- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 30, 2007

As Detroit Shock guard Deanna Nolan drove to the basket with a chance to lift her team to victory last night, Washington’s DeLisha Milton-Jones remembered advice she had received from Los Angeles Sparks coach Michael Cooper.

The Mystics forward, who played for the Sparks from 1999 to 2004, recalled how Cooper used to stress that defensive plays often determined close games. Then Milton-Jones reached out her right arm and stuffed Nolan’s shot, securing a Mystics 65-64 victory over Detroit in front of 7,407 at Verizon Center.

After the block, Milton-Jones waved her index finger in the air. When both the Mystics and the Shock shook hands afterward, Detroit guard Elaine Powell approached Milton-Jones.

“You act like you just won the championship,” Powell said.

“It sure feels like it,” answered Milton-Jones, who led the Mystics with 19 points.

The Mystics (5-10) may have been overly elated about a regular season win. But after a 1-9 start, they can hardly be blamed for celebrating, not only a victory over the league’s top team, but a three-game winning streak and four victories in their last five games.

A Mystics win last night seemed unthinkable early, considering Detroit (11-3) held a comfortable 16-point lead at halftime and Washington scored a season-low seven points in the second quarter.

“They did a good job holding us up and not allowing us to run our sets,” Mystics coach Tree Rollins said. “We were very fortunate to come out with a win because the lead was so big at halftime.”

But Milton-Jones‘ layup followed by Nikki Blue’s jump shot cut Detroit’s lead to 64-60 with 1:12 left. The comeback effort was capped off when Mystics guard Alana Beard converted on a layup and a free-throw with 13 seconds left.

Detroit went scoreless after leading 64-56 with 2:46 remaining.

“I knew I wanted to take the shot,” said Beard, who scored 13 points. If I wasn’t open, I was going to kick it back to DeLisha. Fortunately, they fouled me. That’s the way it goes sometimes.”

Nolan, who scored a team-high 26 points, drove the lane on the ensuing play, only to find Milton-Jones standing in her way.

Blue, who scored all six of her points in the final 6:45, keyed a 19-point second-half effort by the bench after it had been held scoreless for the first two quarters. It complemented the double-digit efforts of Milton-Jones, Beard and Nakia Sanford (10).

Several Mystics players hoped to show family and hometown friends a good performance after a successful road trip. But that didn’t happen early on as Washington shot 27.6 percent and committed 16 turnovers in the first half.

Mystics guard Nikki Teasley, however, believed Washington could stay close.

“When you’re losing so many games in a row, you become a wounded dog,” Teasley said. “A wounded dog will hurt you and they’re going to growl. They’re going to fight because they don’t want to get hurt anymore. That’s how we are.”

That attitude paved the way for Milton-Jones to make her game-preserving play.

“It was like the heavens opened up,” Milton-Jones said. “It said this is what we will allow to happen. It was a perfect opportunity to stick my hand in there and get it. I’m glad the refs didn’t call a foul. I probably would’ve gotten thrown out.”



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