Dawn Staley had 13 points and seven assists and the surging Charlotte Sting passed New York atop the Eastern Conference standings with a 62-58 victory over the Liberty last night in Charlotte.
Andrea Stinson added nine of her 11 points in the second half to help Charlotte (12-10) run its best winning streak of the season to four games and win for the seventh time in 10 games under Coach Dan Hughes, who replaced the fired Marynell Meadors on July 11.
"It was important to win a game like this," Hughes said. "Our schedule is extremely difficult down the stretch, and I see a lot of close games like this."
The Sting also got 14 points and 10 rebounds from Rhonda Mapp in a game that featured the kind of tight play expected from two teams battling for the conference lead late in the season. There were 18 ties and 16 lead changes, with neither team ever going up by more than five points.
New York (11-10) forced 19 turnovers and converted them into 24 points. But the Liberty didn't score in the final three minutes and were held to just 14 rebounds -- the lowest total in the WNBA this season -- on the way to losing for the seventh time in 10 road games this season.
Forward Tamika Whitmore had 13 points to lead New York, which missed three shots and turned the ball over twice on its final four possessions.
"We should have won," Whitmore said. "We just lost it on the boards. We just gave it to them. But we're professionals and we just have to play through this. We need to go home and recuperate."
There were three lead changes and two ties in the last four minutes alone before Staley stole the ball from Teresa Weatherspoon, was fouled and made two free throws to put the Sting up 60-58 with 1 minute 9 seconds left. Vicky Bullett sealed it with a foul-line jumper with 21 seconds left. Stinson set a club record by scoring in double figures in 11 straight games.
SPARKS 87, STARZZ 77: Gordana Grubin and Mwadi Mabika led Los Angeles in a second-half rally as the Sparks beat Utah at the Forum.
The Sparks (15-6) got their fifth victory in a row. Los Angeles has won 12 of 14 games, and Utah (7-14) has lost eight of 10. The game was tied at 58 with about eight minutes left to play when the Sparks went on a 13-0 blitz to move ahead. Grubin, who had 16 points, made two three-pointers and Mabika grabbed four rebounds and added three points. Mabika finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Data: vs. Los Angeles Sparks
Where: Great Western Forum
When: 10:30 p.m.
Records: Mystics 6-16, Sparks 15-6
Injuries: Mystics F Penny Moore (shoulder) is on the injured list. Sparks reported no injuries.