Nikki McCray held up two fingers as she left the court last night, signifying a first in Washington Mystics franchise history. The Mystics survived a ferocious comeback by the Charlotte Sting for a 74-71 victory before 12,124 at MCI Center, winning back-to-back games for the first time in their two-year existence.
McCray, who had a game-high 26 points, led the Mystics to a 19-point lead, only to have the Sting move to 72-71 on Stephanie McCarty's three-pointer with 6.6 seconds remaining. But Chamique Holdsclaw hit two free throws to extend the lead before McCarty's potential game-tying three-pointer was blocked by Murriel Page with two seconds left.
Page, who had a career-high 15 rebounds, ran from the bottom of the lane and got her hands on McCarty's turnaround jumper. Sting interim coach Dan Hughes argued to no avail that McCarty had been fouled on the play.
"I thought [Page] hit her," said Hughes, who was coaching his first game since the Sting fired Marynell Meadors on Sunday. "I thought we'd get the three free throws, and I would have liked that chance."
It seemed during most of the second half that the Sting never would get close, let alone have a chance to win.
The Mystics (5-9) led 57-38 with 10 minutes 37 seconds remaining, but the Sting made six straight field goals to close to 62-53. Then the Mystics, who entered the game second in the league in shooting percentage (44 percent), went cold. Washington missed 8 of 10 shots in a five-minute span.
But Page helped save the Mystics. With the Mystics ahead 66-63 with 59 seconds left, McCray missed a jumper. Page outjumped two Sting players for the rebound and scored to put Washington ahead by five.
Holdsclaw (22 points, eight rebounds) made two free throws with 26.8 seconds remaining, but Sting forward Vicky Bullett (19 points) hit a three-pointer with 19 seconds left to close the lead to 70-68.
After Mystics guard Andrea Nagy made two free throws with 14.8 seconds left, McCarty hit a turnaround three-pointer to close the lead to 72-71. But Holdsclaw hit two more free throws with 6.1 seconds left, and Page came through with a block on McCarty's shot.
The Mystics, who defeated the Detroit Shock on Saturday, 83-78, in double overtime, made 16 of 16 free throws and outrebounded Charlotte 31-20. But 19 turnovers and timely shooting by the Sting in the second half (18 for 25) almost cost the Mystics the game.
"We just seem to miss open shots," said McCray, who made 3 of 6 three-pointers. "We need to realize that we're in control of the basketball game. Tonight we missed a lot of open shots underneath the basket. Chamique missed two in a row and I missed three. I looked up and we were ahead by , and then it was down to four. It shrunk just like that."
Page had 10 defensive rebounds, four more than any other player. The Mystics also outrebounded the Sting 10-3 offensively, which helped lead to 17 second-chance points.
"It's my goal every night to get 10 rebounds," said Page, who had 10 by halftime. "I feel like I have it in me to get [15 rebounds] every night. Tonight was just one of those nights."
Said Mystics Coach Nancy Darsch: "Murriel was getting all kinds of rebounds. She was doing the dirty work."
Washington enters the all-star break having won three of its last four, and is playing its best basketball of the season. Holdsclaw and McCray will start Wednesday's All-Star Game, the league's first, at Madison Square Garden in New York.
"It's an honor to play in the All-Star Game, but we've just started playing well," McCray said. "We deserved to win this game. We needed this game. . . . [Winning] was our reward."
Mystics Notes: Center Nyree Roberts (Old Dominion), obtained in a trade with the Houston Comets on Sunday, was in uniform but did not play. . . . Sting guard Dawn Staley (Virginia) was held to two points.
Box score on Page D8
CAPTION: Mystics forward Murriel Page (career-high 15 rebounds) looks to pass while guarded by Sharon Manning. Page made game-saving block in final seconds.
CAPTION: Sting forward Vicky Bullett (19 points) hits floor to get loose ball. Mystics have beaten Charlotte twice this season.