- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 22, 2005

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — At just 5-foot-3, rookie guard Temeka Johnson was the shortest player on the floor last night for the Washington Mystics, but her quickness, defense and management of the game were huge in a 60-42 season-opening win against the Charlotte Sting.

Johnson, starting in place of Alana Beard, who didn’t travel to Charlotte because of a sprained left ankle, played so well that first-year Mystics coach Richie Adubato said he’s now trying to decide if he wants to keep Johnson as his starting point guard and shift Beard to a starting wing spot when Beard returns.

“Temeka Johnson set the tone for the game,” Adubato said. “This was her first pro start. She pushed the ball. She created. She pulled up. She played great defense. She really set the tone. … You know the old story — somebody’s out, you get a chance to show what you can do.”

Washington shot 45.8 percent from the field (22 of 48), scored 25 points off 25 Charlotte turnovers and limited the Sting to 29.4 percent shooting from the field. Charlotte tied a franchise low by making just 15 field goals. The Sting, who opened the game making one of 14 field-goal attempts, did not score a field goal during an 11 minute, 38 seconds span in the first half.

Sheri Sam led Charlotte with 16 points and six rebounds, and Tangela Smith added 10 points and five rebounds.

The Mystics stretched their lead to 23 points in the second half, and never were threatened. DeLisha Milton-Jones led Washington with 11 points. Johnson, drafted sixth out of LSU, had 10 points, three steals, three assists and six turnovers in 26 minutes.

“She played big for 5-3, didn’t she?” Sting coach Trudi Lacey said of Johnson. “She did a much better job than we did in terms of getting her team in their offense, then really executing. She hurt us off the ball screens. She hurt us in transition. She did a very good job of finding the open players. She certainly didn’t look like a rookie out there to me.”

Being matched up against Sting guard Dawn Staley, a three-time Olympic gold medalist and the Temple women’s coach, didn’t seem to intimidate Johnson.

“It was an opportunity [to start], but it also was a blessing,” Johnson said. “I’m surrounded by a lot of great talent and a lot of great people with a great system and great coaches.”

Staley said Johnson has excellent vision, can hit open jumpers and had an outstanding start to her career.

“Certainly, at some point,” Staley said, “the novelty will wear off and we’ll get back to business.”

Notes — The Mystics will play host to the Connecticut Sun at 6p.m. today at MCI Center. The Sun lost to the Seattle Storm in last season’s WNBA Finals. …

Beard, who averaged 13.1 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.7 assists as a rookie last season, was held out of the Mystics’ preseason exhibitions because of a hamstring injury. She is questionable for tonight’s game against the Sun.

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