- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 16, 2009

For the second time in about two weeks, the Washington Mystics had a chance for a game-winning jumper against San Antonio.

Only this time, the Silver Stars seemed to have a tip about what was coming.

After the Mystics had trimmed a 12-point deficit to one, their inbounds play never got started. Point guard Lindsey Harding’s pass with 1.3 seconds remaining was tipped, and Washington failed to get a shot off, dropping the second game of their six-game homestand 79-78 to the Silver Stars on Wednesday at Verizon Center.

“It shouldn’t have come down to that,” Washington Mystics guard Alana Beard said. “We’re a much better team [than that]. We understand each other a lot better. When we get teams down, we have to keep them down and not let them back into games.”

On June 30 in San Antonio, Alana Beard hit a game-winning jump shot after the Silver Stars rallied from a 12-point deficit in the fourth quarter.

On Wednesday, Washington opened up a 26-19 lead in the second quarter, but the advantage quickly fizzled. San Antonio (6-6) took control with a 14-2 run - while All-Star Becky Hammon sat on the bench - and led for the rest of the game.

Once they had a lead, the Silver Stars’ inside-outside combination of Hammon and forward Sophia Young kept Washington at bay. The Mystics were a step slow staying in front of Hammon, and once she got a few easy layups and Washington defenders backed off, her jumper started to fall.

Young used her wiry frame to get good position on the block and had a comfortable 9-for-15 shooting day. Hammon finished with 21 points, and Young had 20.

“They had a lot of open shots,” Mystics coach Julie Plank said. “I thought our first line of defense, we were getting there, but then we were not rotating. … I actually thought our team looked a little tired today. I know I’ve been working them pretty hard and they compete. They’ll definitely be ready for a day of rest tomorrow and get off their legs.”

Matee Ajavon scored all of her 14 points off the bench in the fourth quarter and in the process sparked life into Washington. But when the Mystics (6-6) had chances to draw even down the stretch, they couldn’t come up with a stop.

Trailing 74-70 with just over two minutes left, Beard fouled Hammon on a 3-pointer from the corner off an inbounds play. It was a late whistle, and Beard, who already had taken off downcourt, jogged to the Mystics’ bench grinning in disbelief at the call. Hammon sank all three free throws.

Then Harding hit a 3-pointer and Ajavon got a steal and layup on consecutive possessions to pull Washington within 77-75 with 1:28 remaining. But Hammon and 6-foot-5 center Ruth Riley executed a perfect pick-and-roll the next time down the court to give San Antonio a four-point lead with 1:02 remaining.

“That’s a big part of their offense,” Plank said. “They play very well in the pick-and-roll, they spread the floor and they’ve got excellent 3-point shooters.”

Ajavon hit an open 3-pointer to bring Washington within 79-78 with 46 seconds left, then drew a charge from Hammon with 3.7 seconds remaining as the Silver Stars guard dribbled out the shot clock.

But the Mystics faltered on the game’s final possession. With a foul to give, Helen Darling fouled Crystal Langhorne as soon as she received the inbounds pass, leaving 1.4 seconds left on the clock. The Mystics ran the same play, and Harding’s pass was tipped and scooped up by Belinda Snell.

“I would have had to make a perfect lead pass over the top for a layup,” Harding said.

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