- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Alana Beard took the final pass of the first half in the right corner and calmly sank an off-balance 3-pointer. The Washington Mystics’ All-Star guard then took a seat in the front row after the buzzer-beater to take a second to enjoy the dazzling show she was putting on.

Beard made all 10 of her shots to score 23 first-half points, setting the tone for a 95-60 season-opening win last night over the New York Liberty at Verizon Center. Washington impressed from the start, building a 22-point first-quarter lead to quickly dismiss the Liberty. The Mystics matched a franchise record with 50 points at halftime.

The revamped Mystics, who missed the playoffs last season and feature six new players, jumped out an 11-0 lead on DeLisha Milton-Jones’ transition 3-pointer. Milton-Jones, who earlier yesterday was named to the U.S. national team, hit another 3-pointer to put her team up 25-3.

“It’s almost like you are in a dream and nothing can go wrong,” Milton-Jones said. “We feel like we should be playing for the WNBA championship. Our fans deserve that.”

But Beard, who finished with 25 points after making her first 11 field goal attempts, was the one who ignited the blowout. Beard finished two points shy of her career-high and likely would have surpassed it had she taken more than two shots in the second half. Beard sat out the entire fourth quarter.

The third-year guard was the defensive catalyst while making her three first-half 3-pointers. She also had the play of the night with a behind-the-back pass in the lane to Milton-Jones for a layup.

“I was just having fun,” Beard said of her shots just before halftime. “That’s the one thing I said I wanted to do this year. You want to get the fans involved, plus I wanted to high-five my mom.”

About the only disappointing showing for the Mystics was the sparse crowd, which was reported at 6,460. The faithful few watched as Washington threatened its franchise single-game high of 97 points.

Washington’s defense had 18 steals and limited the Liberty (0-2) to only one basket in their first 16 possessions.

All five Washington starters, including newcomers Nikki Teasley and Crystal Robinson, were impressive. Point guard Teasley, the District native who was acquired in the offseason from Los Angeles for WNBA Rookie of the Year Temeka Johnson, had five assists in the first half.

Robinson, a free-agent small forward from New York, finished with nine points. Milton-Jones, who moves back to her natural power forward position this season, totaled 12 points, four steals and three assists.

Shameka Christian had 18 points for the Liberty, which shot 31.4 percent, committed 30 turnovers and made just 16 field goals.

Beard showed she was mortal early in the second half when she missed two free throws and then missed a shot at the third-quarter buzzer. But the Mystics continued to dominate.

“We were really able to turn up the defensive intensity in the first half to jump out on them,” Mystics coach Richie Adubato said. “It’s only the first game. The defensive pressure early in the game with Alana Beard and Crystal Robinson, I thought was terrific.”

New York sliced the deficit to 45-36 late in the second quarter before Beard took a long defensive rebound and beat the defense for a layup to reassert her team’s command.

“We wanted to make a statement,” Beard said. “When you start out right, I think it can carry the rest of the season. We made a statement tonight.”

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