ROSEMONT, Ill. (AP) — The Washington Mystics were cruising to an easy victory before Chicago almost spoiled it.
“We held on for dear life,” said Mystics coach Mike Thibault after his team secured a 72-65 victory in front of a Sky record 16,402 fans on Wednesday. “We missed the same shots in the fourth quarter that we were making the whole game and Sylvia was great in the fourth quarter.”
Sylvia Fowles scored 10 of her 19 points in the final period as Chicago rallied from a 13-point deficit to pull within five following her free throw with 2:41 left. The Sky could never get closer.
The Mystics (8-12) snapped a three-game losing streak as Bria Hartley led a balanced offense with 16 points. Emma Meesseman had 12 points and 12 rebounds while Kia Vaughn added 10 points.
The Sky (8-11) dropped their third straight and 11th in their last 15 despite Fowles’ 19 points and 17 rebounds. Epiphanny Prince scored 14 points, Jamierra Faulkner had 13 and Jessica Breland added 10 while Tamera Young had 12 rebounds for Chicago.
Fowles was playing in her sixth game since returning from hip surgery.
“I feel like I’m 100 percent,” she said. “I think it’s about us just connecting together as a team and sticking together.”
While Fowles is healthy now, Chicago was still without Elena Delle Donne, who missed her 10th game and fifth straight with a flare-up of Lyme Disease symptoms. Also out is point guard Courtney Vandersloot, the WNBA assists leader (6.4), who is expected to be sidelined up to 10 weeks with a sprained knee.
Without two of their starters, the Sky shot a season-low 31.3 percent (21-for-67) and just 1-for-11 from beyond the arc.
“In basketball you could run the perfect set, the perfect play and sometimes and the shot won’t fall, especially for shooters in the fourth quarter,” said Sky coach Pokey Chatman. “That’s why there’s so much energy and effort and emphasis is on the defensive end of the floor and playing hard, smart and together.”
Washington’s defensive play partly explained Chicago’s shooting woes.
“Our defense was really good for the majority of the game,” Thibault said. “We tried to make Prince and (forward Allie) Quigley uncomfortable the whole time and make Fowles work to get everything she got.”
The Mystics beat the Sky for the second time this season and snapped a six-game Allstate Arena losing streak. The Mystics, who trailed only briefly in the opening minutes, led 41-37 at the half behind 10 points from Vaughn and Meesseman’s nine rebounds. Faulkner paced the Sky with 11 first half points.
Washington’s 7-2 run opened the third quarter for a 48-41 lead following a Hartley free throw. Chicago quickly halved the margin but never got closer while the Mystics moved out to a 60-48 lead by quarter’s end on Hartley’s 3 pointer with three seconds showing.
The Mystics maintained a double-digit lead through much of the fourth quarter until Fowle’s two free throws made it 70-62 with 3:35 left in regulation, Jessica Breland followed with a jumper to trim the deficit to six and Fowles hit another free throw to make to 70-65 with 2:41 showing.
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