(Los Angeles Staples Center)—The L.A. Sparks treated their huge 12,334 fan-base in attendance with a great home opener victory at the expense of the Eastern Division’s Connecticut Sun. Playing without their MVP, Candace “CP3” Parker, still sidelined by a hamstring pull suffered in the season’s first Exhibition game, the Sparks were led by their highly acclaimed veteran and sister tandem of Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike. Add in the now battle-tested, young WNBA All-Star point guard, Chelsea Gray, and there you have it, a close, and hard-earned (77-70) home court victory number one.
Note From The Editor: In our efforts to provide our Sparks fans a “Full” game story, our production contains not only this write-up, but an excellent Photo Gallery (1st & 3rd Quarters only), Post-Game player interviews with Chelsea Gray, Alexis Jones, Kalani Brown, and Marina Mabrey. Our last piece is the full Post-Game Press Conference with Head Coach, Derek Fisher, a brief game summary and a sign-off by Rico Cabrera, Sr.
(1st Qtr) Head Coach Derek Fisher unveiled a “new look” starting line-up due to the late scratch of veteran Alana Beard, who became sidelined with a leg injury on game day. Taking the floor for the first time as L.A. Sparks starters were Chiney Ogwumike, Sydney Wiese, and Alexis Jones. They joined forces with Nneka Ogwumike and Chelsea Gray. Lots of early season work was put on by reserves, Riquna Williams, Kalani Brown, Marina Mabrey, and Tierra Ruffin-Pratt. True to the team’s 2019 slogan, “Lead the Charge” was Nneka Ogwumike and due to her hard offensive work, she scored 8 of the team’s first 10 points. The Sparks maintained a close lead through the quarter, ending up with a two point advantage to end it at (21-19).
(2nd Qtr): Transition basketball is the phrase best used to describe the action. The game was the tied at 25 with (4:45) left. Both teams struggled to find a consistent scoring rhythm. Inside the paint, the Suns’ 6-6 center, Jonquel Jones, powered the Sun’s offense with 9 points at half to go along with 11 rebounds. Nneka Ogwumike, Tierra Ruffin-Pratt, and Chelsea Gray kept the offense going with timely baskets. This gave the Sparks a (32-29) with 1 min. left. Then, after a furious four offensive rebound effort by the Sun, the Sparks took possession and finished it up with a Sydney Wiese 3-pointer, moving the lead to six at (35-29). After a Sun basket, the Sparks saved it for a final shot before halftime and Nneka Ogwumike once again hit a 3 pointer with a beautiful 22′ jumper from the left corner.
HALFTIME SCORE: Sparks (38) Sun (31)
(3rd Qtr): Exchange of baskets and uptempo style of play was exhibited by both teams as they came out to start the second half. It was (49-42) Sparks, with (5:45) left. Both teams were cold during this stretch of the period. Then with a minute remaining Chiney Ogwumike hit a nice spin move on the right side upping the score to (51-40). The Sun countered with a made basket, followed by 3- pointer, but then Rookie, Marina Mabrey hit a deep 3-pointer with time winding down to give the Sparks a nine point lead at (54-45) to close the quarter.
(4th Qtr): Another finely crafted career “double-double” by Nneka Ogwumike went into the books as she gathered her teammates for the final 10 minutes. Coach Fisher stuck with his two rookie reserves, Kalani Brown and Mabrey for a decent stretch of the period until they were subbed-in for by Gray and N. Ogwumike at the (8:48) mark. However, the Sun wouldn’t quit and put up five unanswered points before C. Ogwumike hit a driving runner from the right side, boosting the advantage to (57-50). Then, a sudden, but pinpoint length of the court pass was perfectly made to Riquna Williams who scored on a text-book, and crowd-pleasing lay-in making it (59-50), Sparks. But the Suns were still pecking away at the lead and in the blink an eye, thanks to their scoring guard, Courtney Williams’ offensive moves, she cut the lead to two, (59-57) ending their seven point run at the (6:00) minute mark. Subsequently, a Media Time Out was called which gave the officials a chance to review a play situation that occurred just prior to the time-out. They ruled a Flagrant 1 on the Suns. After the time-out, C. Ogwumike sank 2 free throws moving the score to (61-57), Sparks.
Of Significance…The pace of the game was greatly slowed due to the number of fouls called on both teams. Returning to action, Jonquel Jones cut the lead to one, (61-60), with a 3-pointer at (4:45). At (4:00), Tierra Ruffin-Pratt then calmly hit a wide open 3-pointer, moving the lead to four at (66-62). After two Sun free throws, it was (66-64) with (3:40) to play. Countering was Chelsea Gray who hit a 15′ jumper straightaway, for a (69-65) lead. Then, after an offensive rebound, Gray scored again on the “put-back” for an “And-1”, (71-67). The free throw then made it (72-67) with (1:20) left. After the Sun split two free throws, the score was (72-68), coming with just (:59) seconds left. After a Gray pass to Ruffin-Pratt on the wing, she then skipped-passed to N. Ogwumike who had spotted up in the deep corner for a 3-pointer. She buried it as the tense but euphoric crowd immediately rose to its feet in great appreciation for being eyewitnesses to her stellar “double-double.” It was the backbreaker that moved the score to (75-68) and sealed the game for the Sparks. The Sun didn’t score on their next possession and resulted in a foul committed on Chelsea Gray, who then hit two free throws to end the final scoring at (77-70).
(Final Score): SPARKS (77)–(1-1) – SUN (70)–(2-1)
(Next Game): Please note the early-bird start time at 8:00 am (PST) on 6/4, Tuesday at New York Liberty.
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