The Utah Starzz were on a 9-0 run with 2:43 left, had cut the Washington Mystics' lead to four points, and they had the ball.
A replay of last Saturday's game in the Delta Center, which became Utah's first 1998 win.Until Mystic Nikki McCray did the Michael Jordan thing.
The former American Basketball League MVP who defected to the WNBA and is the marquee player for the expansion Mystics, playing their first home game ever Friday night in the MCI Center (20,674 attending), made two jumpers and four free throws in the final 21/2 minutes to give Washington its first franchise win, 85-76 over Utah.
Utah is 2-2 and plays at New York Sunday afternoon.
Washington is 1-3.
McCray is sensational.
She had 26 points against Utah last Saturday, but the Starzz' Kim Williams held her to just seven in the second half of a 78-77 Utah win, and Williams made a layin off a steal for the winning point.
Friday, McCray wouldn't let anyone stop her in the end, making her final two shots from the field from the right elbow of the free-throw line over Utah's Tammi Reiss, and making final free throws to total 29 points, her WNBA career high. She also had five rebounds, six assists and eight turnovers and was only 8-for-20 shooting but perfect when it counted.
"We learned a lot from the loss (at Utah) and knew what to expect," McCray said in a television interview. The 20,000 fans made the Mystics "want to showcase our team," she said.
"The fans had a lot to do with it," McCray said. "If we hadn't had a sellout crowd, I don't know if we could have pulled it off."
McCray got 14 points of help from 6-foot-5 Brazilian Alessandra Santos de Oliveira, who ruled the inside game, 11 points each from Muriel Page, Penny Moore and Rita Williams, and inside help from Heidi Burge with nine points, six boards off the bench.
"We set a standard for home games tonight," said Burge, "and we got the crowd behind us. They raised our intensity level, and we let them."
"Our offense really clicked tonight, and we ran a lot more than we usually do," said Moore.
"They played with a lot of energy and had tremendous fan support," said Starzz coach Denise Taylor, whose team had taken a two-game win streak into the MCI Center. "We dug a hole for ourselves. We played hard, but we didn't execute."
Utah's 7-2 Margo Dydek played 16 ineffective minutes, getting quickly in foul trouble. It was her poorest outing so far with two blocks, one rebound and six points. "Margo is a young player and just needs to learn to get aggressive," said Taylor. "That will come with practice. Scoring has to become her role, where she is asking for the ball." Dydek did that in Monday's win over New York at home but had two fouls in the first three minutes Friday.
Elena Baranova scored 14 and had 10 rebounds.
Bright spots for the Starzz were rookie Olympia Scott with a career-best and team-best 15 points plus three rebounds just a few days after taking the middle of the week to return to Stanford for her graduation and the returns of Wendy Palmer (broken toe, five points) and Chantel Tremitiere (torn calf muscle, 10 points in 18 minutes). Tremitiere was to wait until the New York game, where relatives and friends will be around to cheer her, but she was pressed into service when Dena Head and Tricia Bader had problems at the point.