WASHINGTON – During a trying and losing season, the Washington Mystics appear to have found a winning against the New York Liberty.
Crystal Langhorne scored 18 points and Matee Ajavon added 13 points as the Mystics rallied from a nine-point, fourth-quarter deficit to beat the Liberty 64-63 on Friday night.
DeMya Walker scored 10 points for the Mystics (5-15), who took the lead for good with the final points of the game with 1:02 remaining on a pair of free throws by Ajavon. Washington has won two of its last three games — both coming against New York in a seven-day stretch.
"They're a very resilient group," Mystics coach Trudi Lacey said of her squad. Washington's last two losses — to Indiana and Atlanta — were each by two points.
"We've been in this situation a number of times where they fought back, got closer, but weren't able to do it. Tonight it went our way."
Leilani Mitchell scored a season-high 18 points and had four steals for the Liberty (13-10), who have lost two of three. Cappie Pondexter added 13 points and Plenette Pierson had 11.
"We took some quick shots. We just stopped moving on offense," said Mitchell, offering reasons why the Liberty blew the late lead. "That led to some transition baskets, got them going in a flow and they turned up their intensity and aggressiveness that kind of got us out of rhythm."
Assertive inside throughout, Langhorne was 8 for 9 from the field and the Mystics held a 40-24 edge with points in the paint. Nicky Anosike grabbed 11 rebounds.
"We have a lot people that are going to keep playing hard, and that's what we hang our hat on, being aggressive and never giving up," Langhorne said.
Marissa Coleman's runner to extend the lead with 18.8 seconds remaining missed, but the Mystics grabbed the offensive rebound only to see Kelly Miller miss two free throws with 4.4 seconds left.
The Liberty's inbound pass went down low to Pierson who managed to quickly get baseline, but her left-handed layup fell short off the rim.
"Plenette had position inside and that will usually get you a foul," Liberty coach John Whisenant said. "Unfortunately it didn't get us a foul tonight nor a made basket, so we didn't win.
The Liberty scored eight straight points to take a 59-50 lead with 6:01 left. Washington immediately countered with its own 8-0 run. Langhorne's layup with 2:12 remaining gave the Mystics a 62-60 lead, their first since 17-16 in the final minute of the first quarter.
Ahead 22-19 after one period, Mitchell hit one of the Liberty's six first-half 3-pointers to start a 12-2 run for a 34-21 lead. The Mystics nearly mirrored that surge with a 12-3 stretch over the final 2:58 and trailed 39-36 at halftime.
The two squads will play for third time in 11 days and the final time this season at New York on Tuesday night. Both teams are back in action on Saturday with the Liberty staying on the road to face the first-place Fever.
"We've got things we have to fix, but we have to forget about this game because we have another game tomorrow against the top team in our division," Mitchell said.