- The Washington Times - Friday, August 16, 2002

Redemption arrived last night for Washington Mystics forward Chamique Holdsclaw, who had suffered through three straight losing seasons with the team. Holdsclaw's 15th double-double of the season gave the franchise its first-ever playoff victory.

Holdsclaw scored a game-high 26 points and added 13 rebounds to lead the Mystics to a 74-62 victory over the Charlotte Sting before 14,117 in Game1 of the WNBA's Eastern Conference best-of-3 playoffs at MCI Center.

These teams will meet again in the second game tomorrow at noon in Charlotte. Game3, if necessary, will be Monday in Charlotte at 7 p.m.

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Holdsclaw, who missed 12 games this season because of injuries and personal reasons, made nine of 18 shots. The majority of her points came off the mid-range jumper, and she worked the baseline to perfection.

"I'm excited to be in this position, this is what I've worked for and it hasn't happened in my previous three seasons here, so I'm going to enjoy it all right now," Holdsclaw said. "Tonight, I said to myself, if I'm open, I'm open and I'm going to shoot it."

Center Vicky Bullett added 12 points, guard Coco Miller, who was named the WNBA's most improved player, contributed 12 points and five rebounds. This was one of the Mystics' better efforts of the season.

For the game, the Mystics shot 50.9 percent, committed 11 turnovers and outrebounded the Sting 34-29.

"You can take whatever you want from this, but you can see that we are for real," Mystics coach Marianne Stanley said. "We're capable of putting that together on any given night and we want to consistently do that. We're back to playing the way we were earlier in the year."

Coming into this game, the Mystics had lost nine of their past 11. One wouldn't have known that judging by last night's explosive performance. The Mystics scored eight points over their 66.7 points-per-game average.

On Wednesday, the Sting beat the Mystics 67-57 in Charlotte and clinched home-court advantage throughout this round. In that game, Holdsclaw made four of 17 shots for eight points.

Stanley, who was named WNBA coach of the year before the game, vowed that her star forward would not repeat Wednesday night's dismal shooting performance. Holdsclaw responded with 15 first-half points on five of nine shooting. Holdsclaw, the WNBA's leading scorer and rebounder, also added five rebounds and three steals in the first half.

A Holdsclaw shot at halftime gave the Mystics a huge boost. Sting point guard Dawn Staley made a 3-pointer with 14.9 seconds left in the half and cut the Mystics lead to four, 40-36.

Holdsclaw released a hanging one-hander from the middle of the lane at the horn to give the Mystics a 42-36 halftime lead.

The Mystics broke open the game early with a 12-0 run that consumed 2:35. Trailing 5-4, the Mystics rattled off the game's next 12 points and led 16-5 with 14:33 left in the first half.

Bullett, a Maryland graduate, scored four points during the run. With Sting all-star center Tammy Sutton-Brown on the bench in early foul trouble, Bullett went to work on backup Shalonda Enis.

On one possession Enis, who played for the Mystics in 1999, tried to pull up at the top of the key for a 3-pointer. Bullett blocked Enis' shot and instinctively released down court. Mystics point guard Annie Burgess grabbed the loose ball and fired it to Bullett for an easy layup. Bullett scored 10 points in the first half.

"I'm not a person who can't score," said Bullett, who finished with 12 points on five of nine shooting. "I can score. It depends on if my team can get me the ball in good positions."

The Sting's 3-point shooting kept the visitors in the game during the first half. The Sting set a WNBA record this season with most 3-pointers (211) made in a season. The Mystics' lead evaporated when the Sting sank three treys in 2:39.

The Sting tied the WNBA playoff record by making seven 3-pointers in the first half. Charlotte made as many 3-pointers (seven) as two-point baskets (seven) in the first half.

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