- The Washington Times - Monday, July 31, 2006

The Washington Mystics clinched their fourth playoff berth in the franchise’s nine-year history despite playing without leading scorer Alana Beard for the second half of last night’s 78-73 victory against the Charlotte Sting.

Beard was ejected in the second quarter for arguing a charging call, but forward DeLisha Milton-Jones filled the void by scoring 22 of her game-high 26 points in the second half against the Sting before 6,502 at Verizon Center.

The Mystics (15-13) hold the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference and would play top-seeded Connecticut (21-6) if the playoffs started today.

“I thought DeLisha Milton-Jones had a great game. She made all the big shots, especially in the second half,” Mystics coach Richie Adubato said. “We called upon her, and she drove on some, hit the 3. She did a great job on the boards and was 11-for-11 from the foul line.”

Acquired from the Los Angeles Sparks two years ago as part of the Chamique Holdsclaw deal, Milton-Jones kept the Mystics from self-destructing. The 6-foot-1 forward made seven of 11 shots and pulled down a game-high nine rebounds, helping to offset the Mystics’ 14 turnovers and the combined 16-for-52 shooting by her teammates.

But it appeared earlier the Mystics’ postseason party would have to wait, especially when Beard was ejected.

With the Sting (8-20) enjoying a 26-19 lead — Charlotte’s biggest of the first half — Beard drove hard to the basket off the left wing. She beat Kelly Mazzante to the baseline, but Monique Currie and center Tammy Sutton-Brown collapsed on Beard. Currie, a college teammate of Beard’s at Duke, crashed to the floor, and referee Michael Price called Beard for the foul.

Price called a technical on Beard when she jumped to her feet and went up to his face. That further infuriated Beard, who had more to say. Price then nailed Beard with a second technical, and her evening was over with 3:58 left in the half.

“When you see a player as great as Alana Beard get tossed out of a game off of some sensitivity in my opinion, I was like, ‘OK, we’re not going to let this happen tonight,’” Milton-Jones said. “We won a great game [Saturday] against a great team [Indiana]. We’re not going to let a Charlotte, who basically packed up their season five games ago, come in and destroy everything we prepared for up until this moment.”

After Beard’s ejection, Adubato stormed to midcourt and had to be restrained by center Chasity Melvin and stadium security. An irate fan also was tossed out of Verizon Center when she threw something and stepped onto the court.

Beard finished with four points on 2-for-8 shooting, six rebounds and two assists. She refused to comment about the first ejection in her three-year WNBA career.

Now the task in front of the Mystics (15-13) is to finish above .500. While the Mystics have been to the postseason before, only the 2002 team that went 17-15 finished above .500.

With six games remaining, the Mystics need to go at least 3-3 the rest of the way.

The Mystics will have to do that without swing player Crystal Robinson, who injured her left ankle in the first quarter of Washington’s 74-67 victory at the Indiana Fever on Saturday. Adubato said Robinson is expected to be out four to six weeks with a high ankle sprain. If that is the case, Robinson will miss the rest of the season, including the playoffs.

Liberty 78, Lynx 69

NEW YORK — Barbara Farris and Shameka Christon scored 20 points apiece to help New York win its third straight game.

Monarchs 94, Shock 61

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Rebekkah Brunson had a career-high 18 points and eight rebounds as Sacramento routed Detroit.

Comets 82, Mercury 80

PHOENIX — Astou Ndiaye-Diatta made a 10-footer in the lane with 4.1 seconds left to lift Houston to a victory at Phoenix.

Sun 72, Silver Stars 65

UNCASVILLE, Conn. — Asjha Jones matched her career high with 22 points and grabbed eight rebounds to lead Connecticut past San Antonio.

Fever 69, Sky 64

CHICAGO — Tamika Catchings had 20 points and nine rebounds to lead Indiana over Chicago.

Sparks 71, Storm 70

SEATTLE — Lisa Leslie scored 31 points in Los Angeles’ victory at Seattle.

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