The way the Washington Mystics played Sunday, interim coach Jessie Kenlaw shouldn’t have had any reservations about accepting her new assignment.
On a day in which Kenlaw admitted she had doubts about saying yes to general manager Linda Hargrove’s request to lead the team in place of the fired Tree Rollins, the Mystics put an emphatic end to the Seattle Storm‘s seven-game winning streak with an 89-57 win at Verizon Center.
Taj McWilliams-Franklin scored 22 points to lead Washington (9-14) past Seattle (15-8) before a crowd of 8,543. The Mystics were coming off a 37-point home loss to Detroit on Friday and a 21-point defeat at New York on Thursday.
“You get so far down, you get so low that you can only go up,” McWilliams-Franklin said after her fifth 20-plus scoring performance of the season. “I think it’s personal pride. I think [Mystics president Sheila C.] Johnson could have coached us, and we would have responded.”
But it was Kenlaw who debuted with a win. The 10th coach in Washington’s 11-year history, she remained standing for the entirety of the contest, enthusiastically barking orders at her team. After the game, she grabbed a microphone and exuberantly thanked fans for their support.
Kenlaw hardly resembled the woman who, just hours before, revealed she was so “shocked” by Hargrove’s offer that she nearly didn’t accept. She was not certain as to whether she would be the coach for the remainder of the season but did make one point clear: The team isn’t going quietly.
“My thing was to just get them to get their mind-sets, if I hadn’t gotten the message across yesterday in practice was that, ‘I don’t know about you guys, but I am going down fighting because I am a fighter,’” said Kenlaw, who served as an assistant in Seattle from 2003 to 2006. “That was the last thing I wanted to put out there to them.”
Washington scored 25 second-quarter points and took a 23-point lead - the largest halftime lead in franchise history - into the locker room. Four Mystics hit 3-pointers during the period, and McWilliams-Franklin tallied 12 points on her own. The Mystics stifled the Storm with strong defense, holding Seattle to 25 first-half points, the lowest first-half total for a Washington opponent so far this season.
“I think our defense was what won us the game,” said Currie, whose three steals helped the Mystics hold the Storm to a season low in points. “We all helped each other out, and we all were very aggressive. We just fought really hard. Our effort was there.”
Though McWilliams-Franklin cooled in the second half, Currie, who finished with 12 points, and guard Laurie Koehn, who was 2-for-3 from 3-point range, kept the Mystics comfortably in control.
The Mystics cruised despite a 4-for-15 shooting performance from leading scorer Alana Beard, who had nine assists to go with nine points.
“We channeled our energy in a different direction,” Beard said. “We took a lot of pride in what we were doing on the court.”
Monarchs 88, Shock 85
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. | Kara Lawson’s tiebreaking jumper with 39 seconds left helped Sacramento become the first team to win at Detroit this season.
The Shock hadn’t lost at home since Game 5 of last season’s WNBA Finals, winning their first 10 games at the Palace of Auburn Hills this season.
Sun 74, Sky 67
UNCASVILLE, Conn. | Asjha Jones had 23 points and 10 rebounds as Connecticut beat Chicago, snapping a five-game losing streak.
Lindsay Whalen added 20 points, eight rebounds and six assists for the Sun, who held the Sky scoreless for 2:22 in the fourth period.