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Weary Aces conclude road trip with win over Mystics

The fourth quarter began Saturday at the Sports and Entertainment Arena in Washington, D.C., and fatigue finally began to set in for the Aces. They’d been on the road for six days to play three tightly contested games against Eastern Conference competition.

So naturally, they were tired, but not too tired to fend off the Washington Mystics.

The Aces overcame an early double-figure deficit and endured a late surge by the 2019 WNBA champions to earn a 96-93 victory and conclude their road trip with a 2-1 record. Las Vegas led by 13 points with 4:11 to play, but the Mystics scored 13 straight points to even the score in the final minute.

An entry pass to Liz Cambage in the low post forced a double team, leaving Riquna Williams open for the potential game-winning jumper. She missed, but teammate A’ja Wilson secured the offensive rebound and made the game-winning layup with 41.2 seconds to play.

Cambage scored a team-high 24 points and Wilson had 15 points and 15 rebounds. Jackie Young continued her steady play, scoring 22 points and Williams supplied 20 points and four 3-pointers.

“We’re a tired basketball team right now. We’ve been slogging for two weeks straight. No practices. No nothing,” said Las Vegas coach Bill Laimbeer said. “We gutted this one out today. … All we want to do is crank out wins right now.”

The Aces don’t play again until next Sunday, giving them ample time for rest, recovery and practice after an arduous trip out East. They lost Tuesday to the Connecticut Sun and won Thursday against the New York Liberty. The Mystics hadn’t played since May 28, meaning they were spry and fresh while the Aces had “tired legs,” Williams said.

Washington mounted a 51-41 lead in the first half behind the play of Myisha Hines-Allen, who had 32 points and 13 rebounds. But Cambage kept the Aces (7-3) afloat, scoring 14 points in the second quarter to keep the Mystics (2-5) at bay.

Young was active and aggressive, attacking closeouts to finish at the rim or pull up for her mid-range jumper, and Las Vegas intensified its defensive pressure in the second half, limiting drives and forcing the Mystics into long jumpers. Ariel Atkins made a few key ones down the stretch en route to 29 points and five 3-pointers.

But the Aces had just enough energy to seal the deal and ensure a victorious return to Las Vegas.

“We need the practice time. No question about that, especially for the players that aren’t playing,” Laimbeer said. “But I think we also need some rest. The players are going to be just fine. This is a good break for us.”

Contact reporter Sam Gordon at sgordon@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BySamGordon on Twitter.

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