Coming off of back-to-back losses to the WNBA defending champion Indiana Fever, the Washington Mystics were lethargic when it came to their shooting and rebounding. But Washington got just what they needed from a Camp Day afternoon.
The Mystics used that energy on defense and rebounding to overcome a 21-point first half deficit to defeat the Eastern Division leading Chicago Sky 82-78 in front of 14, 411 fans at the Verizon Center which mostly comprised of camp kids.
Washington point guard Ivory Latta, who led the Mystics with 18 points and 13 assists, said about the game, “You know what, we didn’t start the game right like we’re supposed to. But that third and fourth quarter is how we’re supposed to play. That’s Mystics basketball and we got back to it. We can’t continue to put ourselves in a hole like that. But at the same time, we got to rally ourselves. That’s what we did. Everybody came in and did their part and we got a win.”
Again, it wasn’t a great start for the Mystics offensively. Washington (9-9) only hit five field goals in the first quarter compared to seven for Chicago. The Mystics started with mostly jump shots and couldn’t convert. They were 5-of-17 (29.4%) from the field in the first quarter. It didn’t get any easier in the second quarter as Chicago (12-5) built their huge advantage to 35-14 on a pair of Sylvia Fowles free throws with 6:34 left.
But the Mystics started chipping away quickly with a 19-7 run. It started with a driving lay-up by Crystal Langhorne and ended on an Ivory Latta free throw off a technical foul on the Sky’s head coach Pokey Chatman. That shot drew Washington to within 42-33 with 1:05 remaining in the first half. At halftime, Chicago was up 44-35.
The Mystics kept up the momentum in the second half. Washington outscored Chicago 15-5. The Mystics didn’t allow a Chicago point for the first 3:30 of the third quarter. That helped the Mystics cut their halftime deficit to one on a Latta step back jump shot with 6:53 remaining to make the score 44-43 Chicago.
The Sky finally got on the board with two Sylvia Fowles free throws with 6:30 remaining. Fowles led Chicago with 21 points and nine rebounds. Then Courtney Vandersloot’s pull-up jumper helped extend the Chicago advantage to 49-43 with 5:54 left.
Washington responded with seven straight points, ending on Tayler Hill’s three-point shot from the corner to give the Mystics the lead for good at 50-49 with 4:06 remaining. It was nip and tuck from there until the game was tied at 56 when the third quarter buzzer sounded.
The fourth quarter came and stepping up from the bench was Emma Meesseman. It was her show from the first shot on in the last quarter. Emma’s jumper from 15 feet was good to give the Mystics the lead again at 58-56. From there, Meesseman found herself with some more opportunities that she capitalized on often. That included a driving finger roll lay-up over Fowles to help the Mystics take a 75-64 lead with five minutes left in the game.
Coach Thibault said about Meesseman, who scored all 12 of her points in the fourth quarter, “It was huge. [Crystal] Langhorne had a sore back and it was debatable whether she was even going to play today. Once Emma got going I felt like I was going to leave her out there and let her get experience under fire and she stepped up. We ran a play for her to start the fourth quarter and sometimes in practice she will shoot it and sometimes she will pass it up. I told her at the timeout that you have to shoot it; if you’re open you have to shoot. She stepped up and made it with confidence and I think it got her going. I thought her defense was terrific. We need her to be that. She could be one of the best jump post players in the league if she wants to be.”
The Sky made a charge late and drew within 81-78 on a Swin Cash jumper with 14.9 seconds left in the game. However, Hill converted the second of two free throws with 12.4 seconds left to finally put Chicago away.
Chicago head coach Pokey Chatman said about the game, “Obviously it was an extremely disappointing loss. I can pick a lot of places. I think any time you allow a team to score in the 80s, you make it tough on yourself – especially when you got out to a nice momentum type play – that’s extremely disappointing. I was just relaying to the team, there was a crucial moment in there where [the Mystics] had three transition buckets when the game was on the line, so we have to suck it up and be a little tougher.”
Both teams are on the All-Star break. The Mystics host Bill Laimbeer and the New York Liberty on July 31 at the Verizon Center. Tipoff is at 7 pm.