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Rookies shine for Mystics and Liberty

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Tayler Hill had 16 points off the bench to lead the Washington Mystics to a 70-52 win over the New York Liberty in their regular season finale. Kia Vaughn added 10 points and 12 rebounds for Washington. Kelsey Bone led New York with 11 points; Toni Young had 10. For farewells, beginnings, causing trouble, courting trouble, photobombing, free stuff, and well wishes, join your intrepid and conclusive blogger after the jump.

Tayler Hill came through for Mike Thibault in the Washington Mystics' season finale.
Tayler Hill came through for Mike Thibault in the Washington Mystics' season finale.
Photo via Getty Images.

Here we are! It's the end of the season, for good or for ill, and if this is how we're going to end it, then we're ending the season in style.

You see, Albert hooked us up again, this time with his season seats... which are in the first row behind the home bench. You know you're close when Plenette Pierson is asking WTF you are doing when you're posing your moose on the chair behind the bench. There will be pictures.

Washington was far more courteous than Connecticut- the fan bus is low down and directly behind the road bench. The team has noticed, and appreciated. We've been getting a little grief from some of the locals, but that's understandable. It's like there's a cultural divide between DC and NY or something.

Lot of Katie appreciation going in the stands, though I don't know if the Mystics have anything planned. I've seen jerseys and signs. Katie seems to have made herself popular in the one year she spent in DC.

Very breathy anthem. Stop gasping for air and sing. She had a pleasant voice otherwise.

That was worth it. I don't care that we lost, except that's not how Katie's career should have ended, but that was worth it. The fan bus behind us was loud and into the game, which I think spurred some of the Mystics fans in the area to actually get more into the game. (Well, except for the peculiar gentleman in the fourth row who appeared to be under the influence of illicit substances. Sir, the women three seats away from you do not care about your HIV tests. Security escorted him out before the second quarter started.)

Mini-posters of Ivory Latta and Tierra Ruffin-Pratt were the giveaway today, handed out as people left the game. Sensible approach to giveaways. Less chance of them being scattered and lost.

The peril of being super close to the bench is that you can't get a really good overview of the game. You get some amazing moments, but you don't get the whole game.

Kamiko Williams brought energy off the bench, but a lot of it was misdirected energy. She had a very makeable shot that she blew. Her defense was better than the average rookie, but not as good as it could have been. Being up close allows you to really get a good look at DeLisha Milton-Jones and her amazing extendable arms as she pulls rebounds away over people's heads. She spent a lot of time in the middle clogging up space and getting called for nonsense fouls, but we'll get to the nonsense fouls in a little while. Kelsey Bone was not as strong on the boards as she should have been- she's a very big and very strong woman, she should be going hard after the boards. I think the refs might have gotten into her head a little bit. She picked up steam in the fourth quarter. Alex Montgomery was off her game- busy on defense, but not necessarily effective, and her shot was somewhat questionable. I mean, more than usual.

Cappie didn't look bad at all. I'm going to pretend the over-the-top lipstick was part of a Tina Thompson tribute.

Toni Young started the game off hot on offense, but Bill was yelling at her a lot for lapsing on defense and fumbling passes. I don't know if he was being extra hard on her today because she wasn't playing great or if she's his usual target, but I can't imagine it was fun for the kid. Plenette Pierson cleaned up the boards like a vacuum cleaner- if balls were being tapped out, she made sure that she was the one who got them. She was having all kinds of issues with her shot, though. The shooting overall was pretty awful. Leilani Mitchell looked spent. Even the shot that went in look like it was taking all her energy to get up and over. She had moments on defense, but mostly looked ineffective, even against guards her own size. Kara Braxton showed flashes of fight and skill, but mostly moments of standing there and watching other players get rebounds. She brought the ball down low a lot more than a post player of her size should. Katie Smith was trying to have the kind of send-off that Tina Thompson did in Seattle. It didn't go well. My camera was not in position for the moments that she and Tayler Hill were guarding each other, and those stretches did not go well for Katie.

Lots of opportunities at the basket, so little finishing. They better be working on that during the off-season, if they don't all want to face the wrath of Bill Laimbeer by the time they get back to training camp. (Okay, all of them except Katie, and she might be dishing out the wrath as an assistant.)

