- The Washington Times - Friday, June 20, 2003

CLEVELAND — Mystics forward Chamique Holdsclaw isn’t concerned with her hamstring as much as she is with her team.

The Mystics (2-7), bringing up the rear in the WNBA’s Eastern Conference, lost to the Cleveland Rockers 79-74 last night before 6,119 at Gund Arena. In her second game back after a four-game injury absence, Holdsclaw scored a game-high 27 points, including 16 in the second half.

“This is my fifth season now,” she said. “I’ve been through it all. I have confidence in this team. We are better than we have showed. We’re going to get it.”

Holdsclaw finished nine of 23 from the field, but was just three of 13 in the first half. She took over the game in the second half but was unable to guide the Mystics to victory.

“I don’t make excuses,” the 6-foot-2, 172-pounder said. “If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. I haven’t practiced in a week and a half. I pray that I stay healthy. I’m not concerned with myself, but with the state of the team.”

Washington trailed 35-16 with 7:23 left in the first half. However, the Mystics battled back and took a 62-61 lead on a rare four-point possession with 9:18 remaining in the game. Forward Stacey Dales-Schuman buried a 3-pointer, and center Nakia Sanford added a free throw.

“These games are tough on the losing coach,” Mystics coach Marianne Stanley said. “We still battled hard but lost. We had one little stretch where we lost concentration in the first half, and they jumped on us. Those things hurt us bad. I’m trying to find a silver lining. It’s tough.”

The Rockers (5-3), who have won four in a row at home, had a 22-4 run in the first half. Forward LaToya Thomas, the No.1 pick in the 2003 WNBA Draft, connected on two free throws with 8:47 left in the game to hand Cleveland a 63-62 lead it never relinquished. Her free throws touched off an 11-3 run.

Thomas paced the Rockers with 18 points, while guard Betty Lennox added 17 and Chasity Melvin 12 points and a career-high 12 rebounds.

Rockers coach Dan Hughes credited Deanna Jackson for her defensive effort on Holdsclaw.

“We were having a very difficult time guarding her,” Hughes said. “She was changing the complexion of the game with her isolation.”

Murriel Page and Coco Miller each added nine points for the Mystics.

“I think in the first half, we kind of let it get away from us a little bit,” Miller said. “Then we were playing catch-up the whole game. I think we played very intensely and aggressively in the second half. We played like we were more capable of playing, but we just need to do that 40 minutes.”

Rockers guard Merlakia Jones was whistled for a technical foul with 7:13 left in the game. Official June Courteau said Jones threw an elbow at Miller after the two players got tied up.

The Mystics play Connecticut on Tuesday night at MCI Center.

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