Sonya Byrd loves the Washington Mystics, especially forward Emma Meesseman “because she’s a beast.”
Byrd, of Southeast, joined dozens of Mystics faithful who sported red, white and blue paraphernalia and braved the chilly air Tuesday, Oct. 8 during a watch party at National Harbor in hopes of witnessing the team win its first WNBA championship.
Unfortunately, the Mystics lost Game 4, 90-86, to the Connecticut Sun, leaving the WNBA Finals knotted at two games apiece. The fifth and deciding contest will take place Thursday at the Entertainment and Sports Arena in Southeast.
“I’m a little disappointed we didn’t get the win, but [the Mystics] fought back coming from 16 down,” Byrd said. “We’re going to run it back on Thursday.”
Byrd and other fans clapped, yelled and shook red cowbells to cheer on the Mystics, especially after halftime.
Washington came out the locker room more focused, outscoring Connecticut 28-12 in the third quarter to tie the game at 68.
The Mystics bench, one of the best in the league, outscored the Sun’s reserves 34-10. Aerial Powers led the Mystics with 15 points off the bench.
Three Mystics starters scored in double figures, including Natasha Cloud’s 13 points along with nine assists and seven rebounds. She missed a layup contested by Sun point guard Jasmine Thomas with 12 seconds left that could’ve cut the deficit to one.
The Sun, which had all five starters score in double figures led by Jonquel Jones’ 18 points, also seeks its first-ever WNBA title.
“We’re both preparing to win a championship. It’s do-or-die time,” Cloud said after the game. “They tried to push it to Game 5. That’s what they did. Now our season is on the line, too. But if you ask me, I’ll take our team 10 times out of 10.”
The Mystics seek the city’s second major professional sports championship in as many years. The Washington Capitals won its first NHL Stanley Cup last year as thousands celebrated in a parade of red in downtown D.C.
As for the Mystics, the team used a “Run It Back” motto all season after getting swept in last year’s WNBA finals.
The Mystics filled an entire page of team and league records this season, including its largest margin of victory June 29, 102-58, a 43-point blowout against Connecticut.
Other team accomplishments in 2019:
• Most regular season wins in franchise history (26).
• Highest points per game average (89.3).
• Scored 100 or more points six times in regular season, breaking team record of five set in 2017.
• League-record 87.5 percent free-throw percentage.
• League-record low 11.8 turnovers per game.
• Most made 3-pointers in WNBA history during regular season (316).
Although the players bought in to the “total team effort” mantra, several also garnered individual accolades.
Elena Delle Donne was named the league’s Most Valuable Player, unanimously chosen to WNBA All-First Team and shot a franchise record 41 percent from the 3-point line.
Cloud, a five-year veteran who started all 34 games and averaged nine points and 5.6 assists per game, broke the team’s regular season assists record with 190.
Cloud and her backcourt mate, Kristi Toliver, became the first teammates in league history to record five or more assists per game. Cloud also garnered WNBA All-Defensive second team along with teammate Ariel Atkins.
Off the court, Cloud showcased her community service efforts in the District and received a 2018 community service award named after WNBA legend Dawn Staley.
Mystics fans such as Vickey Wright-Smith of Northwest followed the team’s historic run throughout the summer into the fall. She was surprised to learn that Delle Donne was playing with a herniated disc in her back.
“I didn’t know you could play with a herniated disc,” Wright-Smith said. “This team has been good all season. We can run it back and celebrate a championship at home.”