The cheers grew louder as the milestone flashed onto the Verizon Center video screen. Suddenly, half the crowd was rising to applaud a career night from Emma Meesseman, the 21-year-old Mystics forward who had recorded her first WNBA double-double and was soaking in the ovation.
“I’m not really a person who likes that,” Meesseman said later, smiling sheepishly after a 79-68 victory over the Chicago Sky. “I feel uncomfortable. But it’s pretty great.”
More striking to Meesseman was the relief her 16 points and 11 rebounds helped bring Washington, which found the elixir for a three-game losing streak by pulling away from a shorthanded visitor missing the league’s second-leading scorer, Elena Delle Donne. Without Delle Donne, left home to recover from a recurrence of Lyme disease, leading rebounder Jessica Breland (right shin) and 6-foot-6 Sylvia Fowles (hip surgery) clogging up the paint, the Mystics scored 50 points inside, none more meaningful than Meesseman reaching a career mark for the second straight game.
A native Belgian who speaks four languages despite being born with only 50 percent hearing, Meesseman has added a measure of physicality to her finesse skillset over the past several weeks. She swiped five steals against Chicago and, if the moment demanded it, steamrolled up the floor to lead the fast break. She curled passes around smaller defenders, the kind that have left teammates stunned at their precision during practices. Just before halftime, she beat the buzzer with an up-and-under move that put the Mystics ahead, 38-34.
Chicago (5-5) briefly regained the lead on its first possession of the second half, a mid-range jumper, and the third-quarter woes that tumbled Washington (5-5) below .500 threatened to surface again.
But the Mystics went on an 8-0 run and never looked back. Their defense, best in the WNBA in opposing field goal percentage and scoring, clamped down. Chicago forward Tamera Young threw an elbow and was whistled for a technical foul. Washington guard Kara Lawson (eight points, career-high 10 assists) made a pair of jumpers that pushed the lead to double digits. On the sideline, Coach Mike Thibault’s arms stayed folded and his lips stayed pursed, but his team had finally rediscovered the lost feeling of a fourth-quarter cushion. Now in third in the Eastern Conference, the Mystics (5-5) host first-place Atlanta (6-3) Sunday.
“It’s a win,” Thibault said. “It’s nice to feel that feeling.”
By the end, Thibault was content to ride Washington’s horse for the night, telling Meesseman he would “play her until she dropped at the end.” Guard Bria Hartley added 13 points and Tianna Hawkins chipped in 10 off the bench for the Mystics, with Allie Quigley (18 points) and Epiphanny Prince (17 points) pacing the scoring for Chicago.
But the night belonged to Meesseman. When her postgame interview was piped through the speakers, fans stopped in the aisles to listen and a hush fell over the building. “Emma!” someone shouted from across the court, and soon her name was echoing throughout the place.
“It’s crazy,” Lawson said. “She’d be a college senior this year. She’d probably be the number one pick in the draft if she was a college senior. She’s only going to get better and better.”
Alex Bentley scored 24 points and Chiney Ogwumike added 20 as Connecticut withstood a furious New York rally to post an 83-75 road victory.
The Sun dominated the first 20 minutes in building a 20-point halftime lead but the Liberty closed the third quarter on an 11-2 run and cut the deficit to two points in the fourth quarter but never caught up.
●DREAM 85, LYNX 82: Angel McCoughtry scored 23 points, and Erika de Souza had 16 points and 11 rebounds to help Atlanta top visiting Minnesota.
Lindsay Whalen finished with 22 points for the Lynx.
●STORM 79, STARS 72: Tanisha Wright scored 15 points, and Seattle never trailed in a win at San Antonio. Danielle Adams scored 18 points for the Stars, who have lost four of five.
●SHOCK 69, SPARKS 67: Skylar Diggins scored 22 points to lead host Tulsa to its third straight win.
Diggins reached double figures for the seventh time in eight games this season. Courtney Paris finished with 15 rebounds.
Candace Parker scored 18 points for Los Angeles.
News services contributed to this report.