By Katie Carrera
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Seventeen seconds into the fourth quarter Tuesday night, the Washington Mystics watched what would become a familiar scene in the remaining minutes of regulation as Detroit Shock rookie guard Shavonte Zellous took her place at the foul line. After both shots fell through the basket, Zellous waved to the Verizon Center crowd.
She had just cut into the Mystics' largest lead of the game -- the nine-point edge they possessed at the outset of the final frame. Less than a minute later, when Washington's Marissa Coleman was called for her fourth personal foul, Zellous hacked away at the Mystics' advantage again. Another converted free throw, another salute to the crowd.
Zellous led all scorers with 11 points in the fourth quarter as she provided the clutch scoring that Detroit needed for an 81-77 win over Washington.
Of Zellous's final 16 points, 10 came on the foul line -- seven on the 11 trips she took to the charity stripe in the final 10 minutes.
"We needed to adjust to the calls and how they were calling things," said Washington point guard Lindsey Harding, who recorded 12 points and eight assists. "A lot of the time we didn't think they were fouls, but if they're going to call that we need to adjust to it and not let one person get to the line and make points while the clock isn't running. That's what got them on a roll."
It wasn't just Zellous's free throws that made a difference for Detroit (9-11) though. Entrusted to bring some energy off the defending WNBA champions' bench, Zellous assisted on the Shock's first three field goals of the fourth quarter as well. When she found Cheryl Ford on the inside for an easy layup, Zellous helped cut the lead to two.
All of a sudden, the Mystics (11-11) found themselves starring in the script they have come to know well this season, as they desperately searched for a defensive stop late in the game after allowing their opponent to erase their lead. Trading baskets, they held Detroit at bay until Zellous made her next trip to the foul line.
Driving to the basket, the 5-foot-10 Zellous powered past Washington's 6-4 center Nakia Sanford, drawing a foul as she tied the game at 65 with a layup. Zellous gave Detroit its lead back when she completed the three-point play.
"It's just really disappointing," said Sanford, who added 12 points and a team-high six rebounds. "When we see a certain player is hot, we as posts need to find a way to help more. Try to force them to turn the ball over, something. Some of it is being able to adjust how the refs are calling the game, but I can't blame it on that completely because there were things that we didn't do to adjust to their aggressiveness."
Although Zellous's basket to make it 66-65 was a short-lived advantage -- the teams traded one-point leads for the next two minutes -- it was clear that the repeated foul calls had grated on the Mystics' nerves and eroded their poise.
"When you come down to it we can't blame every game on the refs," Harding said. "They are human. They can make mistakes, too. . . . They always say you never foul a jump shooter and that's just discipline on defense."
With the loss, the Mystics have relinquished second place in the Eastern Conference to Connecticut but will have a key chance to make up the difference when the Sun visits Verizon Center on Friday for the final meeting in that season series.
-- MONARCHS 90, SILVER STARS 73: Rebekkah Brunson had 19 points and nine rebounds, leading Sacramento to a road win over San Antonio.
Nicole Powell added 17 points for the Monarchs (6-17), while Scholanda Robinson added 13 points.
Sophia Young scored 14 points to lead the Silver Stars (10-12).
-- LIBERTY 65, SPARKS 61: Shameka Christon scored 11 points, Loree Moore added 10 and visiting New York rallied in the second half for a victory over turnover-prone Los Angeles.
The Liberty improved to 8-14, while the Sparks fell to 8-12.