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Holdsclaw Out, But Beard Helps Mystics Hang On

Mystics 69, Sun 68

By Amalie Benjamin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 31, 2004; Page D01

Both Washington Mystics players and Coach Michael Adams apparently remain in the dark as to the full extent of the personal medical issue that has caused Chamique Holdsclaw to miss two of the team's past three games and will keep her out of tomorrow's contest.

Holdsclaw and the Mystics released a short statement late Thursday night confirming that the forward would not play in last night's game against the Connecticut Sun or tomorrow's game against the Phoenix Mercury, the final two before the month-long Olympic break.

Mystics' Alana Beard (team-high 14 points) drives on Connecticut Sun's Katie Douglas. (Lawrence Jackson -- AP)

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"I came back on Wednesday night [July 28] and didn't feel 100 percent," Holdsclaw said in the statement. "I recognize now that I need to focus on my medical issues and will miss the next two games."

But neither Adams nor Mystics players Alana Beard and Murriel Page spoke with Holdsclaw on Thursday. They were alerted of Holdsclaw's decision by team management before the statement was put up on the team's Web site.

"All I know is that Chamique's taking care of her issues that she has to take care of," Adams said before last night's 69-68 victory at MCI Center. "All I know is what I need to know. I don't need to know anything more. Whatever she's going through, we're here for her, and I don't need to speculate on what they are, what those things are, because that's her and her family's situation and not mine.

"I don't need to know. And I'm okay with that."

Page, who scored 13 points against the Sun, said management has kept the players up-to-date with Holdsclaw's situation, though she also indicated she does not know all the details. Page and Holdsclaw, who last spoke after Wednesday's game, have played together on the Mystics since Holdsclaw's rookie season in 1999.

"She asked for her privacy, and we have to respect that," Page said. "We have to respect her privacy as her teammates and her friends. . . . I feel like I know what I should know. I can't sit and worry exactly if I know enough because I mean I still have to come out and perform."

Beard said she only knew that Holdsclaw was going through a private medical issue and that she has "no clue" about her teammate's decisions, but she was hopeful Holdsclaw would be back after the break for the last eight games of the season.

Mystics head of basketball operations Judy Holland-Burton remains unavailable and has not returned phone calls for the past four days. Mystics player personnel consultant Pat Summitt, who coached Holdsclaw at the University of Tennessee, also did not return calls.

Mystics owner Abe Pollin said in the statement released on Thursday: Holdsclaw's "strength and character will see her through this difficult time. Our main concern is her health and well-being, and she has all of our support."

The Mystics, in danger of falling out of contention for a playoff berth with nine games left in the regular season, sit at the bottom of the Eastern Conference with an 11-14 record after the win.

With the game tied at 63 and 1 minute 11 seconds remaining, Page hit a layup to put the Mystics in front for good. After trading baskets and free throws for the last minute, Beard was called for a foul with the Mystics leading by two and 5.5 seconds left. Lindsay Whalen made 1 of 2 foul shots, and after a jump ball, the Sun managed to get a timeout down a point.

Off the cross-court inbounds pass by Sun's leading scorer Nykesha Sales (23 points), Taj McWilliams-Franklin took an off-balance eight-foot shot from the right of the basket that hit the rim and bounced out, prompting Beard to slam the ball off the court.

The Mystics had seemed in control for most of the first half, building a 14-point lead and taking a 41-34 advantage into halftime on the strength of balanced scoring from Page, Beard, Nakia Sanford and Stacey Dales-Schuman.

Dales-Schuman finished with a team-high 10 assists and eight points, as the Mystics recorded 21 assists on 29 baskets. Sanford recorded a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds, and reserve Aiysha Smith had 10 points and six rebounds.

"I think we can" win without Holdsclaw, Adams said. "I wish we had her to play with us. But she's not playing, obviously."

MERCURY 68, SILVER STARS 59: Anna DeForge scored 23 points to lead visiting Phoenix over San Antonio, which played only hours after the resignation of Coach Dee Brown.

SHOCK 88, LIBERTY 79: Cheryl Ford had 19 points and nine rebounds to help Detroit beat visiting New York. Swin Cash added 15 points and seven assists.

STORM 70, LYNX 55: Betty Lennox scored 17 of her season-high 23 points in the second half to lead visiting Seattle.

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