- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 8, 2004

Hope could arrive for the Washington Mystics tomorrow if three-time WNBA All-Star Chamique Holdsclaw decides she wants to be activated off the injured list.

In the meantime, the Mystics last night improved to 3-3 this season without Holdsclaw, who has been sidelined because of an undisclosed personal matter.

Forward Murriel Page made two clinching free throws with six seconds left in overtime to let the Mystics escape with a 67-63 victory over the Sacramento Monarchs before an announced 9,205 at MCI Center.

Possibly the smallest home crowd in the Mystics’ seven-year history — the actual number appeared to be more like 4,000 — watched a thrilling ending that kept Washington’s slim playoff hopes alive.

The Mystics (13-16) squandered several opportunities to win in regulation. With the score tied 58-58, rookie guard Alana Beard missed a 12-foot jump shot in the lane with 6.3 seconds left. Center Nakia Sanford then missed an easy follow of Beard’s shot with three seconds left. Forward Chasity Melvin yanked down Sanford’s missed putback and was fouled by Sacramento point guard Ticha Penicheiro.

With two seconds remaining, Melvin, who came into the game a 75 percent free throw shooter, missed both attempts to send the game into overtime. Before her crucial misses, Melvin made all five of her free throws.

“I knew it was critical, and I was telling myself, ‘You need to at least make one,’” Melvin said. “I really didn’t focus like I should have on the first one, because I was saying if I miss it I can make the second one. I know I can make my free throws. I’m glad I experienced that because I’ve never been in that situation with free throws before.”

Beard played one of the most complete games in her brief career by scoring a game-high 20 points with a career-high six assists and four steals.

Asked if this was the best game of her career, Beard replied, “No — I haven’t had it yet.”

Once again the Mystics struggled with Sacramento’s post players. The Monarchs (13-13) — one of the tallest teams in the 13-team WNBA, with five players 6-foot-3 or better — constantly pounded the ball inside.

Sacramento’s big players scored 18 of the team’s 34 first-half points. Forwards Tangela Smith and DeMya Walker led a balanced attack with six points apiece in the first half.

Late in the first half, it appeared the Mystics were going to blow out the Monarchs when the home team broke out to a 31-19 lead with 6:46 remaining. The Mystics’ good fortune was short-lived as Sacramento all but caught up in just 2:31 with an 11-0 run that cut the deficit to 31-30. Washington led at the break 39-35.

“I liked our effort,” Mystics first-year coach Michael Adams said. “I think for two halves we competed, even when they made their run when we were up by 12. We did not quit. We worked hard< and we kept plugging away. I played my starters a lot of minutes to sustain our lead and to stay in the basketball game."

Beard, whom Washington selected with the second overall pick in April’s WNBA Draft, led all scorers with 13 points in the half on six of 11 shooting.

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