Coming into last night’s affair, the Washington Mystics (2-2) were coming off a big victory over the New York Liberty. The Los Angeles Sparks entered the contest 2-1, led by the stellar play of one Candace Parker.
The Mystics got off to a slow start offensively, at times the offense looked downright stagnant. To top things off, Emma Meesseman got into early foul trouble and was reduced to a spectator early in the first period. The Mystics bench accounted for 7 of the 12 first quarter points, led by rookie guard Bria Hartley. Veteran guard Monique Currie caught fire in the second quarter, knocking down two layups and also dialed one up from long distance. Washington was on top 33-28 at the half, Currie led the charge with 12 points. Reigning MVP Candace Parker led the Sparks, netting 12 points in the half. The Mystics found themselves in early foul trouble during the first half which kept LA in the game. Parker went (8-8) from the free throw line, Lindsey Harding contributed eight points for the Sparks.
It was a tug of war for most of the second half, the lead switching hands multiple times. Every time the Mystics seemed to pull away, the Sparks kept forcing the issue to battle back. Rookie center Stefanie Dolson impacted the game in the second half, not just offensively but on the defensive end as well. Dolson was the rim protector the Mystics needed in this game, she altered countless field goal attempts on the interior. Her presence forced the Sparks wings to take and make contested jump shots for most of the second half. Towards the end of the third quarter the Sparks turned their defensive intensity up a notch as well. They were hopping in passing lanes, deflecting entry passes, and diving for loose balls. Hartley converted on a three point play the old fashioned way, she was bumped on a jumper and hit the free throw with 25.6 remaining in the third. Parker started off the fourth quarter by nailing a three from the left elbow to give the Sparks a 48-43 advantage. Dolson knotted the game up on a foul line jumper with 8:16 to go.
Then with six minutes and change, Hartley stole the ball and capped off the break with a strong finish at the rim to give Washington a 55-51 lead. Candace Parker was a stud throughout this game, making big shot after big shot along with running mate Nneka Ogwumike. The duo combined for 48 of the teams 84 points, while Alana Beard was nothing short of invisible. Beard had an anemic shooting night (3-15) and finished with a total of nine points (during this season she is the teams second leading scorer). With the game even at 59, Ivory Latta had a chance to close the game out but her three point attempt fell short as time expired. This game went into triple overtime and was a nail biter until the final buzzer.
In the first of the extra periods, the Mystics drew first blood on a Stephanie Dolson layup with 3:03 remaining. On the ensuing possession, Parker was fouled and stepped to the charity stripe, converting both attempts. With 1:21 left in the period, Candace Parker sniffed out an offensive rebound and calmly put it back in the basket. It was fitting that Mystics captain Ivory Latta saved the day; with five seconds left, she drilled an awkward desperation three pointer from the top of the key to force the second overtime. Much like the first extra period,Candace Parker was ruthless, knocking down a midrange jumper to give the Sparks a 68-66 advantage. Jelena Milovanovic then converted on a three point play with 4:20 left, giving Washington a 69-68 lead. The Sparks had a couple of empty trips offensively before Hartley connected from downtown with 3:15 left, giving the Mystics a four point lead. It seemed as if the Mystics had this one all wrapped up before Lindsey Harding made a three of her own, cutting the Mystics lead to one. The teams then traded baskets and with 1:10 left, Alana Beard stroked a three from the corner to tie things up at 76. Ivory Latta was fouled by Armintie Herrington with five seconds left, Latta made both free throws to force a third overtime.
From that moment on, it was the Bria Hartley show as she scored eight of her team high 20 points in the final period. Fellow rookie Stefanie Dolson, played big defensively all night with no play bigger than the block on Ogwumike with 53 seconds remaining in the game. After blocking the shot, Dolson also was able to corral the rebound. Washington converted their free throws and closed the deal. Candace Parker led all scorers with 32 points (11-12 from FT line), hauled in 12 rebounds, 6 assists and 6 steals. Teammate Nneka Ogwumike also registered a double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds. Bria Hartley led the Mystics with 20 points, grabbed 6 rebounds and also handed out 4 assists. Ivory Latta had an off night, but made clutch plays when needed. Latta finished with 14 points (4-17) 6 rebounds and 8 assists, she also had a surprising five turnovers. The Mystics bench combined for 65 of the teams 92 points in this contest. Washington throttled the Sparks on the boards with a 52-39 rebounding edge. A big stat in this game was points off turnovers, the Mystics scored 36 points off of the 16 Sparks miscues. The Mystics travel to face the Connecticut Sun Thursday June 5th at 7pm.