- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 21, 2011

With three minutes to go in the first half of their first scrimmage, with the team up by 11 points, new Washington Mystics head coach Trudi Lacey raised her voice in an impassioned plea for the team to play better defense.

“You have to get back on defense! We’re not going to give up layups because you’re not doing what you’re supposed to do!” Lacey said, loudly.

It’s clearly a sign of things to come, as the Mystics begin their 14th season with a new coach who emphasizes defense and rebounding, and does so with passion and intensity, even during a scrimmage.

The scrimmage was held against the Chinese National Team on Saturday at Verizon Center as the 15 players still on the squad got a chance to play against players not also wearing Mystics uniforms.

With final roster cuts coming in less than two weeks, there are several players who still have a lot to prove in order to survive and remain on the team when the season opens June 4. The final roster will have 11 players.

“We did some good things. I thought we had some defensive lapses that we’ve got to work on,” Lacey said.

“I felt like when we had periods when we didn’t score, it affected our defense and that can’t really happen. But it gave us an opportunity to see a lot of different combinations and see how players respond in different situations,” Lacey said.

The Mystics won the scrimmage 72-67, as well as the additional fifth quarter that was added to the scrimmage, 20-14.

Several players impressed Lacey, particularly forward Crystal Langhorne.

“She’s always impressive. Right now she’s our most consistent player,” Lacey said. “Other players also had really good moments. I thought Nicky Anosike did some good things, and Marissa Coleman early on I thought played well, Matee Ajavon played with the younger group and I thought she showed a lot of composure keeping them organized.

The team runs a different defensive system under Lacey than it did under last season’s head coach Julie Plank. Saturday’s scrimmage gave Lacey and her coaching staff the opportunity to see who was able to adapt quickly.

All-star guard Alana Beard also got a chance to play in her first game after missing all of last season with an Achilles injury.

“It’s her first real game, so I think she’ll get better with time. I’m sure she felt good just being out there,” Lacey said.

Beard also said it felt good to get the first one out of the way.

“In practice we’ve done a great job, but obviously when we play the game, there are a lot of things we need to work on. Our focus is defense, and I think that will come with time,” Beard said.

Langhorne was the game’s leading scorer with 16 points.

“As a team, we have a lot to work on,” Langhorne said. “We’re going to get better. We have a lot of new people and they just have to adjust. It was good that the game was close at the end to see how we are in those types of situations.

The Mystics have two more pre-season contests — one on the road against the New York Liberty on May 25, and one at home against the Chicago Sky on May 26.

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