- Associated Press - Saturday, July 9, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS — Tamika Catchings became the WNBA’s all-time steals leader with a flurry.

The Indiana Fever forward got five of her six steals in the final 6 minutes against Washington to turn a close game into a 68-57 win on Saturday night.

Catchings‘ record was potentially short-lived — Ticha Penicheiro, the player she passed, was set to play for the Los Angeles Sparks a few hours later. But at least for a while, Catchings was No. 1.

“It’s cool,” she said. “It’s definitely an honor.”

The Fever scored nine of their final 11 points on possessions gained because of her steals.

“In one way, it doesn’t surprise me that she does things like that,” said Erin Phillips, who led the Fever with 14 points. “I’m in awe of her. She can turn a game straight around.”

Catchings also had 10 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three blocks for the Fever (9-3), who have the best record in the league. She made just 4 of 13 shots, but still put her stamp on the game.

“You might be missing shots, but the one thing, no matter what, that you always have control over is the way you play defense,” she said. “That’s the one thing that I want my teammates to take from me.”

The Fever held Washington (2-8) to seven points in the final period, the second fewest points Indiana has ever allowed in a fourth quarter. The Mystics went scoreless for the final 4:53 as Indiana closed the game on a 9-0 run.

Washington shot 10 for 19 in the first quarter, but 12 for 38 the rest of the game. The Mystics shot 3-for-10 and had nine turnovers in the fourth quarter.

“We played well for three quarters,” Washington coach Trudi Lacey said. “Indiana came out physical and tough in the second half. It was about execution, and we had too many turnovers for them to make easy baskets.”

Nicky Anosike scored 12 points and Marissa Coleman added 11 for the Mystics. Washington’s Crystal Langhorne, the league’s No. 5 scorer at 18.1 points per game, sat out because of back pain.

Katie Douglas scored 12 points, and Shavonte Zellous and Jessica Davenport each added 11 for Indiana, which has won both games since point guard Briann January’s season-ending ACL tear.

Indiana won 89-80 at Washington on June 21 to start its win streak.

Zellous’ acrobatic layup less than a minute into the fourth quarter gave Indiana its first lead of the game, 51-50, after the Fever had trailed by 11 points.

Indiana took control for good in a flurry late in the fourth. First, Catchings stole the ball and launched a long pass to Zellous, who tracked the ball down and scored.

On Washington’s next possession, Catchings picked up her fourth steal, and Zellous converted again to give Indiana a 65-57 lead with 2:54 remaining.

Washington led 33-25 at halftime after holding the Fever to 32 percent shooting in the first 20 minutes.

Davenport’s second basket of the third quarter trimmed the deficit to 36-35 and forced the Mystics to call timeout. Washington pushed its lead back to seven, with help from a 3-pointer by Coleman, but the Fever rallied again. A layup by Tammy Sutton-Brown as time expired in the third quarter cut Washington’s lead to 50-49.

Indiana dominated the fourth quarter, making the Fever 2-0 since Phillips took over as the starting point guard.

“It’s a very challenging role, but I’m playing with great players who are helping me out,” Phillips said. “We’re winning and we’re playing well. I’m just happy to contribute in any way I can.”

Phillips is glad one of those great players helping her is Catchings.

“She’s a superstar,” she said. “She’s the best defensive player to play the game.”

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