By SARA ANDERSON
With Tammi Reiss out due to a sprained ankle and leading scorer Elena Baranova unable to play because of tendinitis, the Utah Starzz were stung by Charlotte 77-69 Wednesday night at the Delta Center.
“We always lose the close games at the end,” a frustrated Margo Dydek said. And this game was no exception.
The Starzz, despite being behind the entire game, came back from a 10-point deficit to take a 61-58 lead with five minutes remaining.
It looked as though the Starzz were going to pull off a miracle and beat the Eastern Conference leading Sting. But then reality hit. Utah turned the ball over on five straight possessions, giving the win to Charlotte.
“We’ve been in this predicament before,” said Charlotte’s Tracy Reid, who scored 13 points in the win. “Utah is a great team, but we were able to come out on top.”
“The turnovers are our Achilles heel,” said Starzz coach Denise Taylor. “We had our opportunities, we had veteran players out there, but just couldn’t come through.”
The Sting, coming off a disappointing loss against the Los Angeles Sparks Sunday night, jumped out to an early lead.
Utah came alive midway through the first half, forcing a couple of turnovers. The Starzz cut Charlotte’s lead to 20-18. But panic struck as Dydek, trying to fill in the gap for the injured Baranova, picked up her third foul and was forced to leave the game with 8:33 left in the half.
Charlotte took advantage of Dydek’s absence and Utah’s 14 first half turnovers to take a 36-29 half time lead.
The second half was much like the first, until the Starzz took the lead with five minutes left.
“I had a good game,” Utah’s Wendy Palmer said, after scoring a franchise record high 30 points. “But it didn’t matter because we lost.”
Charlotte was lead by Andrea Stinson and Andrea Congreaves who both had 14 points. The Sting had five players in double figures. Palmer and Dydek were the only Starzz scoring in double figures. The win gives the Sting a 9-4 record, while the Starzz fall to 4-9.
Utah will play its next game Sunday in Houston against the defending world champion Comets. Reiss is expected to play in Sunday’s game. But, Baranova is questionable for the Houston game and could be out for as many as nine days.