With less than a minute to play, the score was tied at 59. The fans, almost all 11,500 of them, were on their feet, cheering loudly in hopes of seeing the Washington Mystics pull off an upset victory over the first-place Indiana Fever.
But once again, the fourth quarter proved to be a minefield for the Mystics, as a last-second shot by 5-foot-2 Shannon Bobbitt fell through the net at the buzzer, and gave the Mystics another heart-wrenching late-game loss, 61-59.
The Fever improved to 13-6, and are three games ahead of the second-place Connecticut Sun, while the Mystics dropped to 3-14, and are in last place in the Eastern Conference. Only the Tulsa Shock, at 1-16 have a worse record in the league than the Mystics.
“They play with so much heart and fight and determination, I feel like we won that game. Maybe it didn’t show up that way on the scoreboard,” said Mystics coach Trudi Lacey.
“We’ve been in every game. We’re just so close. Any day now,” Lacey said of finally pulling off a win.
Matee Ajavon played one of her best games of the season, leading all scorers with 19 points and adding four assists and three rebounds. Ajavon had one of her tougher assignments of the season in guarding three-time All-Star Katie Douglas, who scored 10 points.
“She [Ajavon] played both ends off the floor. That’s our expectation for her,” Lacey said. “From our veteran players, we’re looking for consistency. I thought Matee played tough the entire game. I thought we did a good job on [Tamika] Catchings as well. It was just a good team effort.
“I’m disappointed not for myself, but for them, because they played really hard,” Lacey said.
Washington shot just 34 percent from the floor, while the Fever shot 48 percent. The Mystics were also outshot from the free-throw line, making 10-of-15 shots (67 percent), compared to the Indiana’s 9-of-12 (75 percent). But the Mystics did win the turnover battle, with 11 compared to the Fever’s 15, and out-rebounded their opponents 35 to 29.
“I’m pleased that our defense has improved over time. It’s one of the things that we’ve talked about,” Lacey said. “We’ve had some exceptional defensive games. Offensively, we’re just trying to find our way.”
With two of the Mystics’ three victories coming on overtime, Ajavon was hoping for that extra frame.
“She made a good shot. It was her only shot of the game,” Ajavon said of Bobbitt’s last-second, game-winning shot. “It’s tough to lose a game like that. We’ve been that close in games, we just have to get over the hump. We try to keep it out of the hands of the major players and we did that, but Shannon just made a tough shot at the end.”
Despite yet another close loss, Lacey said she hopes her players will not lose heart.
“I can’t say enough about how proud I am of them. Throughout this whole season, they’ve had obstacles, they’ve had setbacks, and they just continue to fight,” Lacey said.
“It just shows tremendous character on their part.”