WASHINGTON (AP) Ivory Latta played the final 4 minutes Friday night as if the entire season depended on it.
In her mind, it did.
Latta scored 10 of her 15 points, including a pair of key 3-pointers, in that stretch to help the Washington Mystics beat the New York Liberty 68-60 for their first home victory in three games this season.
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”It was a must-win in May, how about that?” said Latta, who hit six of nine field-goal attempts. ”Especially, a win for us on our home court. We have to protect our home court.”
Kia Vaughn added a season-high 14 points, and rookie Jelena Milovanovic had a season-high 14 for Washington (2-2), which outrebounded New York 41-26 to overcome 16 turnovers.
Washington has been outrebounded in both of their losses this year, while it grabbed 10 more boards than Indiana in their previous victory.
”It’s more of a team effort right now,” said Vaughn, who grabbed six rebounds on a night when none of her teammates had more than seven. ”Individually, we are all capable of doing it, so we’ve got to put it together at home.”
Cappie Pondexter led New York (2-3) with 20 points, and rookie Anna Cruz added a season-high 12.
The Mystics held Tina Charles to eight points and seven rebounds after the Liberty center had double-doubles in her last three contests.
”They just double-teamed her and Tina ventured out of the post,” Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer said. ”She’s learning that teams are going to come at her with two or three players right now, and it’s a little frustrating for her right now. We’re trying to work her way through that one.”
After the Mystics rapidly yielded a 12-point lead in the third quarter, Milovanovic and Latta hit 3-pointers on consecutive possessions to put their team ahead 60-54 midway through the fourth.
Latta’s, from the top of the arc, came on Washington’s third shot of the possession after Milovanovic and Emma Meesseman also missed 3s, only for the Mystics to reach the long rebounds.
New York twice closed within four, but Latta hit another 3, this one a pull-up from the right elbow, to make it 67-60 with 27 seconds left.
”Just that whole segment in the fourth quarter, I’m going to be honest with you, I don’t even know what came to me,” Latta said. ”When I was walking off the court, somebody was like, `The beast mode came out’.”
Pondexter scored seven points, including a game-tying 3-pointer, during 12-0 run that made it 44-all in the third quarter of a sometimes chippy, physical contest.
Pondexter and Washington coach Mike Thibault each received technicals from referee Thomas Nunez while asking for fouls during the second, and New York’s Alex Montgomery was assessed a Flagrant Type 1 foul during the fourth.
”The league has gotten better,” Pondexter said. ”So the intensity level, every game, every night, is going to be the way you saw it.”