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Mystics Cruise to Second Consecutive Victory

Holdsclaw Has 24 Points, Washington Improves to 4-5: Mystics 76, Silver Stars 60

By Eli Saslow
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 18, 2004; Page D03

The Washington Mystics committed their typical share of late-game gaffes last night. They fouled often, turned the ball over and, at one point, even forgot to send a fifth player onto the court.

But this time, at least, they were way ahead.

Washington's Chasity Melvin keeps the ball away from San Antonio's Shannon Johnson, left, and Mandisha Stevenson. (John Mcdonnell -- The Washington Post)

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The Mystics trounced the San Antonio Silver Stars, 76-60, at MCI Center, winning two games in a row for the first time this season and improving their record to 4-5. The Mystics played their best game of the season and looked comfortable in every facet -- except playing with the lead.

"We got pretty relaxed there at the end and had a little too much fun," rookie guard Alana Beard said. "We just haven't had too many chances to celebrate. But hopefully we can practice and get better at it."

Forward Chamique Holdsclaw led the Mystics in points (24) and rebounds (10). But more than any other game this season, the Mystics chose not to rely on their star. Ten Washington players scored, and only one Mystic -- Holdsclaw -- played more than 25 minutes.

"We can get pretty exciting when everybody contributes," Washington Coach Michael Adams said. "This is the way we've been hoping to play. That's our type of basketball: Everybody works together."

And for the first time all season, the Mystics seemed bonded by that mantra.

When Beard exchanged a long, hostile stare with San Antonio's Shannon Johnson, the entire Washington bench stood up to stare at Johnson, too. Five minutes later, Beard fell hard to the floor after a missed lay-up, and four Mystics rushed to pick her up.

Washington players worked together even better on offense. The Mystics built a 14-point lead after halftime by throwing at least three passes and using 20 seconds on each offensive possession.

Still, San Antonio reeled off eight consecutive points to close the lead to six with 9 minutes 47 seconds left and forced Adams to call a timeout. During the next four minutes, the Mystics responded to adversity better than they had all season.

Washington stole the ball twice and Holdsclaw, Tamicha Jackson and Coco Miller all hit mid-range jumpers to give the Mystics a 65-51 lead.

"They played with a lot of heart there," said San Antonio Coach Dee Brown, whose team has lost a franchise-record seven in a row. "The way Washington played tonight, I can't believe they don't have a winning record. They looked top-notch to me."

The Mystics took control of the game in the last two minutes of the first half, when Stacey Dales-Schuman single-handedly went on a 7-0 run.

Schuman, a non-factor for most of the first half, hit a three-pointer with 1:11 left and added two lay-ups before the break. The run gave the Mystics a 41-33 lead and brought the crowd of 12,203 to a standing ovation.

Most impressively, the Mystics' run came without Holdsclaw.

Holdsclaw played the game's first 17 minutes, scoring 11 points and grabbing five rebounds, but she sat down just in time to watch her team's late run.

"I like being able to watch good team play," Holdsclaw said. "The whole team picked it up, and I'll enjoy that every single time."

MONARCHS 60, LYNX 50: In Minneapolis, Ticha Penicheiro had 10 points and seven assists and made a key three-pointer down the stretch to help Sacramento beat Minnesota to snap a three-game losing streak.

Penicheiro passed Teresa Weatherspoon of Los Angeles for the WNBA's career lead with 1,317 assists.

© 2004 The Washington Post Company