Career Nights from Cooper, Samuelson Lead Sparks Past Mystics

The Los Angeles Sparks (6-7) defeated the Washington Mystics (7-7) 89-82 at home at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Sparks guards Te’a Cooper (26) and Karlie Samuelson (13) recorded career-highs in points. This was the sixth time this season that Cooper scored in double digits. Samuelson knocked down a career high three 3-pointers and went 5-for-5 from the field. The Sparks bench led the way scoring 53 points, anchoring LA’s offensive attack. Mystics center Tina Charles led the Mystics with 25 points and 10 rebounds, while point guard Leilani Mitchell recorded 26 points and six rebounds.

The Mystics started off the game on an 8-0 run, and Sparks center Amanda Zahui B. responded immediately with the first four points for the Sparks. After being down by as much as 11 points, the Sparks crawled back in the game with two defensive stops- a charge taken by Sparks forward Nia Coffey, and a steal by guard Brittney Sykes to spur a 10-6 scoring run to close out the quarter. Los Angeles point guard Te’a Cooper led the first quarter comeback scoring 8 points. The Sparks closed out the first quarter trailing 23-17. Charles led all scorers with 13 first quarter points.

The Sparks scored a season high 32 points in the second quarter. The team locked down defensively in the second, going on a 31-17 run. They shot 59.4% from the field in the first half and caused eight second quarter Mystics turnovers. Sparks guard Erica Wheeler stole the ball and made a wide open layup to tie the game, then Zahui B. gave the Sparks the lead with a wide open three. She recorded 12 points in the first half. Sparks guard Karlie Samuelson knocked down a wing three at the buzzer to give the Sparks the 49-44 halftime lead.

“I thought we did a really good job in the second quarter of driving, attacking the paint,” Sparks Head Coach Derek Fisher said. “And then kicking it out to open teammates for good quality shots and so I thought that quarter really turned the momentum of the game.”

The Mystics regained the lead early in the third quarter, but the Sparks bench again came in to bring LA back. The Sparks shot a blistering 50% from the behind-the-arc led by Samuelson who went 3-for-3 from the three-point line. Then, Sparks guard Brittney Sykes blocked Charles with 8.2 seconds to play in the quarter. Charles (21) and Mitchell (20) accounted for 41 of the Mystics 66 points. The Sparks led 67-66 at the end of three quarters.

As the fourth quarter commenced, Samuelson knocked down back-to-back buckets, and the Sparks continued playing physical basketball. Sykes scored five straight points to give LA a fivepoint lead at 79-74 with four minutes to play. Zahui B. locked down defensively and recorded her third block on a Charles 3-point attempt with just 33.8 seconds to play. With that play, the Sparks clinched the 89-82 victory over the Mystics.

“Jeff Van Gundy used to say it a lot ‘it’s a make or miss league.’ They say it more frequently in the NBA but a lot of times it’s the same thing for us,” Fisher said. “When you have players like Karlie Samuelson, when they’re open, they’re going to make a good percentage of their shots. That makes all the difference in the world.”

The Sparks travel to Phoenix this weekend and will take on the Mercury at 3 p.m. PT on Sunday, June 27.