The Washington Mystics found themselves trailing heading into the fourth quarter in Dallas. Just a game prior, they were in a similar situation where the next 10 minutes would dictate whether they’d win or lose. This time, the Mystics completed the rally and held on for a hard earned win over the Dallas Wings, 88-83.
As expected, Washington had trouble with the Wings backcourt duo of Odyssey Sims and Skylar Diggins. The third wheel, which may have been unexpected by some was rookie Aerial Powers from Michigan State. The youngster did most of her damage in the first half while showing her vast array of skills in the process.
The Mystics were without one of their veteran leaders in Ivory Latta, she missed the game due to issues with her knee. Kia Vaughn and Tierra Ruffin-Pratt were present and they played a big role in Washington’s win. The two vets hit timely baskets, settling down their younger teammates at times during Dallas runs. TRP did a great job when the Mystics went down seven in the first half, the offense had become stagnant so she started attacking the rim and drawing fouls. With their starting bigs going a combined 4-of-13 from the field for 12 points, the Mystics needed everything they could get from Vaughn. She responded with 17 points and 6 rebounds on 8-of-10 shooting.
The trio of Sims, Diggins, and Powers got going in the third quarter as they would respond to a Washington run with one of their own. The trio would account for 62 of the Wings 83 points on the night.
The Mystics turned things around on the defensive end of the floor, coupled with tenth leading scorer in the league getting hot. Tayler Hill started the game slow, but would finish with a game-high 25 when it was all said and done. Coach Thibault used a defensively fluid lineup to finish the game. Hill and TRP were the guards with Kahleah Copper at small forward, LaToya Sanders at power forward and Vaughn at center. That gave them the rebounding they needed and they were able to switch everything 1 through 4 (point guard-power forward).
Sanders would make the biggest defensive play of the game, she was switched on to Sims nearly 30 feet away from the basket. She had no help and it was a point guards dream, Sims had Sanders on her with nobody in sight. Sims went in to a crossover and stepback, but Sanders waited and jumped. LaToya avoided contact with Sims on the first jump, but Sims didn’t shoot it as the long arms of Sanders were within range to block it. She reloaded and shot again, Sanders stepped to the left of Sims and blocked it with her right hand. Hill was then fouled and she iced it from the line.
The win over Dallas was of the must-win variety and that will continue this week for the Mystics. They have a three-game home stand this week and need to get every one of them to ensure their playoff spot. Just a reminder, this is the first year that the top eight teams regardless of conference make the post season. Washington is still in it, for now.
Powers. She is literally the Draymond Green for the Wings. She can guard 1 through 5 and did so in different parts of the game, her handle allows her to break down the defense and force help on the drive. Pulling the defenders that are glued on Sims and Diggins to take a step away from them. She makes plays for others and is a force attacking the basket. Her motor is extremely high as well, she’s really starting to come into her own as her rookie year comes to a close. The matchups between her and Washington’s Kahleah Copper will be fun for years to come.
Heart and Soul. She typically sits back and plays a role, with Latta’s absence she really stepped it up and gave Washington another aggressive guard to accompany Tayler Hill. Tierra Ruffin-Pratt held things down and than willingly took a step back late in the game when Hill got it going. This version of Tierra will be needed for the rest of the regular season, her aggressiveness is infectious, especially for a young team.
Kia. There’s nothing more to say, the vet embraced her role after being the starting center prior to Stefanie Dolson being drafted. It went back and forth during Dolson’s rookie year before Coach Thibault made the decision to have Vaughn come off the bench. Like any veteran, she didn’t put and she stays ready. Without her contributions, Washington doesn’t win this game. She gave Washington a much needed interior presence on both ends of the court.
Closer. Washington is still a young team, they haven’t necessarily figured out who needs the ball in crunch time as no one has really stepped up in a big way thus far to dictate such. Hill is making a case for it, she finished the game strong. The ball was mostly in her hands under two minutes and she only made one bad decision and that was questionable as it could have been blocking versus a charge. She stepped up and knocked down the shots from the charity stripe with the game on the line. Of that young group, she seems the most ready to seize this role.
Sanders. She had five blocked shots including the shot that could of tied the game down on Sims. LaToya helped Washington shore up an area in which the Wings and other teams like to attack, the bigs in pick-and-roll situations. With Sanders on the floor, it allowed Kia to stay near the rim and none of the guards had to help Sanders when she was guarding a small. Her arrival came at the right time, every team Washington plays aims to get Dolson and Meeseeman in switches with screens. This won’t be the only game she finishes the rest of the way.