Mystics Blow-Out Shock

By Carla Peay
Updated: June 5, 2006

Washington Mystics star Alana Beard prepares to drive to the basket.

Washington Mystics star Alana Beard prepares to drive to the basket.

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Six banners hang in the rafters of the Verizon Center with the Washington Mystics logo. The banners represent the years from 1998-2000, and 2002-2004. The banners proudly claim “WNBA Attendance Champions”. 2006 marks the tenth anniversary of the WNBA, and for six of those ten, the Washington franchise has led the league in attendance. But upon watching a screaming, yet sparse crowd of 5,897 on Saturday afternoon as the Washington Mystics defeated the Detroit Shock 92-68, I couldn’t help but wonder, what are people doing in this town on a cloudy Saturday afternoon that’s better than watching Alana Beard play basketball?

“I’m sure a lot of people picked Detroit and Connecticut to be dominant forces in the East, but I think if we continue to do what we’re doing as a team we’ll get our recognition, but we have to stay focused and consistent”, says Beard, a 5’11” guard/forward, whose energy and passion and infectious smile should make fans in Washington D.C. conjure up images of Gilbert Arenas.

Beard, a third year player out of Duke, is currently leading the league in field goal percentage, 3-point field goal percentage, and is 6th in the league in scoring, averaging 20.3 points per game. The Mystics are off to a 3-1 start, the closest of those contests being a 15 point victory.

Was Beard expecting a blowout against Detroit, the WNBA Champions of 2003, even without the Shock’s injured star Cheryl Ford? Beard smiled.

“We expect to win every single game. You know there’s going to be a dogfight every single time you step onto the court with the parity in the league being so prevalent. I think defensively we buckled down and had key defensive plays when we needed them. I can’t say it was all our defense, you have to also credit it being an off-night for them”, she added.

It was also an off-night for the shot clock, when at 8:05 in the third quarter, the game was delayed for 28 minutes when the overhead scoreboard went out. The game resumed using temporary clocks that were placed on the floor, with the actual scoreboard not coming back on until halfway through the fourth quarter. Both Beard and star forward DeLisha Milton-Jones, who led all scorers with 21 points, found the interruption more than a little distracting.

“Oh my goodness”, Milton-Jones began, with a shake of her head. “It was very distracting. As players you get warm and you’re in the game and you know the flow of the game and then it’s a complete stop for ten, fifteen minutes, and it’s really tough to get yourself back at that level”, Jones said.

“It was very distracting. It takes more energy trying to tell yourself to stay focused than playing an actual game. But the team came back. We got off to a slow start after that but we picked it back up, so I’m very impressed with the way the team handled it”, Beard added.

As to the game itself, Milton-Jones credits the team’s defense for holding the Shock to a less than 30% shooting percentage from the floor.

“They were missing a lot of easy opportunities because some of those shots were wide open and the lay-ups were uncontested, but the ball just didn’t bounce their way. Another part that played big dividends for us was our intensity on the defensive end. We were trying to present different defensive schemes to them to keep them thinking and keep them guessing which led to us making them bobble the ball and maybe them throwing up something that they probably wouldn’t shoot otherwise”, she added.

In appreciation to the fans that waited though the 28-minute delay, the Washington Mystics are offering all fans who attended the game a free $10 ticket to the June 13th contest against Charlotte.

The WNBA features an up-tempo brand of basketball that’s energetic and exciting, with players who clearly love what they do as much as their male counterparts. As NBA fans prepare to watch the finals of one of the most exciting playoff seasons in recent memory, all basketball fans should remember one of the WNBA’s best marketing campaigns from a few years ago, “We Got Next”. They certainly do.