LOS ANGELES – A 24-point lead by the Los Angeles Sparks early in the third quarter turned into the biggest second-half comeback in WNBA history for the Washington Mystics, as they erased the deficit to win in overtime, 89-85.
Washington point guard Matee Ajavon led all scorers with 29 points,. Crystal Langhorne put up 24 and Marissa Coleman had 10 for the Mystics. Kristi Toliver was the high-scorer for Los Angeles with 21, while rookie forward Jantel Lavender contributed 13.
Ajavon and Langhorne went to work in the third quarter, putting up 10 and eight points, respectively, to cut the Sparks’ lead to 59-45 going into the fourth quarter. Langhorne continued her assault in the next period, with 11 points, and the Mystics combined to shoot almost 67 percent. They out-scored Los Angeles 32-18, which culminated in two Ajavon free throws to knot the score at 77 at the end of regulation.
Washington, now 3-10, scored the first five points in overtime, including a 23-foot three-pointer by Coleman. But it was the Ajavon free throws that put the game out of reach for the Sparks (6-7).
“We’ve been fighting all season and have lost a lot of close games, so this was our time,” said Mystics Coach Trudi Lacey. “At the half we had a talk about one-on-one defense….and that’s what won it for us was our defense.”
“Our defensive focus was to stop them from scoring.” she said. “For us to pull back and win shows how much heart there is on this team.”
Sparks Coach Joe Bryant said his team missed too many layups, beginning in the third quarter.
“They beat us off the dribble, and we didn’t execute like we should have – we were being careless of the ball,” he said. “There’s a lesson to be learned, that you have to stay focused.”
While Los Angeles was perfect on free throws for the night, Washington out shot the Sparks and also out-rebounded them 39-28.
The Mystics head home to face the Atlanta Dream (4-9) on Wednesday, July 20. The Dream defeated the Chicago Sky (7-8) Saturday night.
The Sparks face San Antonio at home tonight at 7:30 p.m. PT.