Sparks Hold Off Liberty

With one second left in the game and clinging to a one-point lead and out of timeouts, Candace Parker threw a baseball pass to Nneka Ogwumike who made the leaping catch to run out the clock and help the Sparks beat the Liberty 82-81.

Alana Beard scored the Sparks first points of the game on a leaning drive but the Sparks went cold, calling a timeout with 6:07 left in the first quarter down 5-2. A Parker runner out of the timeout broke the dry spell, but Los Angeles shot just 37.5 percent in the opening frame. A Riquna Williams 3-pointer tied the game at 16, but Rebecca Allen answered with a triple of her own to give New York a 19-16 lead after the first quarter.

A 3-pointer from Amanda Zahui B, who scored 12 first-half points, gave the Liberty a 28-20 lead. The Sparks responded with a 10-2 run as a Chelsea Gray triple tied the game at 30 apiece and a Nneka Ogwumike put-back gave the Sparks a 32-31 lead. Tina Charles, who scored 13 first-half points, scored four straight points and the Liberty answered with a 6-0 run to go up 37-32 and force a timeout from Sparks coach Brian Agler. The Sparks responded with a 9-4 run, including back-to-back 3-pointers from Williams from NBA range, to tie the game at 41-41 heading into intermission. Ogwumike led the Sparks with 10 first-half points and Williams added nine off the
bench.

A Gray triple off a flare screen opened the second half scoring to give the Sparks a 44-41 lead before Brittany Boyd hit a wide open seven-footer to open-up scoring for New York. A Sugar Rodgers corner-three tied the game at 50 before a Charles post-up gave the Liberty a 52-50 lead. New York continued to have the edge as Charles 21st points tied their largest lead at 62-54. New York took a 66-61 lead into the final period.

Gray again opened the quarter scoring with a rainbow three. An Ogwumike turnaround tied the game at 68-68 and a Parker layup gave the Sparks a 70-69 lead with six minutes remaining. But the Liberty continued push the pace and a Bria Hartley euro-step layup off a Sparks turnover gave the Liberty the lead back at 71-70. Williams fourth three of the game gave the Sparks a 75-73 lead and Essence Carson’s three gave the Sparks a five point lead with 1:36 remaining. But Charles came right back with a bucket to make it a one possession game and Gray missed an open three to give the Liberty a chance. After the Liberty missed and Gray missed a midrange jumper, the Liberty corralled the rebound down three with 20 seconds left, but threw the ball out of bounds. Gray went to the line with 13.4 left and calmly knocked down two to give the Sparks an 80-75 lead. Rodgers hit two 3-pointers, sandwhiched by two
Ogwumike free throws to the Liberty to within one with a second left, but Parker’s pass sealed the game.