- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 30, 2003

The duel between the greatest players in the storied history of Tennessee women’s basketball went to Tamika Catchings.

Catchings drove the left baseline past Chamique Holdsclaw and Asjha Jones and converted the game-winning layup as time expired to lead the Indiana Fever to a 92-91 overtime victory over the Washington Mystics before 13,461 last night at MCI Center.

Holdsclaw scored on a clearout against Catchings with 2.5 seconds left to give the Mystics a 91-90 lead. The Fever immediately called a timeout and got the ball at midcourt, where Catchings took over.

After a few minutes of watching the replay, the officials ruled that Catchings got her shot off in time.

“Two and a half seconds is enough time to turn around, gather yourself and shoot,” said Catchings, who had a game-high 30 points and made five of 11 3-pointers. “I saw an open path to the baseline before I caught the ball. It’s like take one dribble and go up.”

Catchings, who played with Holdsclaw at Tennessee from 1997 to ‘99, was sprung for her game-winning shot on a screen set by Fever center Natalie Williams.

“We’re supposed to switch on all screens,” said Holdsclaw, who led the Mystics with 28 points, 15 rebounds and a career-high seven assists. “… [Catchings] just made a tough shot.”

The Mystics (5-19) lost their fifth straight and are one loss shy of losing 20 or more games for the fourth time in six seasons. With the win, the Fever are now tied for second place in the WNBA’s Eastern Conference with the Charlotte Sting.

Jones scored a career-high 21 points coming off the bench for the Mystics.

“I thought we made the basket that we needed to make down the stretch,” Mystics coach Marianne Stanley said of Holdsclaw’s layup. “So many good things came out of this game, it’s hard to accept that it still ended up as a loss.”

This is the second time in a week the Mystics were beaten by the Fever (13-10) at home. Last Thursday, Indiana won 80-75 behind Catchings’ 29 points.

The WNBA’s best 3-point shooting team shredded the Mystics in this one. The Fever set a team record by making 13 of 30 3-pointers, falling one shy of a single-game league record. The Fever made eight of 14 3-pointers in the first half.

Fever point guard Coquese Washington nearly buried the Mystics by herself from behind the arc. Washington, a 5-foot-6 journeywoman who is playing for her third WNBA team, entered averaging just 2.8 points but had a season-high 11 points in the first half on three 3-pointers.

Washington was an unexpected scoring complement to Catchings. Catchings, a two-time WNBA All-Star, lived up to her billing. Catchings scored a game-high 16 points in the first half, during which she tied her career high by making four 3-pointers.

Yet, as bad as it looked for the Mystics, the WNBA’s Eastern Conference cellar dwellers went into their locker room tied with the Fever at 38 at halftime.

The Fever went cold from behind the arc in the second half and the Mystics capitalized by snatching the Fever misses and cranking up their transition game. The Mystics managed to jump out to a 10-point lead three times in the second half, the last being 74-64 with 6:22 left on a pair of Holdsclaw free throws.

The Mystics blew their late-game, double-digit leads by not defending the 3-point arc. In the final 6:09, the Fever made four 3-pointers.

Poor offensive execution by the Mystics in the waning minutes of regulation cost the struggling team a victory. With the Mystics leading 82-80, forward Murriel Page missed a layup with 1:01 left. With 45 seconds to go, Page could have put the game away if she made both free throws but missed the first.

Seven seconds later, Fever guard Stephanie White nailed a 20-foot rainbow from the top of the key that tied the game 83-83.

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