- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 19, 2003

The cheers began 17 minutes before tip-off, when the crowd was notified that Chamique Holdsclaw had been activated from the injured list.

They reached a fever pitch when Holdsclaw was introduced amid the lights and smoke as the last player in Washington’s starting lineup.

Then the game started.

Sacramento scored the game’s first nine points and jumped out to a 15-point lead en route to its 69-61 victory over Washington last night before 14,056 at MCI Center. Yolanda Griffith led the Monarchs with 22 points, including six of her team’s first 10.

Washington, coming off an embarrassing 37-point loss to Detroit on Saturday, had vowed a better effort against Sacramento and hoped the return of its star could do the trick.

While Holdsclaw’s presence helped a great deal, it still wasn’t enough to allow the Mystics (2-6) to secure a win over a tired Monarchs team that had lost at New York the night before.

It marked the Mystics’ second three-game losing streak of the season and was only the Monarchs’ second win in their last eight games. Sacramento also tied its second-best offensive output in the game that pitted two of the WNBA’s lowest-scoring teams. The Monarchs (4-7) are 10th and Mystics 11th in the 14-team league.

Holdsclaw gave all she had, scoring a team-high 17 points and pulling down a game-high 17 rebounds in her first game back since she injured her right hamstring during full-court one-on-one drills in a June3 practice. It was Holdsclaw’s 42nd career double-double and third of the season.

What made Holdsclaw’s 35 minutes last night even more impressive was that she wasn’t sure she would see action until she was given the green light before the game.

“I decided to play tonight whether it hurt or not,” Holdsclaw said. “This was my first test. You really don’t know how it’s going to react. I’m just glad I made it through the game. I know I am going to be sore tomorrow.”

Mystics coach Marianne Stanley was obviously pleased to see Holdsclaw back on the court, but could see the rust in her 6-for-22 shooting.

“Shots she normally makes didn’t go down,” Stanley said. “She missed some makeable shots.”

Holdsclaw gave her team its only lead of the game when she stole an inbounds pass and dropped in a floater in the lane while getting fouled with 11:26 left. She then converted the three-point play to make it 45-44, sending the crowd into a frenzy

Sacramento responded with an 8-0 run to lead 52-45 and the Mystics answered with a 7-1 run of their own to trim it back to 53-52 with 6:08 to play.

The Monarchs then returned to their go-to player in the post, Griffith, who scored her first points in more than 11 minutes to turn the game back in Sacramento’s favor.

“It’s hard to go to her when you have three people on her,” Monarchs coach Maura McHugh said of Griffith. “Whenever we got the ball on the wing, they were dropping off in there. It was hard to get her the ball.”

Kara Lawson, the fifth overall pick in April’s WNBA Draft by Detroit and then traded to Sacramento four days later, scored seven of her team’s final 10 points to seal the win and send Washington to its sixth loss in eight games.

“You always hate to lose,” Stanley said. “We played much better, but not well enough to win.”

Despite shooting 27.6 percent in the first half, Washington only trailed 30-24 at the half.

Notes — To make room for Holdsclaw, the Mystics placed guard Helen Luz on the injured list with a strained right calf. Luz has averaged 1.2 points in six games this season. Former Mystics training camp casualty Jenny Mowe, a 6-5 center waived on May 21, has resurfaced overseas. Mowe is training in Japan in order to play professionally in South Korea in the next few weeks. … Houston Rockets guard Steve Francis, a close friend of Holdsclaw, sat courtside.

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