Tonight's game between the Mystics and the Sky was supposed to be the first time that former Maryland teammates Marissa Coleman and Kristi Toliver would face off as opponents. Unfortunately, Marissa's injury spoiled those plans. But the nearly 12,000 in attendance (including more than 150 Maryland Rebounders and the entire Maryland coaching staff) were still treated to an incredibly exciting game.
The Mystics took the early lead -- fueled largely by Alana Beard -- but Chicago gradually closed the gap. The teams kept things very close as halftime approached. But then, about a minute and a half before the break, with the score tied at 29, the Sky went on a 10-0 run. It happened so fast, the Mystics (and their fans) looked shocked. Before they knew what had hit them, the Mystics were down by double digits heading into the locker room.
It's nights like these when the coaching staff really earns their paychecks. And did they ever! The Mystics were going to need to play catchup and the players needed to believe they could turn the game around. We don't know what was said in the locker room, but whatever it was, it worked!
The Mystics opened the second half more aggressive offensively and defensively and began steadily whittling away at the Sky's lead. Several players were instrumental in the turnaround. First and foremost was Alana Beard, who battled intensely and led her teammates on both ends of the floor. Alana not only led all scorers with 31 points, but played relentless defense (including 3 steals) . . . just as critical. Chasity Melvin's early baskets in the third quarter, her defensive play, and her rebounding helped ignite the second-half rally. (Chas finished with 12 points and 9 rebounds.) And Matee Ajavon's harassment of the Sky's ball handlers and her own lightning speed down the court also helped to turn the game in the Mystics' favor. Crystal Langhorne turned in another excellent performance (in both halves) coming off the bench, with 14 points (including a near perfect 6 of 7 from the free throw line), 6 rebounds and two steals. Alana led the charge, her teammates followed, and together the Mystics emerged with the win, 81-72.
Kristi Toliver was the other Terp coming off the bench tonight, putting up 13 points for the Sky in 15 minutes of play. The BasketCases were happy to see KT have a good outing, but even happier about the outcome of the game.
4-1! A pretty good start to a season.
Photo credits: DC BasketCases