Night of 3,001 Sheilas. The "official" attendance reads 8,894 (the usual 6,500 die-hard Mystics fans, plus about 2,400 new cross-overs, many in Washington Capitals hockey jerseys who had heard that if you liked your sports with some hard checking and a few good knock-downs, the Mystics games were the place to be), but the true attendance was actually close to 12,000 because the official count doesn't include all 3,001 Sheilas. Early arriving fans received 3,000 Limited Edition (numbered!) Bobble-less-heads Sheila Johnson "figurines" (imported from China, home of Pax the Panda), while the 1 and only true limited edition real Sheila J danced and cheered from the owner's box. The energy of almost 12,000 Mystics fans (live and limited editions) turned out to be too much for the WNBA-leading LA Sparks as the Mystics beat them by a score of 84-74.
Playing four quarters of playoff quality basketball, the Mystics shot an impressive 52.6% from the field, while limiting the Sparks to 35.6%. Red hot Alana Beard showed why she was just named to the 2006 USA Basketball Women's World Championship Team, leading all scorers with 29 points (and 9 boards), while DeLisha Milton-Jones followed up her career-high night against Charlotte with 18 against her former team. Chasity Melvin and Nakia Sanford combined for great work inside, limiting Lisa Leslie to only 10 points and putting her into foul trouble early. As the BasketCases noted earlier today, the game featured three players on each team who had played on the other team. ("Original Mystic" Murriel Page in particular got a huge ovation from the crowd when she was introduced.) The players were vying for bragging rights against their old teammates (and in some cases, old friends), and we could not be happier with the outcome.
Tonight's win was the 4th in a row for the Mystics, and with Indy's loss to Detroit puts DC only 1-1/2 games out of 3rd place in the Eastern Conference. The BasketCases couldn't have scripted a better sendoff for the Mystics as they head west to face two tough opponents, the Storm and the Monarchs.
Photo Credit: DC BasketCases