- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 15, 2007

An ugly game turned out beautifully for the Washington Mystics.

Alana Beard rescued the jet-lagged Mystics with a game-high 28 points, including all 18 of her team’s points in the fourth quarter, to lead Washington over the Connecticut Sun 65-64 at Verizon Center.

The Mystics (15-17) hold a 1½-game lead over the New York Liberty (13-18), who lost last night, for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. If the Mystics beat the Liberty tomorrow, they will clinch a playoff berth.

This game is about runs, said Beard, who hit five field goals, including a 3-pointer, and seven free throws in the final quarter. This team did a great job of taking all of Connecticut’s punches. We made stops when we needed to and scored when we needed to.

But early in the game, the Mystics looked like a team that played back-to-back games Saturday and Sunday, then flew home from California on Monday. They had 16 turnovers and shot 39 percent for the game, missing their first seven 3-pointers.

Washington trailed Connecticut by 13 in the second quarter thanks to 7-foot-2 Margo Dydek (17 points, 11 rebounds), who led the Sun with outside jump shots.

Reserve Coco Miller (15 points) kept the lethargic Mystics close early, while the rest of the team struggled. She came off the bench to score 10 points on 4-for-5 shooting in the first half. The rest of the team was 7-for-25 (28 percent) in the half.

The Mystics entered the fourth quarter trailing by one point after Nakia Sanford hit a 13-foot jumper to end the third.

Beard then led off the fourth with a 7-foot jump shot, giving the Mystics their first lead of the game at 49-48 — the first of seven lead changes in the quarter.

The All-Star guard gave her team the lead for good at 63-62 with 1:34 left on a pair of free throws and pushed it to a three-point advantage 25 seconds later on a runner across the lane. Dydek’s short jumper cut the margin to one with 55 seconds left, but neither team scored after that.

But the Mystics could not celebrate until Katie Douglas missed a baseline jumper and DeLisha Milton-Jones grabbed the rebound and clutched it as the buzzer sounded.

We just have to take care of our business, interim coach Tree Rollins said. We are confident we can do it. We just have to cut down on turnovers and make shots.

The fourth quarter, of course, was all Beard‘s. She was 5-for-8 from the field and 7-for-7 from the line in the quarter.

[Beard] does what she does, Rollins said. She leads us.

Sky 77, Liberty 65

Story Continues →