Despite Meesseman’s double-double, Mystics lose to Aces in tight affair

By Demetrius Dillard/The Sports Pulse Contributor 

WASHINGTON — Despite game-highs of 24 points and 13 rebounds from Mystics forward Emma Meesseman, the Las Vegas Aces got 20-point performances from A’ja Wilson and Danielle Robinson to earn an 83-77 win over Washington on Wednesday night. 

Aces guard Kayla McBride poured in 14 points, Dearica Hamby had 12 points and 13 boards, and Angel McCoughtry chipped in with 13 points to help their team to its second straight win. 

Furthermore, Las Vegas (3-2) managed to draw 23 fouls while Washington drew 17. The Aces made 23 of 30 free throws while the Mystics were only 7 of 11. 

According to Washington head coach Mike Thibault, Las Vegas’ ability to get to the free-throw was a significant difference down the stretch. 

“We got beat by a good team; we didn’t execute as well. The biggest difference to me is pretty obvious: free-throw line and free throw attempts,” Thibault said. 

The Mystics head coach also acknowledged the Aces’ Robinson, a six-year veteran who had a big night off the bench and scored 88.7% from the free-throw line. 

“Danielle Robinson, I thought, gave them (Aces) a huge lift off their bench. She was terrific tonight on both ends of the court. She pressured us and forced us into some turnovers that they converted on,” Thibault said. “They had more turnovers than us, but they converted on more points off of ours.” 

Washington began the game by outscoring Las Vegas 21-19 in the first quarter, but both teams scored 16 in the second. The Mystics headed to the locker room with a narrow 37-35 lead. 

Early in the third quarter, Meesseman scored an easy basket to give the Mystics a four-point lead. 

Momentum quickly changed on the other end of the court as McCoughtry hit a mid-range jumper, and Hamby nailed a deep 3-pointer to give the Aces their first lead of the night, 40-39. The lead changed six times afterward as the Aces and Mystics traded baskets for the duration of the third quarter. 

As the third quarter drew to a close, Robinson scored a 16-footer, and Wilson hit two free throws that produced a 60-59 advantage for the Aces, giving them much-needed momentum entering the final period. 

Though the game was tight throughout the fourth, the Aces maintained control of the tempo. 

Leilani Mitchell’s converted layup at the start of the fourth gave the Mystics a brief one-point lead before McCoughtry responded with a shot from beyond the arc to put the Aces back on top. 

After McCoughtry’s 3-pointer, the Aces held on to their lead for the rest of the night. Washington’s Myisha Hines-Allen stepped up in the fourth, but Las Vegas’ ability to get to the charity stripe and secure late-game rebounds prevented the Mystics from rallying back. 

Washington drops its second straight contest after opening the season on a three-game winning streak to sit at 3-2. 

Along with Meeseman, Hines-Allen — recently named Eastern Conference Player of the Week — recorded a double-double of 18 points and 10 rebounds. 

“I think when we can get stops and get out and run, we look really good. When we can play off drag screens and make the defense make decisions early under the shot clock, that’s when we’re at our best,” Mitchell, who finished with 11 points and four assists for the Mystics said. “We started the game that way, and then they (Aces) picked up their pressure, slowed us down, and we didn’t adjust too well. 

The Mystics will have a day to regroup before returning to action against the New York Liberty on Friday. Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m. on ESPN2. 

Mystics’ undefeated streak ends after loss against Chicago

By Demetrius Dillard/The Sports Pulse

BRADENTON, Fla. — Two pivotal late-game plays by forward Cheyenne Parker helped the Chicago Sky edge the Washington Mystics, 88-86, on Saturday.

The Sky (3-1) had five players score in double digits for a constant balanced attack on offense. Parker finished with 16 points and six rebounds, Gabby Williams recorded 16 points, nine boards and four assists, and Allie Quigley scored 15.

With less than two minutes remaining in the game, Quigley scored a layup that gave the Sky an 84-83 advantage. The Mystics’ Aerial Powers made 1 of 2 free throws on the next possession to tie the game.

Parker converted a left-hand layup, and Washington’s Ariel Atkins responded with two made free throws to tie it again at 86.

On the ensuing possession, Parker drove baseline and dished it off to Diamond DeShields for a layup to give Chicago an 88-86 lead with 5.9 seconds remaining.

