- The Washington Times - Friday, July 28, 2006

Washington entered last night having lost three of its last four games.

Fortunately for the Mystics, the Chicago Sky were on the schedule.

Alana Beard scored 26 points and Chasity Melvin added 16 points and eight rebounds as the Mystics broke out of a prolonged funk with a 92-74 win over Chicago, the WNBA’s worst team at 3-22.

Washington, which has been beset by injuries and mounting losses after a promising start to the season, entered last night at 12-13, having lost four of its last five at once-intimidating Verizon Center.

While Washington might continue its struggles, at least it knows it is better than the Sky. In methodical fashion, the Mystics easily handled the expansion club before 9,290, snapping a two-game losing streak to improve to .500 and, perhaps, gain some much-needed confidence.

“I don’t care who we are playing,” Melvin said. “All I care about is winning. A lot of people say we only beat Chicago. But if we lost it would have been a mess. We needed a win.”

Melvin set the tone early, as the Mystics dominated the inside game. Washington shot 58.3 percent for the game and outrebounded the Sky 16-7 in the first half.

The result was Washington completed its three-game season sweep of the Sky in front of movie star Ashley Judd and her sister Wynonna, who performed a post-game concert as part of YouthAIDS Day.

The Sky lost their eighth straight and are threatening to post the worst record in the 10-year history of the WNBA. Chicago, coached by NBA Hall of Famer Dave Cowens, needs one win in its final nine contests to avoid the dubious distinction set by the 1998 Mystics, who went 3-27 in their inaugural season.

“It is not easy to lose,” said Sky guard Stacey Dales, the former Mystic who had a team-high 18 points along with Bernadette Ngoyisa. “It’s frustrating to lose. I am not going to lie. You have to look at the good things and work on the bad. We’re still learning about each other.”

Meanwhile, Washington is closing in on a playoff berth and could clinch the Eastern Conference’s fourth spot as early as Sunday when fifth-place Charlotte (8-18) visits Verizon. The Mystics, who have gone 6-10 after starting the season with a 7-3 record, have little chance of catching third-place Indiana (16-9).

Washington took control of the game midway through the first quarter with a seven-point run to take a 17-9 lead. Melvin started the run scoring on a post move off a feed from point guard Nikki Teasley (11 points, five assists). Beard then converted four consecutive free throws and DeLisha Milton-Jones made one foul shot to make it an eight-point bulge.

“[Melvin] set the tone early on the boards,” Mystics coach Richie Adubato said. “I think she had six of the first seven rebounds and scored inside.”

Another Melvin layup pushed the lead to 27-17. Washington went ahead 39-26 on a Teasley 3-pointer with 3:40 left in the first half. Teasley’s breakaway layup after a nice outlet pass from Milton-Jones made it 46-30. Washington led 49-37 at intermission after shooting 53.6 percent. Melvin had 10 points and six rebounds at the time.

“We just kind of get bullied around the boards most games,” Cowens said. “Because we just don’t have the size to compete.”

The Sky offered only token resistance in the second half. They got within 65-59 late in the third on Ngoyisa’s free throw. Adubato immediately called timeout and Washington responded with Coco Miller’s jumper. Crystal Robinson’s 3-pointer pushed the lead to 78-65 and Milton-Jones’ 3-pointer put the game away at 83-67 with 5:04 left.

Notes: Mystics reserve forward Latasha Byears missed her fifth consecutive game with tendinitis in her right foot.

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