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Griner dunks but Mystics slam Mercury

Yes, Brittney Griner dunked, but it was the smallest player on the floor for the Washington Mystics, Ivory Latta, that made most impact.

Chris Poss

Washington went into Friday night's game with a depleted roster as guard Taylor Hill sprained her ankle during Thursday's practice to became the fifth injured athlete for the Mystics this season. Despite not being at full strength, Washington was able to shutout the Mercury late in the fourth quarter for a 71-63 win.

"That was kind of a back against the wall win," Coach Mike Thibault said. "I know when you have the record that we have you shouldn't feel like that, but with the injuries, going on a long trip and everything else, playing a really good team. That was one of our better defensive efforts of the year."

Phoenix consistently trailed the Mystics by three or more points and would cut it to a one-point game, but they were unable to ever gain a lead over Washington.

"Tonight, we just couldn't get over the hump," Brittney Griner said.  "We kept getting in within 3 or 4, but we just could not get that lead. Just breakdowns on defense. Our defense was really bad tonight too."

A pivotal moment for the Mercury came in the final minutes of the game. With 2:43 left to play, Griner's shot from the paint brought Phoenix within two.  Noelle Quinn looked to tie up the game with a layup, but center Emma Meesseman blocked the shot, which led Ivory Latta to make an aggressive run on offense. Latta and Tierra Ruffin-Pratt each made a pair of free throws to pull away even further from the trailing Mercury.

With the final seconds of the game left, Phoenix struggled against the shot clock as Leilani Mitchell air balled a forced shot from 24 feet away, and the Mystics' aggressive defense prevented any shots from inside the paint.

"It is a big win against the defending champion," Meesseman said. "You don't want the favorite to get a championship again. This was a great test for us to see how far we are in the league and what we have to correct in our game."

With the win, Washington (16-11) is in fourth place in the Eastern Conference with seven games left in the regular season. The Mercury look to improve their away game record and will travel to Minneapolis to play the Minnesota Lynx Sunday.

"We have not always had our best games on the road, and that is something, if you want to win a championship, you have to go on the road and win," Coach Sandy Brondello said. "We had a little fatigue obviously with the travel schedule that we have had, but we fought.

"We had some mental breakdowns and execution but Washington capitalized on it."