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Another Garden party for Holdsclaw

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Or maybe she’s just that good.

But, minutes after finishing last Thursday’s...

By Christine Sampson

It could be that Madison Square Garden is less of a road venue than most other cities which Chamique Holdsclaw’s six-season career with the Washington Mystics has taken her.

Or maybe she’s just that good.

But, minutes after finishing last Thursday’s game against the New York Liberty with 19 points and 10 rebounds — her seventh double-double of the season — Holdsclaw tried, but couldn’t remember ever having what she’d call a bad game there.

“I can’t recall,” she said. “It’s all my friends and family who come when I play here, even though I’m probably .500 at the Garden.”

The Mystics (8-8) arrived at .500 that day, thumping the injury-laden Liberty, 71-54. It’s something that in past seasons could have been almost solely attributed to the routinely dominant play by Holdsclaw, the Astoria native and former Christ the King standout whose No. 23 jersey was recently retired at Tennessee.

But these days, that’s not so much the case. If she ever does manage to have a subpar performance, Holdsclaw’s got some help.

“She’s one of the best players in the league, if not the best, and she’s been doing it by herself for a long time with this franchise,” Mystics head coach Michael Adams said. “Unfortunat­ely, we haven’t been consistent enough to help her, but now we’re seeing that we have players that can do it when they come ready to play.”

Rookie guard Alana Beard (11 points), fresh out of Duke, is proving herself in the real world. Players like Murriel Page (seven points, six rebounds), Coco Miller and Kiesha Brown (eight points each) are part of a reserve force that outscored the Liberty bench 29-4.

It’s about time, Holdsclaw says. She has never been the kind of player who will settle for winning only the same number of games she has lost, and she’s been waiting for others to catch on.

“You can’t become complacent…there’s so much more to accomplish,” said Holdsclaw, who is leading the WNBA in points per game (20.4). “The next game is when we start the season again. We can compete with anybody in this league.”

She certainly won an unspoken competition between herself and one other area player on the court last Thursday night - the Liberty’s Bethany Donaphin, a product of Horace Mann High School in the Bronx.

Donaphin started the game in place of the injured Ann Wauters (stress fractures in right foot), who, in turn, had been starting in place of Tari Phillips (fractured right hand). In all, three starters missed the game with injuries.

Donaphin finished with 10 rebounds but scored just three points in her second start with the Liberty. Vickie Johnson led the scoring with 14. New York had an 18-16 lead on a pair of Johnson free throws 8:41 into the game, but fell behind after a 21-8 Washington run spanning about eight minutes of the first half.

“We just have to straighten out our offense,” said Pat Coyle, the Liberty’s brand-new head coach, who avoided using her team’s injuries as an excuse. “We have too many good shooters and good offensive players to shoot 33-percent.”

And Holdsclaw agreed, admitting some surprise at the relative ease with which her team pulled off the win. The last time they met, Washington emerged the winner by just two points.

“We’re capable of great things,” she said. “It takes time to nurture it and get everything rolling. I think that step by step, we’re getting better in all areas.”

Reach contributing writer Christine Sampson by E-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.

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