The Washington Mystics started the second half of their season in emphatic fashion, while the final score looked as if the game was close and competitive, that wasn’t the case. At home for another camp day, the kids provided Washington with a constant pulse of energy in the Verizon Center. Kia Vaughn made her return, logging nearly 16 minutes of playing time. The Mystics jumped all over the visiting Storm early on and didn’t let up until halfway through the fourth quarter. The lead got up to 24 at one time, the lead never changed once, nor was the game tied. It was a dominant effort from a Washington team that seems to have found it’s rotation, their depth was on full display in the 87-74 victory.
To get an idea of how strong Washington started this game, nine of the 10 Mystics players that got in the game had scored at least one basket. They also set a new record for points in a quarter at 34, surpassing their previous best of 30. During the first half of the season, teams tried to double Emma Meesseman as much as possible to limit her impact on the game. With her front court mate taking huge strides in improving her game (they both were named to the All-Star team), Stefanie Dolson has showed that she demands the same type of attention on that end of the floor. Surprisingly, the Storm decided not to double either of Washington’s All-Star bigs. That was problematic as Messeeman and Dolson scored 12 of their team’s first 17 points, the Mystics had a 20 point lead to end the first period.
Washington was executing at an extremely high rate on both sides of the ball, at one point they were shooting 72% from the field. They limited their turnovers while playing good defense and really pushed the pace. Seattle struggled to run with Washington and they couldn’t get stops to try and force Washington to play at their desired pace.
With the starters firing on all cylinders, Seattle was hoping that their second unit could make a run to get them back in the game. The Mystics reserves, don’t want to call them a second unit as they have three members of last year’s starting lineup on that unit in Ivory Latta, Bria Hartley, and Vaughn. When they came in, things just continued. Ivory especially, she scored eight quick points upon getting into the game. Tayler Hill didn’t waste time getting involved either, she went on to have a career night in the scoring department.
The return of Vaughn allowed Washington to have more size off their bench, LaToya Sanders got to play more power forward (4) than center (5) and it was clear that she was at her most comfortable position. The Mystics closed the first half strongly after Seattle tried to get something going before the half ended. Crystal Langhorne couldn’t really get going, but she did most of her damage in that quarter. The team set a new benchmark going into the break having scored 53 points in the half.
The third quarter was all about Seattle at the start, they got a couple of stops which allowed them to dictate the pace of the game for a while. They clearly wanted to play slower as they were outmatched at the pace Washington was playing at. The Storm got great production off their bench from Abby Bishop and Markeisha Gatling, Bishop was able to knock down three triples on her way to 17 points (team high) and Gatling did some damage inside, on the block with 10 points.
It just wasn’t enough, the Mystics bench was too strong. Latta (20) and Hill (18) combined for 38 points. The pair showed off their ability to create shots in multiple ways, Ivory showed off a little touch on a floater and Hill showed that she’s not just a catch-and-shoot type of shooter. She put the ball on the floor, got to the rim easily as well.
The Storm were able to put a little dent in the lead in the fourth quarter, although it definitely looked like the Mystics took their foot off the gas a bit. Once sharp, they looked sloppy and not focused. Either way, Seattle deserves credit for mentally staying in the game through all the Washington runs and continuing to fight until the end. It was the Mystics fourth consecutive win and the first of the second half of the season.
- Kia Vaughn. Her return makes the second unit so strong, they essentially have four starters on that unit. Her size and skill were a welcome sight to her teammates as well to those watching. As she continues to get her legs underneath her, Washington now has four bigs that all need to be accounted for on both ends of the floor
- Pace. This may have been the first game this season in which the Mystics pushed the pace that hard, there weren’t spurts but it was almost constant until they noticeably let up
- Depth. The Mystics are loaded, former All-Stars are on their second unit. So much fire power, it literally looked like they have two good starting lineups that could compete in this league
- Emma/Steph. The duo is special, this is just the beginning for them. They just cause so much trouble for defenses, they showed how tough they are to stop one-on-one several times during this game
- Tayler Hill. She is a dynamic, complete player that is a luxury for the Mystics. When she gets it going, there’s no doubt that she’s capable of scoring 20-30 points in a game. Heck of a weapon
- Unity. On a team with so few veterans, several of which aren’t out of their primes, it’s amazing to see them genuinely cheering for the younger players that are playing ahead of them after the recent lineup shuffle. It’s clearly a tight-nit team and that should help them going forward