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.

Powers nets career-high 27 points as Mystics defeat Sun

Mystics get the best of Connecticut Sun in rematch from the WNBA finals 

By Demetrius Dillard/The Sports Pulse Contributor
Courtesy Photo

BRADENTON, Fla. — Washington Mystics guard Aerial Powers scored a team-high 27 points, and Myisha Hines-Allen totaled 16 points and eight rebounds to lead the defending WNBA champions to a slim 94-89 win over the Connecticut Sun on Tuesday night.

Emma Meesseman added 12 points, eight assists and six boards while forwards Ariel Atkins chipped in with 16 points to help the Mystics improve to 2-0 on the season.

Powers, a fifth-year player from Michigan State, and Hines-Allen got the Mystics off to a strong start as they took a 26-20 lead at the end of the first quarter.

However, DeWanna Bonner led the Sun’s comeback as they chipped away at Washington’s lead throughout the second. Bonner sank a deep 3-pointer with just under four minutes left in the first half to give Connecticut its first lead. 

In Washington’s next possession, Powers responded with a long-range 3-pointer from the left wing to help the Mystics reclaim the lead. However, Connecticut went on a 13-7 scoring run to take a 52-48 lead at the break.

To open the third, Washington got out in transition as Hines-Allen and Powers continued to produce on the offensive end, helping their team recapture the lead with three-and-a-half minutes remaining. Heading into the fourth, the Mystics held a 76-71 advantage.

Guard Essence Carson hit a corner 3-pointer off a feed from Hines-Allen, and Powers drilled another left-wing 3 to kick off the fourth quarter as Washington rebuilt a double-digit lead early on. The Mystics’ largest lead of the night, 88-73, came off of a breakaway lay-in by Hines-Allen with 5:52 left in the game.

The Sun didn’t surrender, though they were down 15 points with time ticking away. They forced multiple turnovers and went on a 7-0 run to close the gap to 88-80. Late 3-pointers by Jacki Gemelos and Bonner, along with a layup by Natisha Hiedeman, brought Connecticut within two points, 91-89, with about 1:40 remaining.

With a chance to tie the game, Bonner missed a fall-away jumper and a layup. Washington grabbed both rebounds and converted free throws to seal the win.

Bonner led Connecticut with a game-high 29 points with nine rebounds and five assists. Alyssa Thomas played a crucial role for the Sun, recording 28 points, 11 rebounds and three assists. With the loss, the Sun dropped to 0-2 to start the season. 

En route to the big win, Washington connected on 17 of 21 free throws (81%) and capitalized on 19 turnovers by the Sun. Powers was 10 of 14 shooting from the field, including 4 of 6 from beyond the arc. 

Washington hopes to continue the win streak as it faces the Seattle Storm at 6 p.m. on Thursday. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.