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Storm Comeback Falls Short to Mystics, 62-59

July 6, 2013

Winning the second half wasn’t enough to win the game for the Seattle Storm.

Neither was a big night for Shekinna Stricklen.

Stricklen pumped in a career-high 20 points, including a stretch of 11 straight in the fourth quarter, but the Storm were unable to overcome the final point of an 18-point deficit and dropped a 62-59 decision to the Washington Mystics on Saturday night at the Verizon Center.

“We just started out really slow,” Stricklen said. “We had a lot of turnovers (26 for the game). But from the second quarter on, we picked it up on defense, started making plays and shots, and we just fought back.”

The 20-point performance off the bench by Stricklen beat her previous career high of 16, which she had tallied twice, most recently on June 16 in a 78-66 victory at Connecticut. She hit 8 of 16 from the field on Saturday, including 4 of 11 from 3-point range.

“She’s only a year and a half into her WNBA career,” Storm coach Brian Agler said. “She’s got great offensive talent, great instincts, and she’ll just keep getting better, as well.”

Tina Thompson added 11 points for the Storm (5-7), who outscored Washington (6-6) through the final 20 minutes, 38-27.

Seattle concludes a four-game, 13-day road trip on Tuesday in Madison Square Garden against the New York Liberty at 4 p.m. PDT.

Trailing by 14 points at halftime, 35-21, after being down 29-11 midway through the second quarter, the Storm closed the third period on a 12-4 run. That got them within 49-41 entering the final 10 minutes of the game.

Twice, the Storm got it down to a single point. The first was with 6:57 remaining when Stricklen launched a 3-pointer from the left of the circle that rolled around the rim, rolled off the back of the rim, and fell through the hoop, making it 51-50.

Stricklen went on to score Seattle’s next eight points, capped by another trey that made it 60-58 at the 2:18 mark.

The Storm came up with three straight defensive stops, but then missed three shots and had two 24-second shot clock violations at their own end. Still down 60-58, Camille Little was fouled by Tayler Hill with 20.5 seconds left. She missed the first free throw, but made the second, leaving it a one-point game.

Out of timeouts and forced to foul, Seattle put Ivory Latta on the free throw line with 19.4 seconds to go, and she hit both for a 62-59 edge. The Storm got three more tries at an equalizer – two by Thompson, and one at the buzzer by Stricklen – but all of them fell short.

“We put ourselves in a hole – it’s a thing we’ve continually done all season long,” Agler said. “Sometimes, we’ve found a way to fight back, and sometimes, we don’t. Tonight was one of those times we didn’t.”

Crystal Langhorne led the Mystics with 12 points after going off for 23 on June 18 in Seattle when the Storm prevailed in overtime, 96-86. Latta, the team’s leading scorer at 15.8 per game, finished with 11.

Washington’s victory made Mike Thibault the winningest coach in WNBA history with 212. That pulled him out of a tie with Van Chancellor, who went 211-111 in 10 seasons with the Houston Comets.

“We did a lot of things right, but then Shekinna Stricklen kind of screwed up the game plan a bit for us,” Thibault said. “She did a terrific job at the end of the game. We won the game with defense, and we’ll take it.”

Seattle’s 26 turnovers was a season high, eight more than it had in a 68-59 loss at Atlanta on June 14. A dozen of those came in the first quarter, which the Mystics converted into 11 of their 21 points.

“I just think if we executed better on a few different occasions, then we probably would have had a different outcome,” Thompson said.

Neither team shot well. The Storm wound up with two more field goals, hitting 20 of 54 (37 percent), while the Mystics were just 18 of 55 (32.7 percent). But Washington was 23 of 29 at the free throw line, as Seattle was whistled for 25 fouls. The Storm went just 14 times, hitting 11 on 16 Mystics fouls.

The Storm, who had beaten Washington five straight times, had just one lead in Saturday’s game, at 2-1. The Mystics took command with two first-quarter surges, 11-0 and 9-0, for a 21-7 lead.

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