- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 20, 2003

SAN ANTONIO — In her second season as Washington Mystics coach, Marianne Stanley has had to endure several trying moments along with her players.

But last night, Stanley watched her team display championship composure in the face of a furious San Antonio Silver Stars rally that could have wilted most opponents. The Mystics didn’t curl up and hide; instead, they thumped their chests and asked the Silver Stars to bring it on.

San Antonio did down the stretch but it wasn’t enough to defeat the determined Mystics, who won their third in a row, 85-77 before 11,530 at SBC Center.

“I’m just really happy for our team,” Stanley said. “This season has been one that we’ve been challenged basically every step of the way to show some character and to handle adversity. In a lot of ways, we’re a young team and we’ve had to handle the frustrations that come with youth.”

Chamique Holdsclaw led five Mystics in double figures with 24 points, while Coco Miller added 18 points, six assists and five rebounds.

“It was everybody who contributed, from our starting five to the bench players,” Holdsclaw said. “The first half of the season was tough because we’re not a bad basketball team. But now the hard work is starting to pay off.”

San Antonio (6-14) lost its fourth in a row and sees its playoff hopes slipping away.

“I have no idea what it is,” said Silver Stars point guard Jennifer Azzi, who had 17 points. “It’s all the little things that add up. It’s not talent or scoring ability, it’s things like defensive stops and getting back on defense. It’s not complicated. We’re not getting it done.

Conversely, over the past three games, the Mystics have been getting it done. And last night’s victory was the kind that allows a coach to sleep soundly at night, one that again demonstrated the Mystics may have completely shaken their 11-game losing streak from earlier this season.

The Mystics led by as many as 13 points in the second half and seemed very comfortable in their offense. Washington shot 49.3 percent from the field and turned the ball over just nine times.

The Mystics fanned the perimeter and used different players to cut from the foul line to the basket. The play worked numerous times last night for layups and foul shots.

However, with the SBC Center crowd pleading and urging, the Silver Stars rallied to cut the margin to 64-63 with 7:36 remaining. San Antonio then had four chances to seize the lead, but each time the Mystics held their ground and registered key defensive stops.

The Mystics were rewarded as Murriel Page sandwiched two jumpers between Miller’s nifty drive to increase the advantage to 70-65.

The Silver Stars again rallied and reduced the lead to 74-72 with 2:27 left.

It was Page who responded, nailing a long jumper over a stretched out 7-foot-2 Margo Dydek.

After a San Antonio turnover, the Mystics went back to Page, whose shot was blocked by Dydek. But Stacey Dales-Schuman recovered the missed shot in the air and in one move, turned and swished in a one-hander.

The shot sealed the victory as the Silver Stars never got closer than four points after that.

“We just need to lock down on defense and keep our composure and patience,” Miller said. “We also needed to knock down some shots, which we did.”

Tuesday, the Mystics (5-14) will be in Los Angeles to play the Sparks, who defeated the Mystics 97-91 in a fabulous game just before the All-Star break.

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