- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 8, 2003

The Charlotte Sting did all they could to give the struggling Washington Mystics a head start last night.

Charlotte missed shots, committed turnovers and appeared to provide the perfect tonic for Washington to get out of its month-long funk.

All that help wasn’t enough for Washington, which showcased again why it has the league’s worst record in a 62-56 loss in front of 11,691 at MCI Center. In the process, the Mystics became the first team in league history not to attempt a free throw in a game.

“Not getting any free throws makes it tough in a two-possession game,” Mystics coach Marianne Stanley said. “Very frustrating. That’s all I can say.”

The Mystics (2-13) have dropped 10 straight, and it doesn’t get any easier tomorrow when the defending WNBA champion Los Angeles Sparks come to town. Washington had won three in a row against Charlotte (11-6) dating back to its two-game sweep in the first round of last year’s playoffs and a 74-70 win in the May 23 season opener.

“We’re really struggling right now,” said Coco Miller, who tied her season-high with 20 points. “We just can’t seem to get that extra push at the end to win.”

Chamique Holdsclaw, who scored 16 points and had 12 rebounds in 37 minutes, brought the Mystics within 56-54 on a layup at the 1:40 mark.

While Holdsclaw’s hoop brought the crowd to its feet, the Sting rattled off the next six points to ice the game. The Mystics’ last hopes faded when, trailing by six, Stacey Dales-Schuman got picked from behind by Andrea Stinson with 30 seconds left. Stinson flicked it to teammate Allison Feaster and then got it back for a wide-open fast break layup to cap a strong second half for the Sting after a poorly played opening 20 minutes.

“In the first half we were a little discombobulated,” said Charlotte’s Dawn Staley, who scored 12 points. “I think the sign of a good team is when you are able to regroup at halftime and come back out and take control of the game, and we did that.”

With the way things have been going for Washington lately, a five-point halftime lead against a team with a winning record should have been cause for celebration.

But the Mystics’ 24-19 lead at the break was hardly indicative of the one-sided nature of most of the first half.

Charlotte, winner of three straight and six of eight, came out looking as if it was the team on a nine-game losing streak.

The Sting’s bench, as is custom, stands as a unit until Charlotte scores its first point. Last night, the bench players blocked the view of the fans behind them for more than eight minutes of game time.

Staley’s 3-pointer with 11:58 left finally allowed them to sit down. In all, the Sting missed their first five field goal attempts and 11 of their first 13. Plus, the Sting had 10 turnovers in the opening nine minutes.

Even with all that, the Mystics couldn’t take full advantage.

Washington did jump out to an 11-0 lead, but it only shot 5-for-16 from the field in that time.

After Asjha Jones gave Washington a 16-5 lead on a short turnaround jumper with 7:16 left, Charlotte’s funk ended.

Stinson’s layin started a 6-0 run that cut the lead to five at the 5:27 mark. Stinson capped another 6-0 run a few minutes later with a driving layin that made it 22-19 with 51.7 seconds left before Miller’s baseline jumper closed out the first-half scoring.

“We probably could have put the hammer on them early and pulled away even more,” said Miller, who won the family battle over twin sister Kelly, who scored five points for Charlotte. “Unfortunately we didn’t take advantage of the opportunities that we had.”

The Mystics held Feaster, Charlotte’s leading scorer, to eight points, but the Sting still got production from Shalonda Enis (15 points), Staley (12) and Stinson (10).

Charlotte made six of its first seven second-half field goals and went on an 11-0 run to take a 33-29 lead at the 16:17 mark.

Enis tied the game at 29-29 on a driving layin and gave the Sting their first lead of the game when she stole a pass in the backcourt and converted another layup.

The Sting took their largest lead of the game on Kelly Miller’s 3-pointer that made it 42-35 with 11:45 left. Washington answered with a 10-2 run that consisted of four layups and one hard post move in the paint by Jones.

The run was capped by Holdsclaw’s layin on a give-and-go with Helen Luz that gave the Mystics a 45-44 edge. But after taking one more brief lead, the Mystics couldn’t snatch their first win since June 10.

“It can get discouraging when you keep falling short, falling short, falling short,” Stanley said.

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