Emma Meesseman showed off her midrange game more in this one- most of the shots she hit were open jumpers. Not that she didn't mix it up a little bit, but she seemed to be working more of the high post than the low post. Michelle Snow doesn't seem to mesh with the kids- she'll do well enough for herself, but she doesn't seem to be looking to get the kids involved in the play, which is not good for the long-term good of the team. The box score claims that she had two assists, but I don't remember her passing the ball all that much. Nadirah McKenith ran a solid offense and hit a couple of shots (of course, the first photo I took {after realizing my mother would disown me if I came back from Washington without any pictures of Nadirah} was of the perfect fast break lay-up that she blew). The people around us were confused that we weren't thrilled for her. Well, part of me was and always will be, but it's summer, and therefore I root for the Liberty. I don't root for opposing players against the Liberty; if I were going to do that, I wouldn't have taken a day off work to come down to Washington on Friday and root for the Mystics. (Not that I'm not glad she's happy, and not that I don't love that Mystics fans like her. But I'm a Liberty fan. {And she knows that too.}) Tierra Ruffin-Pratt is tough, especially on the boards, but her shot wasn't falling today. She reminds me of a miniature Monique Currie, which probably means she's in the right place. Tayler Hill was feeling it beyond the arc. She stepped up when her team needed her because of Ajavon's foul trouble. If she keeps shooting like this while I'm around, I'm afraid Albert's going to forcibly relocate me to Washington. She was also pretty good defensively on Katie Smith- stripped her a couple of times. Quanitra Hollingsworth is tall. Uh. That's about it?

Ivory Latta had moments of blinding stupidity (that attempted teardrop... Ivory, you're adorable but you're not Mark Jackson) but quashed any thoughts of Liberty comebacks with big shots. She's much more annoying when you're not rooting for her. Apparently she's also quite amusing in video features, but I didn't see any of those. Kia Vaughn was a woman on a mission, and that mission was to get every rebound she possibly could. Her shooting was only so-so, but she made up for it by attacking the boards. Matee Ajavon committed a lot of stupid fouls, and between that and the hot hand of Tayler Hill, Ajavon spent most of the game on the bench. Strangely enough, I'm okay with this. Crystal Langhorne was the focus of a lot of the Liberty's defensive effort, and I think the one thing we were successful at was getting her out of her comfort zone on offense. She hit the boards hard, though. I don't actually remember most of what Monique Currie did, other than the so-called jump ball during which she never really had possession.

Things what I noticed behind the Liberty bench that I had not noticed before: Taj has a really pretty clipboard, though I can't tell if the design is painted on, stickered on, or custom. The color contrast on Toni Young's tattoos is spectacular. Plenette is very involved in things, whether it's double-checking the defensive schemes, advising her teammates, or letting them know who's doing what out there. Some players have their own smoothies (when we observed them, Laura Ramus offered to whip one up). Bill is really, really tall, and you can't exactly yell "down in front" at Bill Laimbeer.

Both sets of fans chanted Katie's name at the end of the game. We started it, then it died down, then the Mystics fans picked it up, and we couldn't very well let them do it by themselves, could we? Katie kept looking at us like, "uh, hey, y'all, the game's still going on even though I got taken out, you know that, right?" Meanwhile, Kara and DeLisha were pumping their fists in time with us.

Love the way the Mystics give away the jerseys at the end of the season. The random draw is a nice twist.

These officials can step on ALL the Legos. There was a lot of Washington contact not called that was magically a foul when a Liberty player did it. I really didn't appreciate Currie poking Katie in the throat without a call being made. You can look at the foul differential for yourselves.

The Greene Turtle stand in the arena is on point. Almost makes me wish we'd decided to go there for lunch, but if you're in Chinatown (or at least what used to be Chinatown) you should go for Chinese.

So here's to the last of the originals, the last of the first to say yes to the ABL, the woman who put 7,883 points on the scoreboard in the United States of America, the woman with four championships and three gold medals. Here's to you, Katie Smith, for all the awesome things you have done and the feats you have accomplished. Whatever you set your mind to, you'll do, as you've done everything else.

To the rest of you: see you at the Garden next year.