- The Washington Times - Monday, August 8, 2005

The Washington Mystics left the MCI Center floor last night two games over .500 for the first time this season.

The Mystics rallied to erase a horrific start and eke out a 61-60 win over the Indiana Fever. DeLisha Milton-Jones hit two free throws with 7.3 seconds left to break a tie, and Chasity Melvin added another pair with 1.1 seconds left to give Washington its second straight victory as it continues its playoff push.

“Our defense and intensity was enough to get the win,” Mystics coach Richie Adubato said. “They jumped on us early, and we were able to withstand the barrage.”

The Mystics (14-12) suddenly are within a game of Indiana (15-11) for second place in the Eastern Conference. The Fever lost for the second time in two nights and showed signs of fatigue at the end.

Washington, which had four days off coming in, took over sole possession of third place thanks to New York’s loss to Detroit. The top four teams make the playoffs. The Mystics have eight games left in the regular season.

“It was a must win,” said Mystics guard Alana Beard, who had a team-high 17 points. “We know we have five of our last seven on the road.”

Washington point guard Temeka Johnson played only 17 minutes after missing the two previous days of practice following the death of her college coach, LSU’s Sue Gunter, who succumbed to cancer last week.

Kelly Miller paced Indiana with 16 points, while Fever All-Star Tamika Catchings was uncharacteristically passive, finishing with 11 points on 4-for-9 shooting. She threw the ball away when Indiana had a chance to tie in the final minute and shot an airball from a difficult angle that could have tied the game with 4.5 seconds left.

Catchings did make a step-back field goal to tie the game at 57-57 with 1:01 left. Television replays showed it should have been a 3-pointer, which would have given the Fever the lead and changed the complexion of the contest.

Instead, the Mystics finished victorious despite a horrid start.

The Fever broke out to a 10-0 lead and were up 26-14 late in the half. However, the Mystics shook off the mistakes — 10 turnovers and only three field goals in the first 10 minutes — to stage a 13-point run and take the lead shortly before halftime.

“It’s a good and bad thing for our team,” said Melvin, who finished with eight points and seven rebounds. “It shows our confidence level that we never give up.”

The end of the game went back and forth, with Kelly Miller giving Indiana a 51-46 lead with a deep 3-pointer. The Mystics answered with 3s from reserve Laurie Koehn and Beard, who went up with the shot clock running down, lost the ball and recovered in time to make the shot with 5:29 left to give Washington a 52-51 advantage.

“All I could think about was the game [Friday] between Charlotte and Detroit and Cheryl Ford missing those two free throws that could have won the game,” said Milton-Jones, who was designed to get the ball at the end because she is the team’s leading foul shooter at 79.1 percent. “I said whatever you do, you are going to do your routine and knock down these shots.”

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