Before getting to the recap of tonight’s game, two important notes to mention. First, wishing Dallas Wings center Isabelle Harrison a speedy recovery after she twisted her left ankle in the fourth quarter. Second, happy 38th anniversary to Mike and Nanci Thibault.
Tonight epitomized why sports fans should never turn off a game, no matter the score. Heading into the night, the Mystics sat at 4–7, while the Wings were 4–8. With both teams missing key players — Emma Meesseman sat with a shoulder strain, while Satou Sabally was rested — this was an evenly matched game.
With Meesseman out, Tianna Hawkins (11 points and five rebounds) regained her place in the starting lineup. Early in the contest, third-year center Alaina Coates got going and had her most productive game of the season, scoring a season-high 11 points, seven rebounds (four of which were on the offensive side) and added two assists. Tonight, Coates flashed her abilities grabbing boards, getting to the line, facilitating and scoring.
Despite being down 28–17 after one, the Mystics came out on fire. Early in the second, the Mystics scored seven straight points, cutting the lead to four and forcing a Dallas timeout. When Dallas got back on the court, however, the game began to slip away from Washington. Summing up the second quarter was a broken play during which the Mystics grabbed four straight offensive rebounds but failed to score.
Going into halftime, the Mystics trailed 56–36, but lackluster play wasn’t the only reason Washington was down by 20. Dallas played a complete second quarter, with Bella Alarie’s shot blocking, Arike Ogunbowale’s dominant play (10 of her 24 points came in the second quarter) and Kayla Thornton’s — who had 17 points and ten rebounds — sharp shooting from behind the arc.
While the Mystics trailed by as much as 23, the team cut the lead to 13 in the third, forcing a Dallas timeout. The Mystics then went on a 10–0 run, displaying a resiliency that Head Coach Mike Thibault must have loved from such a young team.
With players stepping up in the third quarter, no player upped the intensity like Myisha Hines-Allen did. At one point in the third, Hines-Allen made three consecutive shots from downtown, providing a much-needed spark to a Mystics team that looked all but sunk in the first half.
It is well known that for the Mystics to have a chance in any given game, Hines-Allen will need to bring her A-Game and she absolutely answered the call tonight. She put up a career high 35 points, added 12 rebounds, three assists and two steals. With a Hines-Allen double-double taking center stage, Washington went into the fourth quarter trailing 76–65.
The fourth quarter is really where Coates hit her stride. She made some tough shots and helped close the gap, with the Mystics even taking a one-point lead after Kiara Leslie drained a three. This lead — with 1:53 left in the game — was the first one Washington held all night. As the clock wound down, both teams had chances to end the game, but none were successful. At 88 a piece, the teams headed to overtime.
Thibault used the additional five minutes to get his younger players experience in overtime situations, with Coates, Leslie and Sug Sutton all receiving valuable minutes. After having put so much energy into the third and fourth quarters, the Mystics looked tired in overtime, which led to several costly turnovers. In the final five minutes of the contest, the Mystics would only score four more points, while the Wings put up 13.
Even though the game eventually slipped away from the Mystics, there were plenty of positives from tonight’s contest. The Mystics fought hard, just like the team would have to in say, a playoff situation. They faced adversity — in the form of a 23-point deficit — and stormed back to force overtime. Change a couple of unlucky bounces and I’d be sitting here writing about the amazing comeback the team just pulled off leading to a win.
Tonight was also about scoring from all positions. Ariel Atkins had 18 points and nine rebounds. Leslie contributed 10 points off the bench and displayed her on-ball defending prowess. Sutton, meanwhile, contributed four points and two key assists. And while Stella Johnson (three rebounds and three assists) failed to score, she provided some much-needed life to the squad.
What is clear from tonight is that nobody should ever give up on this Mystics team, no matter the score.
The Mystics’ next game is on Sunday August 23 at 8 p.m. ET against the Phoenix Mercury and will be televised on NBC Sports Washington.