Short-handed Mystics slip past Sting, 56-55

Bullett, Jones lead offense without injured Holdsclaw

Pro Basketball

July 01, 2002|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - With their best player, Chamique Holdsclaw, in street clothes nursing an ankle injury and facing a 16-point deficit late in the first half, the Washington Mystics, who have had a magical season to date, were in dire need of some mojo.

As if on cue, the magic arrived in the second half, as rookie forward Asjha Jones and veteran Vicky Bullett combined to pull the Mystics to a 56-55 win over the Charlotte Sting yesterday at MCI Center.

Bullett, the former Maryland All-American, scored 14 points, including the game-winning basket, then made the decisive block on the Sting's final possession to preserve the hard-fought win before a raucous crowd of 18,372 and run the Mystics' home record to 7-0.

"We had a lot of heart in the end, and that's good for our team," said Bullett. "Considering that Chamique's not on our team and to come back, it's good for our team to win the way we did.

"I have tremendous faith in our team," said Washington coach Marianne Stanley. "I've coached a long time and I have absolute confidence in our team. It's just a matter of presenting challenges to them and I haven't seen them back down from a challenge. [Yesterday's] challenge was huge."

Meanwhile, Jones, a 6-foot-2 forward and a key member of the unbeaten Connecticut team that won the NCAA title in April, hit six straight shots in the second half, for a career-high 16 points.

"Our guards would do a great job of penetrating the defense and my [defensive] player would go help, so they found me when I was open. It was that simple," said Jones, the fourth overall pick in this year's WNBA draft.

Said Stanley: "We finally saw the player that we drafted. That's the player I thought I was getting. It's taken Asjha a little while to get comfortable and get into a rhythm, and not from a lack of effort. But she just finally had a breakout kind of a game. That's what I expected of her, to come in and give us some scoring, give us some rebounding and post defense. We finally saw her have a complete game."

The Mystics (11-4), who have led the WNBA's Eastern Conference all year, hit their first potential crisis point of the season. Washington was coming off two straight losses on a three-game Western swing and a high-ankle sprain to Holdsclaw, the league's leading scorer and second-leading rebounder, in Friday's 72-66 loss at Portland.

Holdsclaw, who had a season-low three points in only 10 minutes Friday, was placed on the injured list just before tip-off, and will miss Wednesday's game at Minnesota and Saturday's game at Indiana.

Washington appeared to attempt to overcompensate for Holdsclaw's absence, especially in the first half, when it shot 9-for-32, and missed all five three-point tries against Charlotte (6-6), the defending Eastern Conference champion.

But the Mystics, who trailed by 12 at the half, climbed back, cutting the deficit to one with 10:52 remaining. The Sting built the lead back to seven with 8:21 to go, but Washington outscored Charlotte 11-3 the rest of the game.

Bullett hit a desperation three-pointer with two minutes to go and two seconds remaining on the shot clock to break a 53-53 tie. Charlotte's Dawn Staley hit an 18-footer with 38 seconds remaining to cut Washington's lead to one.

After Bullett missed a short jumper with 14 seconds left, the Sting ran its last play without a timeout. Staley drove the right side to the basket. However, Bullett emerged from the lane and blocked Staley's shot as time ran out.

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