- The Washington Times - Friday, July 29, 2005

A career night from Alana Beard sent the Washington Mystics back over .500.

The second-year star from Duke matched a career high with 27 points and set a career high with seven steals as the Mystics rolled past the hapless San Antonio Silver Stars 73-58 at MCI Center.

“It was the Alana Beard show tonight,” Mystics coach Richie Adubato said. “The performance she gave the fans was unbelievable. You talk about 11 of 18 [shooting], six assists, no turnovers and then seven steals. Our goal is to get 10 steals a game — as a team.”

It was an important victory for the Mystics, who rebounded from an 18-point home loss to Houston on Tuesday. The Mystics, who had lost two straight at MCI Center, dealt the Silver Stars their 12th loss in 13 road games.

The Mystics (12-11) moved into third place in the Eastern Conference by a half-game over New York, which lost to Connecticut. The top four teams in the six-team conference make the playoffs, and Washington has 11 games left in the regular season.

“It was an absolute must-win for us,” said Adubato, whose team is 6-6 at home. “There is absolutely no question after the other night. We have to win our home games.”

San Antonio played without leading scorer Marie Ferdinand (13.2 points), who missed the game because of a death in the family. The Silver Stars became the first WNBA team to clinch a losing record this season by dropping to 6-18.

It was a surprising performance for Beard, who missed practice Wednesday with ankle problems. With the benefit of the day off, she had several steals on the perimeter that led to breakaway layups.

“I still have some pain, but I just have to get used to playing with it,” said Beard, who missed time earlier this season with a pulled hamstring and a sprained ankle. “My mind-set was different tonight. I have been trying to get to this point all season. I finally made it.”

Center Chasity Melvin was the only other Mystics player in double figures, scoring 12 points.

The Mystics took an early nine-point lead, and it never dwindled to less than four. They made seven of nine shots and built that nine-point lead with 13:15 left after Beard’s perimeter steal led to her own breakaway layup. However, Washington made only five of its next 17 shots, including missing all four 3-pointers, as the Silver Stars closed within 28-24 on Shannon Johnson’s 3-pointer.

San Antonio never got closer. Washington led 37-29 at the half after a five-point run on a 3-pointer from DeLisha Milton-Jones and a spin move and score in the lane by Kaayla Chones.

San Antonio’s Dalma Ivanyi’s 3-pointer trimmed the lead to 44-38 with 16:30 remaining, but the Mystics put the game away with an eight-point run — keyed by Melvin’s six points. The center had a layup, a baseline fall-away jumper and two free throws to make it 52-38.

Notes — Beard also scored 27 points against Sacramento on July18, 2004. … The Mystics finished with a 7-7 record against the Western Conference.

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