By Jon Gallo
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 28, 2006
Washington Mystics Coach Richie Adubato smiled as he revealed one regret concerning Latasha Byears after one of the finest games of her career during a 90-75 victory over the Minnesota Lynx last night at Verizon Center.
"I wish we would have signed her last year," he said. "We would have made the playoffs."
Adubato believes the difference between the Mystics making the postseason this year and finishing one victory shy last year could be the addition of the 5-foot-11, 206-pound power forward known simply as "Tot."
Byears certainly gave Adubato's theory credibility coming off the bench to score 20 points and grab 14 rebounds -- nine offensive -- to go along with four steals and two assists as the Mystics improved to 2-1 for the first time since 2002.
"There is a new star here," Adubato said. "And her name is Latasha Byears."
Byears was signed to a training camp contract on Feb. 21 after she spent the past three seasons playing overseas after she was waived by the Los Angeles Sparks early in the 2003 season. "I can't remember the last time I was this happy," Byears said. "I'm just happy to be here and helping this team."
"Having her on this team is invaluable," said Mystics forward DeLisha Milton-Jones, who played with Byears in Los Angeles. "She's a great luxury because she can do so many things." Byears wasn't the only Mystic who draw cheers from the crowd of 6,598. Guard Alana Beard scored a game-high 25 points on 10-of-16 shooting, Milton-Jones added 12 points and five steals, point guard Nikki Teasley posted 11 points and a game-high nine assists and the Mystics forced 23 turnovers to keep the Lynx (0-3) winless.
"If we can just find a way to put the way we played in a bottle that would be great," Beard said. "We played great team defense and it's just fun when you can sit on the bench and cheer on all your teammates."
Minnesota was led by rookie guard Seimone Augustus, the first pick in April's draft, who posted 23 points and five rebounds.
After the Mystics played superbly in a season-opening victory over New York and poorly 48 hours later in a 73-63 loss to Charlotte on Thursday, Washington showed flashes of both during the first half. The Mystics trailed by as many as nine in the first quarter as the Lynx shot a blistering 69.2 percent from the field to take a 26-21 lead entering the second quarter.
The Mystics opened the second quarter on an 11-6 run to tie the score on a short jump shot by Nakia Sanford with 5 minutes 43 seconds remaining in the first half. The game remained close until the final minute, when the Mystics began to take command holding a 41-40 lead.
The final 60 seconds of the first half began with Beard banking in a jump shot as the shot clock expired. Twenty seconds later, Beard blocked Tamika Williams's shot, picked up the loose ball and threw it the length of the court to Chasity Melvin for an easy layup.
Then Williams traveled, and 13 seconds later, Teasley found Byears for a wide-open layup. Williams turned the ball over with nine seconds left and Teasley converted the eight-point run with two free throws after being fouled.
"That was a huge point in the game," Beard said. "We really took control of the game and it took off from there."
Note: WNBA President Donna Orender, who was in attendance, said she would like the league to expand to between 20 and 24 teams during the next decade. The league added its 14th franchise, the Chicago Sky, this season.
· SHOCK 77, SUN 73: Katie Smith scored 23 points, including a three-pointer in the closing seconds of regulation, to lead Detroit to an overtime win against host Connecticut.
Detroit (2-1) went on a 5-1 run in the final 15.3 seconds of regulation and then scored the first six points in overtime to pull away.
The Sun (2-1) had a chance to put the game away before the extra session but missed two free throws in the final 15 seconds. That gave the Shock the opportunity to tie the score and force overtime on Smith's desperation three-pointer with 1.3 seconds left.