Mystics clinch playoff spot with 71-67 victory over determined Sun

UNCASVILLE, Conn. – With more to gain by losing than winning, the Connecticut Sun still played determined basketball, but came up short to the visiting Mystics, 71-67. Washington clinched a playoff spot. With the loss, the Sun gained two draft lottery picks, their own and that of the New York Liberty.

A crowd of 5,898 people saw four Mystics score in double figures, led by Ivory Latta and Emma Meesseman with 16 points each, allowing the Mystics to escape with a victory and their spot in the WNBA playoffs.

“More relief than anything,” said Mystics coach Mike Thibault after the game. “I go back to the Pat Riley quote every time ‘In this business there is not a lot of time for joy. There is relief and misery and this is relief.’ Sometimes it’s harder to get in then to play when you are in because there is so much pressure to get through it.”

The Sun acquired the Liberty’s first round pick on draft night in the trade that sent center Tina Charles to New York and brought rookie forward Alyssa Thomas plus center Kelsey Bone. Sun coach Anne Donovan, only took slight solace in the fact her team will now have two of the four lottery picks this year.

“I was hoping that would happen on another night,” she said. “It would happen to New York on another night and Washington would make the playoffs on another night. At the end of the season, will we look at that? Yeah, it gives us more flexibility and options.”

For now, however, Donovan was pleased with the Sun’s effort.

“We’ve been a team that plays hard all season long. We haven’t always had the right answer down the stretch in late game situations, but effort is nothing that we question. I’m pleased with our effort, but it’s hard for anybody to be pleased with another loss.”

It was a back and forth contest the entire night, with Washington opening up a ten-point lead early but unable to finish the Sun, who refused to back down. Former UConn guard Bria Hartley contributed 13 points for the Mystics, and Monique Currie added ten, hitting six big foul shots, along with four more from Meesseman in the fourth quarter to put the game away for Washington.

Currie, who struggled from the floor, hitting only 1-of-10 shots, was glad to have a chance at redeeming herself.

“I couldn’t buy a basket in the game,” said the veteran, “but I just wanted to step up to the line, be focused and knock down shots.”

Connecticut, playing without All-Star guard Katie Douglas, out with back pain, also had four players in double figures, led by second year guard Alex Bentley, followed by Thomas with 15 (7-for-8 shooting), Chiney Ogwumike with 13 (and eight rebounds), and Kelsey Bone with 12.

While Washington clinched a playoff spot, tonight’s game at home against New York is still important, as with a win for the Mystics would earn second place and home court in the Eastern Conference semifinals. A loss, and their position will be determined by the outcome of regular season final games from Indiana and Chicago.

The Sun end their regular season on Sunday, hosting the Atlanta Dream, who have clinched first place in the Eastern Conference and home court advantage throughout the conference playoffs.

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