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Washington suffers critical loss in playoff chase

The San Antonio Stars might be in last place however they played with tenacity against the Washington Mystics to snag a win on the road.

Chris Poss - Swish Appeal

Washington, D.C. — It was back to school night at the Verizon Center, as the Washington Mystics took on the San Antonio Stars. Unfortunately for the home team, the Stars decided to make use of the night’s theme, as they “schooled” the Mystics 85-74.

“It’s fun for me to see them play with each other in a way that you hope they can build on,” said Stars coach Dan Hughes. “For us, winning is helpful. We haven’t done much of it. We are young and are starting to understand that they can do things with each other in a way that we can win.”

The Stars took an early lead against the Mystics in the first quarter, quickly finding themselves up 4-10 six minutes after tip-off.

An impressive showing on the free-throw line by Tierra Ruffin-Pratt and Tayler Hill, eventually led the Mystics to catch up with their opponents, tying the game 12-12.

Attempting to inch themselves closer to the Stars on the scoreboard, the Mystics came within three points of their opponents with two minutes left in the quarter; the Stars continued to pull away with big shots from Monique Currie and Moriah Jefferson.

The first quarter ended tight, as the Stars held off the Mystics 14-17.

San Antonio continued to stay ahead, owning the second quarter, as they quickly knocked down 14 points and Washington went scoreless until Stefanie Dolson finally hit a jump shot, making the score 16-28.

The Mystics also struggled on and off the throughout the free throw line in the first half, missing 10 out of 17 free throws and going 5 for 31 from the field. Those missed opportunities at the free-throw really could have helped the home team to close the game on their visitors.

Jump shots by both Jazmon Gwathmey and Kayla Alexander of the Stars dominated the second quarter and Currie – who led the game in scoring during the first half with 11 - capped the first half off with a fast-break layup, leaving the score at 20-43 going into the second half.

“It was good for us to experience a lead – we haven’t had a lot of leads,” said Hughes.

At this point it looked like the Stars were going to runaway with the game with no intentions of looking back.

Entering the second half, it became a more back and forth game, as both teams began to finally rival each other equally for the first time since the first few minutes.

With their lead so far from the Mystics, the Stars managed to stay ahead, but the home team showed up in the third quarter, quickly gaining momentum on the Stars with big shots by Emma Meeseman, Hill and Ruffin-Pratt improved the Mystics point count to 38-51.

It was as if they knew now they had to turn on the heat in order to get back in the game before it got too out of control.

San Antonio continued to fall victim to multiple fouls on defense that sent the Mystics’ Dolson to the line three times in a row where she knocked down four.

On the night, Washington struggled big time at the free-throw line only shooting64.9%, while their opponent shot 92%.

Even with the Mystics’ impressive showing the third quarter — putting up 32 points to San Antonio’s 20 — the Stars managed to grab vital points here-and-there and maintained their lead entering the final quarter 52-63. At one point in the game, San Antonio was up by 25 points.

Gwathmey said, “We didn’t want to let off the gas pedal. We knew they were going to come out even stronger [in the second half]. They’re a really good team and they were not just going to lie down for us.”

A big three-pointer from Hill gave the Mystics significant energy as the fourth quarter opened. The score began to close in on the Stars, and their large first half lead soon began to feel like a distant memory.

Despite a hard-fought last quarter that at one point, brought them within as close as eight, the Mystics fell to the Stars, 74-85.

“I don’t think we panicked,” said Gwathmey in reference to the Mystics’ run in the third quarter. “It was just about moving the ball. We stuck together. We knew they were going to go on a run [because] any home team goes on a run.”

The Stars had three leading scorers for the night, Gwathmey, Currie and Astou Ndour, all scored 16 points. Jefferson also had nine assists, plus 15 points.

For the Mystics it was Hill who led in scoring with 26 points, followed by Ruffin-Pratt with 17.

Despite breaking their six-game losing streak, the Stars still remain in last place among all WNBA teams with a record of 6-19. Although they are still very far away from clinching a playoff berth, the Stars will continue to try and improve their overall standing by playing the Connecticut Sun on Tuesday, August 30.

With back to school night feeling more like detention for the Mystics, the team is now 11-16 and will play again on September 2 against the Minnesota Lynx.