Thursday, June 12, 2008

Even a return to Verizon Center was not enough for the Washington Mystics to end their losing streak Wednesday night.

The Sacramento Monarchs dropped the Mystics 79-76 behind 28 points from forward Nicole Powell and 22 from guard Kara Lawson. Washington was coming off a winless three-game swing that took it from Phoenix to San Antonio to Connecticut, and it has lost five in a row overall.

Powell hit a fadeaway jump shot with 1:18 remaining to break a 75-75 tie. The Mystics (2-7) had the game’s final possession, but Laurie Koehn missed a contested 3-pointer from the corner as time expired.

The culprit for Washington was turnovers. It had 19 of them, including a back-breaker with 20 seconds left when the Mystics were trailing by one.

“I don’t know what we’re going to do about that,” Mystics coach Tree Rollins said. “In practice, we’ve tried to set up drills - ball-handling drills, passing drills - so we’re going to continue to do that. We gotta find a way to stop turning the ball over. Point blank. If we don’t turn the ball over, we win the game.”

Point guard Nikki Blue played 17 minutes off the bench in her return from a sprained ankle. Because of her injury, the Mystics’ rotation has been unsettled. They have used three different starting point guards in their nine games, and Alana Beard has spent time at the point as well.

Rollins said Blue is ready to resume her role in the starting lineup Friday at Chicago and said Blue’s return should stabilize the rotation and improve Washington’s offensive consistency.

The Mystics had a dismal second quarter Wednesday night. After taking a 21-18 lead in the first, the Mystics broke down. They allowed the Monarchs to drive the lane at will and were slow to help. Sacramento took advantage of the lax defense, making 11 of its 18 second quarter shots.

The Mystics didn’t fare much better on the offensive end either, managing just three field goals in the first five minutes of the quarter. But they managed to cut the Monarchs’ lead to six at halftime.

The Mystics’ defense clamped down in the third quarter, allowing them to run out and get easy baskets.

Washington took a three-point lead into the fourth quarter but could not deliver down the stretch.

One positive for the Mystics was the play of rookie Crystal Langhorne. Starting center Nakia Sanford was in foul trouble and played just 16 minutes. Langhorne filled in with 13 points and 10 rebounds in 25 minutes.

“She showed us that she can go out there and give us good minutes,” Rollins said. “It came at the expense of Nakia being in foul trouble, but we do now know that she can produce out there. Her shyness has been washed away.”

Taj McWilliams-Franklin led the Mystics with 23 points, and Beard added 17 for Washington.

“We show signs of being a very good team,” Rollins said. “We show glimpses of it. To win games, we’ve got to find it and keep it.”

Liberty 81, Dream 77

ATLANTA | Janel McCarville scored 25 points and had seven assists to help New York beat Atlanta to keep the expansion Dream winless.

The Dream failed to hold a 12-point lead, coming on Tamera Young’s layup with 7:09 remaining.

Silver Stars 64, Fever 53

SAN ANTONIO | Sophia Young returned to the starting lineup and scored 17 points to lead San Antonio to a win over Indiana.

Young, who did not play in Sunday’s loss to Minnesota because of a strained groin, was 8-for-12 from the field.

Ann Wauters scored 12 and Vickie Johnson 10 as San Antonio (4-4) remained undefeated at home.

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