Holdsclaw lifts Mystics to 1st win

N.Y. native's 20 points help rout Liberty, 83-61

June 15, 1999|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK -- The Madison Square Garden sound crew apparently had no sense of the obvious last night.

Instead of serenading Chamique Holdsclaw off the Garden floor with "New York, New York," after the Washington Mystics' 83-61 win over the Liberty, he chose to play "Native New Yorker," a more modern offering to be certain, but hardly appropriate.

Borrowing a line from Francis Albert Sinatra, Holdsclaw, a native New Yorker, proved she could make it here, and, in effect, make it anywhere, with a 20-point performance in front of the home town crowd and a national television audience.

"I'm so excited right now. We needed a momentum builder and this was it," Holdsclaw said.

The basketball gods seemed to conspire to hand Holdsclaw a number of story lines to work from.

In her previous appearance at the Garden in January, Holdsclaw, a four-time All-American at Tennessee, shot 2-for-9 from the field in a game against Rutgers. On Saturday, against the Houston Comets, Holdsclaw had six points, so redemption was certainly in the works.

"Coming to New York gave her a little extra oomph," said Washington coach Nancy Darsch. "She didn't play well at all the last time she was here, and she was a little more comfortable [last night] and able to focus in on things."

Holdsclaw, who had a game-high nine rebounds, must have drawn some comfort from the presence of her former collegiate coach, Pat Summitt, who was sitting courtside and doing commentary on television. The two embraced warmly after the game at center court.

Finally, Darsch was returning to face the Liberty team that dumped her after she guided the franchise to the WNBA title game in its first year, and to just out of playoff position last season.

The Mystics (1-2), who were drubbed by the two-time champion Comets by 25 points on Saturday, responded with particular passion on the defensive end, where they harassed Liberty point guard Teresa Weatherspoon into a four-assist, four-turnover night, while shutting down New York's interior game.

"Probably no one expected us to be a great defensive team like New York, and we were the aggressor and we played great defense," Holdsclaw said.

Offensively, the Mystics displayed a new-found patience and crispness, scoring a franchise-record 54 points in the second half, led by guard Nikki McCray, who had a game-high 24 points.

McCray, who like Holdsclaw is a former Tennessee All-American, had been in a slump and had been rushing shots.

But, with the Liberty threatening to erase a 16-point deficit midway through the second half, McCray scored 10 of Washington's 12 points -- hitting three three-pointers -- in a four-minute sequence to take the lead back to 17, and the Mystics never looked back.

NOTE: Holdsclaw is among 56 players who appear on the inaugural WNBA All-Star Game ballot released yesterday. The starters for the game will be selected by the fans and announced July 6. The game will be played July 14 at the Garden and televised on ESPN.

Pub Date: 6/15/99

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