If it were up to Ivory Latta, the Washington Mystics’ frenetic point guard would be on the court for every second of every game. The team’s floor captain goes nonstop at both ends and then has energy to spare.
Part of Coach Mike Thibault’s job is to make sure his most dynamic playmaker receives the necessary rest and recovery so the two-time all-star can be at her best when it matters most. For instance, Thibault limited Latta’s practice minutes earlier this week following a stretch in which Washington completed a season-long five-game trip and Latta participated in the All-Star Game in Phoenix.
The payoff came Wednesday afternoon when Latta swished a three-pointer early in the fourth quarter that gave the Mystics the lead to stay on the way to an 89-75 victory over the Connecticut Sun in front of an announced 16,028 on camp day at Verizon Center.
Latta finished with a game-high 23 points, her second-highest total this season, on 9-for-14 shooting; she added six assists and three rebounds. The Mystics’ lone all-star made 5 of 7 three-point attempts in Washington’s second straight win and fourth in five games.
“I mean, it was an unbelievable atmosphere,” Latta said of the Mystics’ first home game in three weeks. “As a player out there, just playing on the court, [the campers] were just so into the game, it just gave me a lot of energy. And they cheer when they see that ball go through the basket, so the more that ball went through the basket, the higher the energy came.”
Forward Monique Currie scored 12 of her 17 points in the first quarter before hurting her right (shooting) hand. Washington’s longest-tenured player also factored into a 19-4 run in the fourth quarter that allowed the Mystics (11-13) to pull away and remain in third place in the Eastern Conference with 10 games left in the regular season.
Rookie center Stefanie Dolson had nine of her 13 points in the fourth quarter, including three consecutive baskets that bumped the lead to 80-70 with 3 minutes 4 seconds to go. Fellow rookie and former Connecticut teammate Bria Hartley added 11 points, and second-year forward Emma Meesseman chipped in 10 points, five rebounds and five assists .
“We played close to, for us right now, probably close to perfect basketball for about nine or eight minutes in the fourth quarter,” Thibault said. “I thought Emma and Stef played really well off of each other, looking for each other. We just finished the game the right way.”
Washington scored 30 points in the fourth quarter, the club’s most in any quarter this season, shot 50 percent overall and assisted on 20 of 32 field goals. It also made 17 of 20 from the free throw line and forced 12 turnovers that yielded 19 points in a game with nine lead changes and seven ties.
Connecticut (10-15) got a team-high 18 points from rookie forward Chiney Ogwumike , the No. 1 overall pick in the WNBA draft, and 15 points each from guard Alex Bentley and center Kelsey Bone . The Sun made just two field goals over eight-plus minutes in the fourth quarter to fall 11 / 2 games behind Washington in the chase for either a No. 2 or 3 seed in the East.
“We know we’re probably going to see them at the end, or toward the end,” Dolson said of the Sun. “So to go out there and have the energy from the kids, kind of the excitement that was built up for it, was a lot of fun to play as our first game back from a long road trip too.”