- The Washington Times - Monday, July 27, 2009

Julie Plank stressed before the All-Star break that the Washington Mystics would need to rely on their depth in the second half of the season to make the playoffs. It seems Monique Currie heard her coach’s call.

Waking from a monthlong slump Sunday, Currie was one of four Mystics players in double figures as Washington opened the second half with an 87-73 win against the Sacramento Monarchs at Verizon Center.

“Julie and my teammates have all been very encouraging and very positive throughout,” said Currie, who entered the game averaging just 6.6 points. “They really have given me the confidence to just keep working hard and let things come to me. I’ve been more relaxed out there lately, and I was able to make a couple of shots today which really made things easier.”

Currie’s 12 points were her most since the first game of the season. She averaged nearly 30 minutes last season for Washington’s talent-deprived roster, but this year the fourth-year forward has been splitting time with rookie Marissa Coleman. Efficiency has never been Currie’s strength, but Sunday she was 3-for-5 from the floor and 5-for-6 from the free throw line.

Washington has only gotten consistent production from All-Star Alana Beard, point guard Lindsey Harding and forward Crystal Langhorne this year. If Currie, who has averaged double figures every year of her career, can regain her form, the Mystics might realize Plank’s vision of consistently scoring in the 80s.

“That’s the plan,” Currie said. “I’m really gonna be focused this second half and definitely contribute more to help us be successful, because it’s going to get tougher, so I’m going to need to be there.”

Sacramento likes to gamble for steals, so the Mystics slowed the game down even though that isn’t their preference. They ran a lot of pick and rolls, letting Harding and Beard create.

Harding (16 points) and Langhorne (19) executed the play well for most of the game. With those two getting easy baskets early, Sacramento’s defense focused on them, which in turn created open shots for Washington’s wing players - and Currie was up to the task.

Chasity Melvin (10 points) was the fourth Mystics player in double figures.

“It feels good to know that you don’t have to go out there and do much,” said Beard, who had nine points and five assists. “The only thing I really had to do is shut down Nicole Powell and play defense and keep my teammates involved, and that’s pretty easy when you have players knocking down shots. The past two games have been very good team wins for us.”

Washington (9-7) opened up a 17-point lead in the first quarter behind Harding, who had 10 of her 16 points in the opening period. Sacramento looked unprepared for Washington’s fast break and in particular Harding, who went coast-to-coast on four occasions.

Sacramento (4-15) kept battling and got as close as 74-69 with 3:46 left in the fourth quarter. But Melvin scored four straight points and, after two Sacramento free throws, Currie hit a 3-pointer to ice the game.

The Mystics went 4-2 on their July homestand and have won back-to-back games for the first time since they started the season 3-0.

“We’ve got to take our momentum on the road,” Plank said. “We’ve won on the road in big places and we need to take that effort into Indiana and into New York for a couple big wins before we come back here.”

MERCURY 94, LIBERTY 88: Diana Taurasi had 34 points and 13 rebounds in her first game back since being suspended to lead visiting Phoenix past New York.

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