The Mystics were clearly excited to be playing at home tonight. After returning from their 4-game road trip (1-3), they treated their fans -- who hadn't seen them at the Phone Booth in three weeks -- to a win over the visiting LA Sparks.
This turned out to be a very exciting game, though in the early going it looked to be a Mystics blow-out. The Mystics raced out to a 22-7 lead over the Sparks in the first quarter, a lead that grew to 24 early in the 2nd period. Though LA made a run before the break, Washington still took a 38-24 lead into the locker room. But what really stood out for the BasketCases watching that first 20 minutes of action was that the Mystics' first 29 points were all scored by players from ACC schools! Alana Beard led the charge, scoring the Mystics' first 13 points of the game, all in the first period. Then AB's ACC teammates began chipping in, stretching the ACC scoring to 29 before the Big East's Matee Ajavon hit a free throw with about 6 minutes left in the second, recording the first point for the Mystics by a non-ACC player.
Things got dicier for the home team in the second half. Let's face it . . . it's pretty rare for any team to maintain such a large lead over the experienced and talented Sparks team. And sure enough, after the break, LA began to claw their way back from that 14-point half-time deficit, until they finally tied the score at 63 with 3:32 left in the game. The momentum clearly had shifted to the team in yellow.
But moments later, Coach Plank called a time out, after which she sent an all-ACC line-up back onto the floor: Alana, Lindsey, Chas, Marissa, and Crystal (2 Duke, 1 NC State and 2 Maryland). And in that final 3-1/2 minutes, those 5 ACCers shut the Sparks down. Team ACC finished the game on a 12-0 run . . . they did not allow the Sparks to score even a single point the rest of the way! Final score: 75-63, Mystics. And of those 75 points, only 5 were scored by non-ACC players.
Alana Beard turned in another phenomenal performance, leading all scorers with 26. She also added 4 steals and 5 boards. AB is definitely having an all-star caliber season and we certainly hope to see her named to the WNBA All Star team. Lindsey Harding, who had 11 points and 5 assists tonight, continues to impress us as a floor general. She takes care of the ball, runs the offense well and isn't shy about assuming leadership.
Chas also scored in double figures tonight (14), including a critical basket late in the 4th quarter that helped seal the victory. Lang had another good outing coming off the bench. She was the game's leading rebounder (11 boards, plus adding 8 points) . . . fighting for balls against, among others, the much (much!) larger Vanessa Hayden. Nakia added 8 rebounds, helping the Mystics, as a team, to out-rebound the Sparks 40-30. Meanwhile Marissa, still a bit rusty on offense after her injury, scored 7 points coming off the bench. But, perhaps most important, Riss did an excellent job defending Candace Parker, who was held to just 2 points in her third game back after giving birth this spring.
Of the more than 12,000 fans in the Phone Booth tonight, quite a few were cheering for the Sparks. Though she's hidden from view, the BasketCases can assure you that inside that pink sack there's a very young Sparks fan, Candace Parker's daughter, Lailaa -- shown here with her proud papa, Candace's husband (NBA player and former ACC player), Shelden Williams.
Once again tonight, the Mystics showed their fans that they have come to play this season. Even after their big lead slipped away, they did not give up and found a way to win. Having seen so much disappointing basketball from this franchise (last season in particular), we have to say this is refreshing . . . not to mention fun.
Photo Credits: DC BasketCases