Washington Mystics outlast L.A. Sparks in triple-overtime thriller


Ivory Latta (12), above in a May 16 game vs. Minnesota, was the only Washington player in double figures in Sunday’s triple-overtime victory vs. Los Angeles. (Richard Lipski/For the Washington Post)

Nearly 55 minutes had elapsed in Sunday’s triple-overtime thriller between the Washington Mystics and Los Angeles Sparks when Ivory Latta had the ball in her hands with the shot clock dwindling. The Mystics point guard has never shied away from such moments in her professional or college career, so it was with an air of calm that she swished a three-pointer to give Washington the lead for good in a 92-84 victory in front of 5,828 at Verizon Center.

Latta finished with 14 points and played a career-high 43 minutes in the Mystics’ second triumph in three days, their first back-to-back wins this season. Her decisive basket with 1 minute 11 seconds left in the third extra session came after she missed 13 of her first 16 shots in the second triple-overtime game in franchise history.

“God was with the ball. How about that?” said Latta, who was the only Mystics starter to reach double figures, making 4 of 11 from three-point range and adding eight assists and six rebounds.

“She has good short-term memory when it comes to things like that,” Mystics Coach Mike Thibault said of Latta. “You’ve shot it that many times in your life, you should feel like every time you shoot it, the next one’s going in. Some players get afraid, and she’s not afraid.”

Rookie guard Bria Hartley delivered the pass on Latta’s go-ahead basket for one of her four assists. The No. 7 pick in April’s WNBA draft scored a team-high 20 points on 7-for-11 shooting and had six rebounds. Rookie center Stefanie Dolson, who was Hartley’s college roommate for three years at Connecticut, added 14 points and 11 rebounds for the No. 6 pick's first professional double-double.

For a second straight game, the Mystics (3-2) owned a double-digit margin in rebounding, this time 52-39, and held an advantage in points in the paint, 44-36. That tenacity inside in part helped Washington overcome 31 turnovers that led to 36 points for the Sparks (2-2), who had claimed an 84-81 lead with 2:06 remaining in triple-overtime.

Hartley’s driving layup after a timeout drew the Mystics within one before Latta’s three-pointer. Los Angeles center Candace Parker (game highs of 32 points and 12 rebounds) attempted a driving layup that could have tied the game, but the Olympian lost the ball out of bounds, and Washington went 6 for 6 at the free throw line to seal it.

“It’s all about will, going out there believing in yourselves, believing in your teammates and fighting through anything that happens throughout the game,” Hartley said. “I thought there were times when people were tired, there were times the play didn’t necessarily go the way we wanted to, but we kept fighting just enough to get the win tonight.”

Rookie forward Jelena Milovanovic (12 points, six rebounds) gave the Mystics a 69-68 lead early in double-overtime with a three-point play, and the advantage expanded to four when Hartley swished a three-pointer from the left side to close a fast break. Forward Emma Meesseman gave Washington a 76-73 lead with nifty up-and-under move before Alana Beard, who played her first six seasons with the Mystics, made a three-pointer to tie the game.

Parker’s layup following a turnover came with 13 seconds to go. Thibault immediately called timeout, and Latta was fouled with five seconds to play while driving into the lane. Latta swished the first and watched as her second attempt hit the rim but fell through the twine to tie and force a third overtime when guard Lindsay Harding missed for Los Angeles at the buzzer.

“We hung in there. We executed down the stretch,” Latta said. “A couple turnovers here and there, but that comes with three overtimes. I’m just glad we got the win.”

LYNX 87, STARS 79: Seimone Augustus had 25 points as Minnesota (7-0) remained unbeaten, holding off host San Antonio. Maya Moore had 18 points for the Lynx.

SUN 85, DREAM 76: In Uncasville, Conn., rookie Chiney Ogwumike had 18 points and 10 rebounds, and Renee Montgomery also had 18 points to help Connecticut beat Atlanta.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Gene Wang is a sports reporter covering many local and national beats, including Navy football, the Capitals, Wizards, Nationals, women’s basketball, auto racing, boxing and golf. He joined The Washington Post sports department in 1990 as a member of the high school staff and worked as a copy editor and assignment editor for almost 19 years.
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