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Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

WNBA:Mystics Duo Subdues Liberty

By Mel Greenberg

_ In the Atlantic Coast Conference, Duke’s Alana Beard and North Carolina’s Nikki Teasley were fierce opponents.

Now as teammates on the Washington Mystics they have become the “Score Sisters” as a backcourt duo that is firing up coach Richie Adubato’s offense.

The two put on an explosive show Saturday night in the Verizon Center with each collecting 26 points towards Washington’s 88-70 victory over the New York Liberty.

Teasley, who came to the Mystics in an offseason trade with the Los Angeles Sparks, was exceptionally deadly from the outside by connecting on 6 of 10 three pointers and her overall score was a career high.

But the giddiness of a 7-3 record, including 6-0 in the Verizon Center, was tempered by a left knee injury to forward DeLisha Milton-Jones, a member of the United States entry to the FIBA World Championships in September, who went to the sidelines with 1 minute, 11 seconds left in the half.

The injury was initially reported as a sprain but an MRI examination will determine the actual extent of the damage.

The former Florida star suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury to her right knee during the 2004 season and was unable to play in the Olympics in Athens.

“We don’t know about DeLisha right now,” Adubato said afterwards of one of his star players. “The doctor will know by Monday. It was a hard price to pay for a win. DeLisha is versatile and does everything on the floor.”

New York (2-9) recovered enough from Friday’s 72-56 loss to the Houston Comets in Madison Square Garden to be competitive most of the game. The Liberty had also lost here 95-60 last month at Washington’s season-opener.

On Saturday night, a narrow 65-59 deficit for New York at the end of the third quarter quickly deepened into another Washington route when the Mystics outran the Liberty to a 23-11 advantage over the final 10 minutes.

Beard, who had five steals in the game, scored 10 points in the final period when Teasley also connected on a pair of three pointers.

Shameka Christon scored 16 points to lead the Liberty, Becky Hammon scored 14. and Loree Moore scored 11 points.

“We just turned the ball over too much,” New York coach Pat Coyle said of New York’s four miscues in the final period. “One of the things going into tonight’s game was we wanted to take care of the ball.

“The first half, we did,” Coyle said. “I thought we played three good quarters. The last quarter killed us. We made a couple of mistakes on our part. And we made a couple of mistakes in transition, so it went from being 6 to 15 in a second.”

Coyle was equally complimentary of both Beard and Teasley.

“They’re both terrific players,” the former Rutgers star,who grew up in Philadelphia, said. “They each give you something different.”

Beard said of her involvement in the 1-2 scoring punch Saturday night, “We have so many people on this team who can score. Tonight was Nikki’s turn. Tonight was my turn. We made it happen. But we didn’t make it happen by ourselves.

“We had great teammates who got the ball inside and they kicked it back outside to us. And I think we played great team defense, offense, the whole way,” Beard said.

“All of my steals came from my teammates playing great defense,” Beard said of her interceptions, some of which were executed in the manner of swipes made by secondary players in football. “They were pressuring the ball. A lot of times I came from behind and got the steals because they were pressuring the ball. It wasn’t just me.”

Teasley spoke of playing in the backcourt with her former basketball enemy.

“Alana’s a ball of fire – I’m enjoying playing with her,” Teasley said. “Playing against her all those years was not fun. But this year, it’s a lot of fun. I actually look forward to getting up every morning and coming to my job because I love my teammates. We’re having fun together as friends and as a team.”

Teasley said there’s a reason for her career numbers with the Mystics this season as opposed to her previous life with the Sparks, when she helped give L.A. a WNBA title when she made a shot at the buzzer over New York in the second game of the 2002 championship series.

“In L.A., we were very, very talented with the lineup we had so I didn’t have to do very much,” Teasley said. “Here, coming in and being a veteran player I have to show some leadership on the flip side of being a rookie and having to follow.”

Washington’s next game will be at New York, Wednesday night.

-- Mel


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