The Washington Mystics got the job done, it wasn’t pretty but they beat the Los Angeles Sparks 84-80 last night. So far this season, Washington has had one of the better defenses in the league. That tough defense didn’t show up until late, but it did show up. There were two debuts from key players, Nneka Ogumwike started her first game for the Sparks and Bria Hartley got some action off the bench for in her first game this season. Tierra Ruffin-Pratt is known for her defensive prowess, last night she showed everyone that she can get it done on the offensive end as well. ‘TRP’ scored a career high 20 points to pace the Mystics, coming up big in several stretches of the game in which Washington dearly needed a basket. Emma Meesseman was very efficient on that end of the floor as well, the third year player also had 20 points.
The Mystics fought hard to regain the lead heading into the fourth and final period. Clinging to a 64-61 point lead, the Sparks continued to push the Mystics. Jantel Lavender(18pts, 9rebs) played a huge role in the quarter. Stepping out to hit long two point shots as well as making the most of her post touches, a much improved player on both ends of the floor. If it wasn’t Lavender, it was Jennifer Lacy that was hitting big shots. She came off the bench to play 27 minutes, scoring 14 in that time.
Ogumwike didn’t make it through the game as she fouled out with 1:51 left in the game. Nneka didn’t play her usual position down in the post, with Lavender and Farhiya Abdi on the floor, she played small forward last night. Which definitely helped the Sparks on the offensive end of the floor, they’d been struggling on that end without Nneka, Parker, and Toliver. As she continues to get more comfortable in that role, the Sparks team will be very hard to defend.
As the game got very tight with less than two minutes left, the Sparks continued to fight. The Mystics, thanks to TRP were in the penalty and could have put the game away from the line. Normally a good free throw shooting team, Ivory Latta and Kara Lawson split their attempts at the line. Keeping the Sparks in it, late in the game with the Mystics needing a stop. Coach Thibault made a couple of defensive subs, putting Hartley and Cloud on the floor with Lawson, Ruffin-Pratt, and Meesseman. That group got it done, they forced an ill advised three. Cloud got the rebound and put the game away by knocking down both of her free throws.
Tameka Johnson was outstanding for the Sparks, she really controlled the pace of the game for the entire first half. Forcing Washington to play at their tempo, limiting the Mystics chances of getting out and running by being an outstanding floor general. She finished the game with 17 points and 10 assists.
Washington made their surge to get back into the game at the end of the first half and started the third quarter with a run before the Sparks responded. Stefanie Dolson got in early foul trouble again, in the last two games that it’s happened, her team struggled on both ends of the floor. Emma Meesseman is virtually a walking bucket, Coach Thibault again mentioned that the team ‘has to do a better job of getting her the ball’ as she’s quickly on her way to becoming one of their go-to players.
Bria Hartley’s return was a welcome sight for her team, she came off the bench with Cloud in the first half. Her timing was a bit off, but her presence on the floor meant the defense had to account for her and it led to even better spacing. The Mystics play Atlanta on the road on Friday night and return to host Chicago on Sunday afternoon.