- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 11, 2011

The pattern was all too similar to the game against the Atlanta Dream on Thursday. The Mystics got off to a slow start and appeared headed for a blowout loss, until they made a late push in the second half to close the gap.

In Atlanta, the Mystics pulled off the overtime win. Against the Chicago Sky on Saturday, the rally was too little too late, as the Mystics lost 84-77.

“Tough loss, but we came out not ready to play defensively,” said coach Trudi Lacey. “We gave up far too many three’s, and just really did not do a good job of denying [Sylvia] Fowles the ball deep in the paint. Things that we talked about, we didn’t execute them in the first half.”

The Sky put on a clinic for much of the game, shooting 60 percent from the field. They also went 9-for-16 from 3-point range. Fowles led Chicago with 23 points.

“We came out in the second half and picked up defensively and made a comeback, and made some not very good decisions at the end,” Lacey said. 

“In the second half I thought we played with a lot of heart. As our team grows and gets better, we’ll be able to execute down the stretch.”

The Mystics outrebounded the Sky 28-21, but shot just over 45 percent from the floor. Despite the team’s shooting struggles, Mystics guard Matee Ajavon led all scorers with 24 points on 10-of-17 shooting, and had five rebounds and four assists.

Ajavon plays with an aggressive and energetic style, and it’s something she believes her teammates feed off of when she’s on the floor.

“I think in order for us to win, we have to start out aggressive and keep it throughout the whole game,” Ajavon said. “I just want to play hard enough to get wins.”

As for the defensive struggles, Ajavon thinks the team might just need to settle down a bit.

“Our coach always tells us she only wants [the other team] to score 17 per quarter. But for them to only score 17, we really have to stop them, and we haven’t been doing that,” Ajavon said.

Lacey played her starters heavy minutes, with Ajavon, Kelly Miller, Nicky Anosike and Crystal Langhorne all playing at least 34 minutes. Marissa Coleman played just over 27 minutes, struggling on 5-for-12 shooting for 13 points.

“I came out in the beginning and wanted to attack the basket, and just missed a lot of layups. I just wanted to stay aggressive,” Coleman said.

She continued: “We had some key mistakes in key moments of the game. We know we have to play well defensively in order to be successful.”

Langhorne agreed that the team’s defensive mistakes cost them the game.

“We just didn’t come out with the right intensity on defense,” Langhorne said. “They were moving the ball really well and hitting shots. They were hitting everything because our defense wasn’t that good. We got down in hole and it was hard to come back.

“I think it’s a matter of intensity and talking. A lot of time it was miscommunication. Some people were in zones; some people were in man-to-man. Things like that can’t happen.”

The Mystics next game is Thursday June 16 at Verizon Center against the Connecticut Sun.

• Carla Peay can be reached at cpeay@washingtontimes.com.

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