78 - 75 Final
  for this game

Beard, Sanford help Mystics hold off Liberty 78-75

Jul 31, 2009 - 3:22 AM By VIN A. CHERWOO AP Sports Writer

NEW YORK(AP) -- The Washington Mystics got off to fast start, built a big lead and then held off the New York Liberty's furious comeback.

Alana Beard scored 28 points, Nakia Sanford had 16, and the Mystics squandered nearly all of a 22-point lead in a 78-75 victory over the New York Liberty on Thursday night.

"There's a lot of parity in this league," Beard said of the WNBA. "We couldn't expect them to stay down. I thought we had a great overall team win."

Monique Currie added 11 points, and Crystal Langhorne had 11 rebounds for Washington (10-8), which won for the third time in four games. The Mystics matched last season's win total and moved into second place in the Eastern Conference, a half-game ahead of Connecticut, which lost at first-place Indiana.

"It was huge for us," said Beard, who shot 12 for 18 from the field. "It feels really good just to win and to win like we did tonight, with everyone pitching in."

Janel McCarville scored a season-high 28 points and Shameka Christon had 17 for New York (6-11), which lost its third straight for the third time this season.

"I was happy I played the way I did," McCarville said. "It basically gets lost in the shuffle of the loss. Individual performances get you only so far. I tried to do what I could for the team. We benefited from it, but in the end it still gave us a loss."

New York trailed by 22 after the first quarter and then again early in the third. However, the Liberty used a 10-0 run to pull to 73-71 on McCarville's two free throws with 3:05 to go.

"There was no execution in the first quarter at all," Christon said. "We were down 34-12, so obviously we didn't play defense and we didn't play offense. We played three great quarters but basketball is a game of four quarters. We didn't play hard for 40 minutes."

Beard had a jumper about 50 seconds later and added a free throw with 1:42 left to push the Mystics' lead to five.

McCarville, who had nine points in the fourth, made a layup 11 seconds later to cut the Liberty's deficit to 76-73. Lindsey Harding made a free throw with 15 seconds left to seal Washington's win.

"I was proud of our team," Mystics coach Julie Plank said. "Down the stretch we hit some big shots, had some go-to plays and we had some big stops. ... It's hard once teams start coming back. I thought we kept our poise. We're learning to play together better down the stretch."

New York used an 8-2 run to pull to 69-59 on Loree Moore's free throw with 7:11 remaining.

Moore had a 3-pointer to cut the Liberty's deficit to single digits with just under 5 minutes to go. McCarville made two free throws, and Christon had a three point play to make it 73-69 with 3:45 left.

Beard had a jumper, and Langhorne a layup in the opening minute of the third quarter to stretch Washington's lead to 49-27, tying its biggest advantage of the game.

Christon's 3-pointer with 6:49 left in the third pulled New York to 53-38, and McCarville made a free throw to cut the deficit to 14 about 3 minutes later.

Sanford, who scored eight points in the third, had consecutive layups to push the Mystics' lead back to 18 a minute later.

Currie and Beard scored 10 points each as Washington grabbed a 34-12 lead after the first quarter. The Mystics shot 68 percent from the field (13 for 19) for its highest scoring quarter this season.

"No one says anything about how you scored 34 points in the first quarter," Plank said. "You always hear, 'How'd they come back?' That's hard. You get 34 points in the first quarter That's not going to happen every quarter."

It was the most points New York has allowed and the fewest it scored in a first quarter.

Currie had seven points during the Mystics' 15-0 run that gave it a 17-2 lead with 4:49 left in the quarter. Harding's jumper with 8.5 seconds to go provided the 22-point margin.

"(Washington) came out with much more energy in the first quarter," Liberty coach Pat Coyle said. "That was the difference in the game. ... We outscored them over the next three quarters and you just can't start a game like that."

After their strong opening period, the Mystics were 4 for 18 in the second but still tied their season high for first-half scoring with 45 points.

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