Out of the timeout with 5.6 seconds left on the game clock, Atkins inbounded the ball to Emma Meesseman, who looked for Leilani Mitchell in the corner. Instead, her pass intercepted by Courtney Vandersloot as time expired. The Mystics fall to 3-1 with the loss.

Washington Coach Mike Thibault said his team’s turnovers (14) were “unbelievably costly” but also hinted that fatigue might have played a factor.

“I think we’re tired. Our depth is tough,” Thibault said. “We played tired at times. I’m glad we have the three days off right now to kind of regroup. Playing short-handed is hard. Chicago is good, but we could’ve been better.”

The game was back-and-forth with 10 ties and eight lead changes. At the end of the first, Washington trailed 20-15 but then led by two points (37-35) at halftime.

Mitchell scored 10 of her 12 points for the Mystics in the third quarter, but Chicago outscored Washington 27-25 to tie the game, 62-62, entering the fourth.

The Sky’s offensive fluidity worked to their advantage late in the game as they tallied 10 assists in the fourth while forcing four turnovers to clinch the win.

“This is a great team (Chicago) who loves to run out in transition, and once they got their shots going, it’s kind of hard to stop,” said Myisha Hines-Allen, who was the only double-double performer with 13 points and 12 rebounds.

“Our defense wasn’t all there today. We didn’t have each other’s backs like we normally did, so I mean — we just didn’t play Mystics basketball today for the whole game. I think that’s what it boils down to.”

Atkins led the way again with a game-high 24 points for the Mystics while Powers registered 20 points and seven rebounds. Meesseman led Washington with six assists.

After a three-day break, the Mystics will try to bounce back when they square off against the Las Vegas Aces on Aug. 5 at 8 p.m.

Atkins’s 22-point performance leads the way as Mystics cruise past the Storm

By Demetrius Dillard/The Sports Pulse Contributor
Courtesy Photo

BRADENTON, Fla. — An early-season faceoff between the 2018 and 2019 WNBA champions was a glimpse of what some expect to be a possible 2020 finals matchup.

Washington Mystics forward Ariel Atkins recorded 22 points, a game-high performance that included five 3-pointers, to lift her team to an 89-71 victory over the Seattle Storm on Thursday at IMG Academy.

The result was special for Atkins, who said she felt good leading the Mystics to the win on her 24th birthday.

“It feels good to be playing down here right now, especially what we’re playing for. Especially having Breonna Taylor’s name all over our season,” Atkins said. “It just feels good to put her spotlight on and for people to be watching us, and to be seeing her name all the time.”  

With the return of 2018 MVP Breanna Stewart and star point guard Sue Bird from injuries last season, the Storm will likely contend for another title run this season. Despite missing multiple stars, Washington’s strong start to the season has raised its expectations for postseason success.

Myisha Hines-Allen continued a strong start to the season, contributing with 17 points, seven rebounds and five assists to help the Mystics remain undefeated at 3-0 this season. Guard Lelani Mitchell had team highs in assists (six) and steals (four) in addition to 12 points. 

The Mystics got off to a superb start offensively, connecting 10 of 16 field goals in the first half to take a 21-14 lead after the first that blossomed to a 50-32 advantage at halftime. 

The Mystics’ largest lead of the evening came when Mitchell found Hines-Allen for an easy layup, expanding their advantage to 25 points (69-44) with about three minutes to go in the third.

Washington remained efficient in transition and held its ground defensively to maintain the comfortable lead in the second half on its way to the 18-point victory. 

While the Storm outrebounded their opponent 38 to 36, they committed 18 turnovers to Washington’s nine.

Forward Emma Meesseman added 10 points, five boards and four assists while Aerial Powers poured in nine points, eight rebounds and four assists for the Mystics.

Bird was held to only five points on 2 of 7 shooting from the field, while Stewart registered 15 points and 10 rebounds as the Storm (2-1) picked up their first loss of the season. Sami Whitcomb had 11 points off the bench for Seattle.

“They’re (Storm) a really good basketball team, they have really high IQ – especially defensively, so I was really proud of our offense tonight,” Atkins said. “And defensively, I’m really proud of what we did. I think we can be a really good defensive team if we stay solid and don’t foul.”

Washington will aim to continue its early-season momentum as it returns to action Saturday at 6 p.m. against Kahleah Copper and the Chicago Storm.