Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Huge Rally Carries WNBA Washington to Overtime Victory Past Atlanta

By ROB KNOX @knoxrob1

WASHINGTON – The Washington Mystics unleashed a rally to remember to defeat the Atlanta Dream, 100-96, in an overtime thriller at the Verizon Center Wednesday afternoon.
The much needed triumph for the Mystics was a showcase of tenacity, toughness and togetherness as they rallied from a 21-point second quarter deficit to beat the Dream for the second time this season. If the Mystics accomplish their ultimate goal of winning a title this season, they’ll look back on this game as their defining moment.
Playing without two of its headliners in Elena Delle Donne (sprained right ankle) and Tayler Hill (out for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament), Washington displayed an undeniable hatred of losing while digging deep to end the first half of its schedule with plenty of positive vibes. 
This was the first time the Mystics overcame a deficit of 21 points-or-more to win a game since July 24, 2013 against Chicago, also a 21 point deficit. 

The comeback comes after less than two weeks ago when the Mystics coughed up a 22-point lead in the third quarter at Connecticut. They also rebounded from their 30-point loss in New York on Sunday to head into the all-star break with a 12-9 record. The Dream fell to 9-11 overall.
“That’s one of the better wins of the season, given our circumstances and the way we started the game and everything else,” Washington head coach Mike Thibault said. “A little bit of a gut check, and talking to our players about a couple things. One, when you have adversity somebody has to step up. We did a great job defending the paint. An unbelievable way to go into the All-Star break.”
Leading the way for the Mystics was guard Kristi Toliver, who scored a season-high 29 points, fueled by seven three-pointers. She scored 19 points during the first half and was a beacon of light for the Mystics amid a blizzard of early airballs, bricks, and bad bounces. 
Emma Meesseman and Ivory Latta finished with 18 points each for the Mystics, who also got 10 points each from Tianna Hawkins and Natasha Cloud. Center Krystal Thomas set a season high with 17 rebounds, one shy of her career high. The fifth-year WNBA veteran scored nine points on 4-6 shooting.
Cloud gave the Mystics the lead for good in overtime, 94-92, when she sank a corner 3-pointer with 2 minutes, 32 seconds remaining off of a Toliver pass. When Cloud’s shot swished through the net, the building erupted and the Mystics never trailed again.
“We needed as a team, one of these games where our backs were against the wall,” Cloud said. “We had to battle back together and fight through adversity. This is huge for building our trust for each other and building momentum moving forward. This is a game we needed for our team morale.”
Meesseman forced overtime when she scored on a wide-open layup that tied the game at 89 with 30.5 seconds remaining. Even though Tiffany Hayes, an All-Star game starter, sank a 3-pointer eight seconds into the overtime for a 92-89 Atlanta edge, the Mystics wouldn’t be denied.
It took some time before the Mystics found their groove. 
They trailed 64-46 with 7:52 remaining in the third quarter before Washington’s defense turned up the heat. Buzzing like cicadas, the rough and resilient Mystics started chipping away at their deficit. They closed the third quarter with an 18-8 burst to trail, 72-64, entering the final period.
In rolling to a 56-41 halftime bulge, the Dream scored 34 points in the second quarter. Atlanta scored 40 points after intermission and 30 over the final 22 minutes. 

Toliver kept the Mystics close by shooting 7-11 from the field and 5-8 from 3-point range in the opening 20 minutes. Atlanta’s largest advantage peaked at 51-30 with 87 seconds left in the first half. 
“We just focusing on just disrupting them,” Cloud said. “Atlanta is an example of what a running team should look like. They can push in transition. Early in the first half they were killing us with layups in transition. So for us, it was get back, crowd the paint and build a wall and make them beat us from the perimeter.”
The Mystics prevailed despite being under siege the entire game from the Dream’s dynamite duo of All-Star starter Tiffany Hayes and rookie Brittany Sykes. They were special throughout the contest as they each scored 20 or more points for the second consecutive game. The Dream were playing the second of a back-to-back. Atlanta rallied from 17 points to beat San Antonio Tuesday morning. 
Sykes, a Syracuse product, led the Dream with a career-high 27 points, her 10th straight game reaching double-figures. Making a late charge for the WNBA’s Rookie of the Year award, Sykes is averaging 18 points per game since entering the starting lineup on June 30. Hayes added 24 points, her 19th game in double-figures.  
Sancho Lyttle finished with 11 rebounds and now has 2,344 for her career, moving into 14th-place all-time in WNBA history, passing Tangela Smith (2,335). Damiris Dantas scored 10 points off the bench, her 10th double-figure scoring effort of 2017. All-Star Elizabeth Williams blocked four shots and has 30 in the last seven games. 
“We were getting out and running, getting those transition buckets,” Sykes said. “We were executing. We were working really well on defense and communicating. Just down the stretch we had some lost assignments and they were hitting shots and had the momentum going. We played like we didn’t have a game yesterday. We flew in last night, that doesn’t matter for our job. We came out and played hard.”
NOTES: Washington and Connecticut are tied for the best record in the Eastern Conference heading into the All-Star break … The Mystics are 7-2 in morning/afternoon games … The Dream are 3-8 on the road this season … After connecting on 26 straight free-throw attempts, Laysia Clarendon missed her first since July 2 game against the New York Liberty … This was Washington’s first home game since June 28. 
UP NEXT: Both teams return to action Tuesday. The Mystics visit San Antonio (12:30 p.m.) and the Dream host Phoenix (7 p.m.).


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