- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 8, 2006

The defending WNBA champion Sacramento Monarchs didn’t take their first lead against the Washington Mystics until late in the third quarter last night. From there, they maintained control and went on to a 73-60 victory at Verizon Center.

Monarchs guard Kara Lawson, who played at West Springfield High School before starring at Tennessee, hit a 21-foot 3-pointer with 22.6 seconds remaining in the third to give Sacramento its first lead of the game 51-50.

“I think any time you play on the road and it’s a tight game, when you have the opportunity to grab the lead and you get it, it gives you confidence as a player and gives your whole team confidence,” Lawson said. “That shot spurned us to start the fourth quarter and really play well defensively, which won us the game.”

The Monarchs (11-8) opened the final quarter on a 12-0 run. The Mystics ended a drought with a Nakia Sanford layup with 4:13 remaining — more than eight minutes after their previous score late in the third quarter.

Sacramento forward Nicole Powell and Lawson each scored 12 points. Lawson scored seven points in the fourth.

The loss — the Mystics’ second straight at Verizon Center — dropped Washington to 7-2 at home in front of a crowd of 7,847.

“We are trying to create an atmosphere in our home court where you have some sort of fear when you come into this arena,” Mystics coach Richie Adubato said. “So we’ve got to get on a new streak at home.”

Washington (9-10) also fell below .500 for the first time all season.

Returning to Verizon Center after a road trip in which they went 1-3, the Mystics fell behind 21-12 but rallied before halftime.

After Monarchs guard Scholanda Dorrell failed to handle a pass that sailed into the crowd with 3:05 remaining in the second quarter, Washington finished the half on a 9-0 run, seizing a 36-35 lead. During those final minutes, Monarchs coach John Whisenant was called for a technical foul. That allowed Crystal Robinson to sink a free throw and cut the Mystics’ deficit to three while also giving Washington a crucial possession.

Chasity Melvin, who finished with 10 points and eight rebounds, made the next layup and the Mystics cruised into halftime.

But Washington could not sustain that lead and fell to 6-3 when leading at halftime.

The Mystics’ offense ranked second in the league heading into last night’s contest with an average of 81 points. But the Monarchs held them to a season-low in scoring.

“We couldn’t score,” said guard Alana Beard, who led the team with 15 points and three assists despite a nagging injury to her right ankle. “Sacramento did an unbelievable job of buckling down on the defensive end and we couldn’t get stops and they hit offensively. So that was the difference in the game really.”

Beard missed the previous two games, but said she felt healthy enough to play last night and plans to play tomorrow against the Chicago Sky (2-14).

“I probably didn’t play to the best of my ability,” Beard said. “But I’m just happy I could play.”

Notes — Washington will honor former Mystics player and two-time Olympic gold medalist Nikki McCray at halftime of tomorrow’s game. McCray, finishing her career this year with the Sky, announced her retirement on June 28. She was with the Mystics from 1998 to 2001 before heading to the Indiana Fever. McCray is second all-time among Mystics with 1,921 career points. …

Monarchs forward Rebekkah Brunson had a homecoming last night. She played four years at Georgetown, where she was named the Big East Defensive Player of the Year in 2004.

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