Season in Review
With one returning starter from last season, the Washington Mystics were one of the youngest teams in the league this year. The team dealt with adversity all season long as they were without two of their key cogs, Monique Currie and Alana Beard, for much of the 2011 campaign. However, because of those adverse times, they really grew as a team and showed a tremendous amount of character as they battled through the season. Of their 34 games, 15 came down to the final two minutes of play and with just the slightest adjustments and a little bit of luck, the end results could have been different. But, rather than play the ‘what-if’ game, the Mystics will use this season as a building block for the future.
The Mystics opened the preseason with back-to-back wins against the New York Liberty and Chicago Sky. Despite setbacks in the regular season, Washington’s best series was a five-game series with the Atlanta Dream, in which the Mystics were twice victorious. The first win, on June 9 in Atlanta, was the first game of the series and the Mystics’ first win of the season. All-Star forward, and the sole returning starter from last year, Crystal Langhorne, scored 30 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in the 98-90 win. Center Nicky Anosike also had a double double with 29 points and 13 rebounds.
Anosike established herself as a top rebounder in the league this season, ending the year ranked sixth with 245 total rebounds. Langhorne, a two-time All-Star, finished the season second in offensive rebounds per game with 4.5, third in field-goal percentage at 50%, fourth in points per game with 18.2, and seventh in double-doubles with seven on the year. The Mystics second win against the Atlanta Dream was also the team’s final win of season, and it came at home on September 1. Crystal Langhorne led the Mystics with 25 points in an 84-80 victory. Forward Kerri Gardin had a season-best 10 rebounds and rookie point guard Jasmine Thomas added 12 points and five assists.
The best performance of the season was certainly the Mystics historic come-from-behind win against the L.A. Sparks on July 17 in L.A. Down by 22 at the half, the Mystics outscored the Sparks 52-30 in the second half to come away with a four-point victory, 89-85. The win was the largest second-half comeback in WNBA history. Anosike posted eight points, six rebounds and three steals. Langhorne had one of her most impressive games of the season, with 24 points, 14 rebounds and five assists. Mystics guard Matee Ajavon led all scorers with 29 points, and the team shot 50.7% from the field.
Ajavon is a four-year pro who made the most of her first season as a regular starter. She’s explosive on the court and has kept pace with the best guards in the league. Playing the most minutes of her career, she finished fifth in steals with 57. She averaged 14.7 points per game, 3.1 assists per game and shot 83% from the free throw line. Like Ajavon, Marissa Coleman was new to being a starter in the WNBA this season. However, she had her most productive season yet, averaging 8.6 points per game and 4.8 rebounds in 27 minutes. A small forward with a dangerous outside shot, Coleman drained 53 three-pointers this season with 37% accuracy.
For experience, the Mystics turned to starting guard Kelly Miller, who was acquired from the Atlanta Dream during the offseason. She established herself not only as a veteran leader on the floor, but as a lethal three point shooter. Finishing the season third in three-point shooting at 40%, Miller had 49 total threes on the year. In addition to Miller, the Mystics relied on 12-year veteran DeMya Walker, who came from Connecticut as a mid-season acquisition. Known for her defensive role, Walker was a key contributor in the paint and a vocal leader on the court. Rookie Victoria Dunlap made an impression in her first season in the WNBA. When Crystal Langhorne went down with an injury, Dunlap stepped up and started in her absence. She scored a career high 19 points and pulled down eight rebounds on July 3rd vs. the Seattle Storm.
In a return from a probable season-ending injury, Monique Currie played the last four games of the season for the Mystics. Averaging 19 minutes of playing time, the forward added 11.8 points per game and 4.3 rebounds per game. Expected returner Alana Beard suffered a left foot sprain injury in the preseason, which kept her from competing during the regular season. With the return of Currie and the players that gave the Mystics hope and fight this year, the Washington Mystics are ready to come back next season with even more vigor to take back the East.