WASHINGTON (AP) – Mike Thibault’s record-setting victory was as much sigh of relief as celebration.
“I’m glad this game is done,” he said.
Crystal Langhorne scored 12 points and the Washington Mystics held on to beat the Seattle Storm 62-59 on Saturday, giving Thibault a WNBA-record 212 career victories.
Seattle (5-7) had to miss three 3-point attempts that would have tied the game on its final possession before Thibault could make history.
He owns a career coaching record of 212-140, one more win than Van Chancellor, who posted a 211-111 mark and won the league’s first four championships during 10 seasons leading the Houston Comets. Thibault’s Connecticut teams made the playoffs eight out of 10 seasons and lost twice in the WNBA Finals.
“I guess it’s one of those things you’ll think more about when your career ends,” Thibault said. “I plan on being around hopefully to see 300 wins or 400 wins.”
Thibault coached 10 seasons for the Connecticut Sun before coming to Washington, where he has already guided the Mystics (6-6) to more victories than they had last season. Washington had just 11 wins the past two years combined.
Michelle Snow added eight points and 13 rebounds, and Ivory Latta scored 11 points for the Mystics, who won their second straight game after dropping five in a row. Washington built an 18-point lead in the first half before holding on late. The Mystics shot a season-low 32.7 percent, but got key baskets late after their advantage was trimmed to one.
“It shows that we can dig down deep and play great defense even when you’re not scoring,” Langhorne said. “For a lot of teams when you don’t score, you don’t play defense either.”
Shekinna Stricklen scored 20 points off the bench for the Storm (5-7), who have lost four of five. The Storm entered the game with the second-worst offense in the league (71.8 points per game) and didn’t help themselves by turning the ball over a season-high 26 times. The Storm committed 11 turnovers during the first quarter and matched their season average of 14 early in the second.
“We put ourselves in a hole and it’s a thing we’ve done continuously all season long,” Seattle coach Brian Agler said. “Sometimes we’ve found a way to fight back, sometimes we don’t. Tonight was one of those times we didn’t.”
Stricklen almost brought them back from a 35-21 halftime deficit single-handedly. Her third 3-pointer of the fourth quarter brought Seattle within 60-58 with just over 2 minutes left.
“We did a lot of things right, and then Shekinna Stricklen kind of screwed up the game plan for a bit,” Thibault said.
Seattle’s Camille Little had a chance to tie the game with 20.5 seconds left, but split a pair of free throws to make the score 60-59. After Latta made two free throws at the other end, Tina Thompson (11 points) and Stricklen missed game-tying opportunities as time expired, allowing Washington to hold on for Thibault’s milestone.
“It’s a great accomplishment,” Latta said. “Right now, I’m blessed to be coached by one of the greatest coaches in the WNBA.”
Quanitra Hollingsworth joined the Mystics on Saturday following her commitment with the Turkish national team. Hollingsworth was acquired in a trade with the New York Liberty for the 25th pick in this year’s WNBA draft. Washington released veteran forward Jessica Moore, who played in two games this season.
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