficit to 43-41. Six minutes later, she knocked down two more 3-pointers to give Washington a 58-45 lead with 5:47 left and prompt Stanley to wave her arms toward the standing fans.

“We’re learning to stop the momentum [of the other team], stop the bleeding if you will, and pick up our own offensive attack and counter what they do,” Dales-Schuman said.

The Sting weren’t completely out of it, though, and rattled off a 9-2 run to get within 60-54 at the 3:13 mark.

At that point, the tension was raised and the crowd was hushed, before Asjha Jones received a sneaky pass from Holdsclaw and sank only her second 3-pointer of the season.

The final minutes consisted of Charlotte fouling Washington, and the tactic helped keep the Sting within two possessions until the game’s decisive play.

Trailing 66-60 with 30 seconds left, Charlotte’s Marla Brumfield was stripped from behind by Holdsclaw, who then raced down court for a wide-open layin to ice the game.

“We had a chance at the end and we turned the ball over,” Sting coach Trudi Lacey said. “When you play on other people’s court you just can’t have that happen.”

In the first half, Charlotte used five 3-pointers to go on a 15-2 run and take an early 25-17 lead. The Sting led 30-22 after a jumper from Allison Feaster at the 5:16 mark in the half, but then didn’t score until Feaster converted a layin with two seconds left to tie at 32 at the break.

For the game, Charlotte shot 37.9 percent (22 for 58) and had 17 turnovers compared to Washington’s eight.

“I think if we were a little more efficient today then the game would have been different,” said Feaster, who had a team-high 18 points.

For the Mystics, it was a nice change of pace to have the opposing team doing the second-guessing afterward. The road back to respectability is still a long one for Washington, but there is a sense among the team that the best is yet to come.

Next up is a two-game trip at San Antonio tomorrow and Los Angeles on Tuesday.

“I said two weeks ago, winning is learned,” Dales-Schuman said. “You got to win a few games to feel how you have to react. This is a very good Charlotte team and if we can play with a team like that, we can play with anybody.”


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