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Thibault appeals to Mystics players' 'personal pride' in huge win over Sky

Ivory Latta and Emma Meesseman combined for 27 points in the second half to lead Washington past first place Chicago.

Kia Vaughn is averaging 5.9 points per game on the season and nine over the past three games.
Kia Vaughn is averaging 5.9 points per game on the season and nine over the past three games.

The Mystics started off Wednesday morning looking a lot like the same team that had been embarrassed three days earlier by the Indiana Fever. At 6:34 remaining in the second quarter they were shooting 28.6 percent (6-21) to the Chicago Sky's 50 percent (10-20) and trailed by 21 points. But over the remainder of the game there was almost an exact reversal in the shooting department as Washington shot 50 percent (21-42) and Chicago shot 29.2 percent (14-48), resulting in an 82-78 victory for the Mystics (9-9) at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.

"I appealed to their individual, personal pride," Mystics head coach Mike Thibault said of the turnaround. "There weren't any x's and o's - had nothing to do with it. It was a will: do want to block out, do you want to get on the floor for a loose ball, do you want to play harder than you're playing right now? And if you want to, you can turn the game around. If you don't, then we'll be embarrassed in front of whatever number of people this was and then we'll have a miserable All-Star break."

The Mystics chose the former. And the number Thibault was looking for was 14,411 - a result of Camp Day at Verizon.

Camp Day meant a lot of screaming kids - some screaming for Elena Delle Donne every time she scored, which only amplified the fact that she probably had a lot of supporters in the stands anyway with it being her first professional game in D.C. - one of the two WNBA cities closest to where she grew up.

But Washington had a lot of young fans cheering for them as well, and, in the end, the Mystics gave those fans a reason to be cheering the loudest by not giving in to the first place Sky (12-5) and refusing to play terrible two games in a row.

"We had a great crowd out there, kids today," said Ivory Latta, who came in wanting to lay everything on the line against the Sky after losing to the Fever. "Couldn't ask for anything better. Everybody came in and did what they were supposed to do."

Latta hit some huge shots down the stretch and led the Mystics with 18 points after scoring just six in the team's last game against Indiana. She also came one assist shy of tying her career high with 13 and recorded her first double-double of the season.

Also instrumental in the comeback was first round draft pick Tayler Hill, who recorded her second WNBA game in double figures scoring with 11 points, a career high at the Verizon Center. Hill made two free throws at 4:34 in the third quarter and knocked down a three at 4:06 to give the Mystics their first lead since the first basket of the game at 9:17 in the first. Considering the attendance, the Verizon Center may have been the loudest it has been all season after Hill hit that three.

"I don't think they were just screaming for me, I think they were screaming for the team," Hill said. "We had a big third quarter. We were just sharing the ball. Ivory made a good pass and I just happened to be open."

The Mystics outscored the Sky 21-12 in the third quarter to enter the fourth tied at 56. Emma Meesseman then won the game for Washington.

Meesseman scored all 12 of her points in the fourth quarter to match a career high and lead all scorers in that frame. She seemed to be in the zone, as she went 5-6 from the field in the fourth after going 0-5 overall this past Sunday against the Fever.

"It felt good," said Meesseman, who nearly got her first WNBA start in place of Crystal Langhorne who was experiencing back spasms. "Happy to bring something to the the half we said we cannot lose this game like we did against the Fever, so we stepped up and we fought hard to get back...It was a great bounce back win against a team like Chicago."

Meesseman's effort impressively outdid the efforts of Eastern Conference All-Stars Sylvia Fowles and Epiphanny Prince whose 15 combined points in the fourth were not enough to secure a win for their team. Delle Donne sat out the entire fourth quarter and it has been reported that she suffered a concussion. Elena scored 12 points in the game and had her worst night from the field to date as a WNBA player (2-15).

Monique Currie was Washington's second leading scorer with 14 points and she nearly had a double-double with nine rebounds as well. She accounted for the Mystics' first two made field goals of the game after making seven of the team's 17 in their previous game. However, the Mystics eventually got a team effort this time. In addition to those in double figures, Kia Vaughn added nine points, while Langhorne and Matee Ajavon each chipped in with seven.

The Mystics now head into the All-Star break having defeated both of the first place teams in the WNBA. With the Fever's loss on Tuesday night, they also moved a game ahead of Indiana in the standings. However, the Liberty, having won that game, are only a game and a half behind Washington, setting the stage for what could be an interesting playoff race in the second half of the season.

But for now, the Mystics can take some time off. They don't play again until July 31 when they host New York, with the exception of Ivory Latta and Crystal Langhorne who will play in the All-Star Game on Saturday as reserves. Latta said she and Crystal will do their best to rest up, but she added that she is also ready to have some fun in her first WNBA All-Star game.