The Washington Mystics’ Mike Thibault became the winningest coach in WNBA history Saturday night courtesy of a 62-59 victory over the Seattle Storm that began with little drama but concluded in riveting fashion before 6,174 at Verizon Center.
Nearly relinquishing an 18-point lead built in the first half, the Mystics couldn’t celebrate their first-year coach’s 212th win until Seattle’s Shekinna Stricklen missed a three-pointer as time expired. The reserve forward had been a driving force in the Storm’s comeback that whittled the margin to one twice in the fourth quarter, including 60-59 with 20 seconds to play.
From there, Washington point guard Ivory Latta collected the inbounds pass and immediately was fouled. The most important addition to the team this past offseason made both free throws with 19 seconds to go, and the Mystics dodged several bids to tie the rest of the way.
“I’m glad this game is done,” Thibault said about the victory that broke a tie with Van Chancellor, who went 211-111 in 10 seasons with the Houston Comets. “Everybody else has been talking about it. I guess it’s one of those things you’ll think more about when your career ends or at the end of the season. Right now we’re trying to make some history here.”
Forward Crystal Langhorne led the Mystics (6-6) with 12 points on 5-for-7 shooting, and Latta added 11 points, three assists and three steals, although she missed 11 of 13 shots. Center Michelle Snow finished with a game-high 13 rebounds and added eight points.
Washington shot 33 percent and missed 10 of 13 from three-point range, but it was able to escape thanks in part to getting to the free throw line 15 more times than Seattle (5-7). The Mystics went 23 of 29 on foul shots, with Latta going 6 for 8 and Snow making all four of her attempts.
“It’s a great honor,” Langhorne said of contributing to Thibault’s milestone following 10 seasons coaching the Connecticut Sun. “It’s a huge part of WNBA history, and just to be a part of it, it was exciting today.”
Washington, which matched its victory total from all of last season, also was able to keep Storm forward Tina Thompson in check. The first draft pick in WNBA history, who announced she would be retiring at the end of the season, missed 10 of 12 shots and scored 11 points. In the Storm’s 96-86 win against the Mystics on June 18, she had a season-high 30 points.
“There’s no need to get discouraged about anything like that,” Latta said of Seattle’s comeback. “Basketball is a game of runs. Yeah, we went up, they came back, but it’s all about controlling those runs.”
Tamika Catchings had 22 points and six steals to help the Indiana Fever beat visiting Connecticut, 78-66. Defending WNBA champion Indiana won its third straight game after dropping seven of eight to start the season.
The Fever took advantage after Connecticut’s star player, reigning league MVP Tina Charles, was ejected early in the fourth quarter. The center picked up two technical fouls after she disagreed with a call and was sent to the locker room.
●SPARKS 93, SILVER STARS 66: Nneka Ogwumike had 24 points and a season-high 16 rebounds and Candace Parker added 18 points to help Los Angeles defeat San Antonio and extend its regular-season home winning streak to 18 games.