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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.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

WNBA: Liberty Still Alive After 73-72 Win over Mystics

By Mel Greenberg

WASHINGTON _ Alana Beard did not have repeat heroics for the Washington Mystics at the finish Thursday night, giving the New York Liberty a 73-72 victory and continued life in the hunt with Washington for the fourth and final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference.

Former No. 1 draft pick Chameka Christon nailed two fouls shots with 9.8 seconds left to produce the winning margin for the Liberty, who would have been eliminated with a loss.

“I just kept it in my mind, I’ve been here before,” Christon said of her thoughts at the line. “We work on free throws all the time and they’re free. So I just shot the ball and made them.”

Washington still had an opportunity to do that clinch fourth place on the last possession after the former Arkansas star made here free throws. Beard, who scored all 18 points here at the Verizon Center Thursday night in the fourth quarter of Washington’s one-point win the over Connecticut Sun, missed a shot as time expired.

“It was in. I knew it was in,” Beard said of her feelings as the ball left her hands. “It felt good. I work on shots like that all the time.”

The ball had gone out of bounds under the Mystics’ basketball, but Washington got a reprieve when the officials made a questionable call in its favor to retain possession after Beard lost control of the ball on the baseline going for a shot.

But that was one of several made in key situations against both teams as was the case Tuesday night causing wonder among the observers as to the amount of dropped calls by officials that have occurred in a place called the Verizon Center.

New York (14-18), arrived off a Tuesday loss at Chicago trailing Washington (15-18) by a game and a half going into the final days of the regular season.

Had the Mystics won, as mentioned, the issue would have been decided.

Instead Washington goes into Connecticut Sunday with a must-win situation and a look for help elsewhere.

That might come Friday night in New York at Madison Square Garden where the Liberty finish a back-to-back against the Sun. Connecticut will be looking to move into a tie with Indiana for second place in the standings and home-court advantage in the first round.

The Fever will be at the San Antonio Silver Stars who are contending for first or second in the Western Conference.

New York, with the win Thursday night, captured the season series, 3-1, over the Mystics and thus hold the tie-breaker if both finish fourth.

From the perspective of New York, a Connecticut win Friday night puts the Liberty a game behind the Mystics with one day left in the regular season.

New York would then have to beat the Chicago Sky at home Sunday and need Connecticut to beat Washington.

If the Liberty win Friday night, a victory Sunday gives them a playoff berth. They could also back into the spot with a loss if Connecticut beats Washington.

“Everybody knew the situation tonight,” Liberty coach Pat Coyle said afterwards of her team’s game here. “The one thing we stressed in the locker room was the game. Nothing else mattered. It was focusing in on the game.

“This is the best we’ve played since the All-Star break,” Coyle said of a game that featured an onslaught of great plays and lead changes on both sides late into the third quarter and continuing the rest of the way.

“They (Washington) have so many great players,” Coyle, a former Rutgers and West Catholic High star in Philadelphia, said. “You can’t just guard one player. You have to try and surround them.

“Tonight, when we needed to get a stop, we got a stop. When we needed to get a score, we got a score,” Coyle added.

As to Friday’s implications, Coyle said, “That’s something we’re not even going to focus in on. The most important thing is to focus on how to beat Connecticut.

“Our young team is learning what it’s like to be in a playoff race down the stretch. Everybody knows what we’re fighting for. It was a good solid win. Whatever happened tonight, I was proud of what we did.”

Janel MCarville, a candidate for most improved player in the WNBA, led New York with 18 points. Catherine Kraayeveld added 15 points, and Christon scored 12.

DeLisha Milton Jones led Washington with 21 points. Beard scored 19, and Nakia Sanford, another candidate in the most-improved race, had 14 points.

Beard quickly tried to put Washington’s fizzle at the finish into the past.

“It’s gone,” the former Duke star said. “In these moments, you have games like this and you have to move on quickly. We need this win in Connecticut.

“New York was on fire. For the most part, we had good defense, but they were on fire, especially in the first half. We we needed this game to clinch and we didn’t want to go into Sunday with that kind of pressure. But we have it and we have to step up to the challenge.”

-- Mel

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