Short-Handed Sparks Rally Falls Short Against Seattle

On the Fourth of July, the Los Angeles Sparks faced off against the Seattle Storm for the first time in the 2021 season. The Storm won 84-74 led by the 2019 WNBA Most Valuable player Breanna Stewart, who scored 21 points to go along with four rebounds and four assists. Four Storm players: Stewart (21), Ezi Magbegor (20), Epiphanny Price (18), and Sue Bird (13) scored in double-figures. Sparks guards Brittney Sykes and Erica Wheeler led the Sparks 19 points each. Sykes also recorded her first double-double of the season with 10 rebounds, five assists, and two steals.

Sparks center Amanda Zahui B. started the game strong with back-to-back buckets. Sykes led all scorers with seven points in the first period, but Los Angeles shot just 25.7% from the field. Stewart also scored seven of her own. The first quarter became a back and forth defensive battle. The Storm led 20-15 at the end of the first quarter, as Seattle shot 47.1% from the field.

The Storm and Sparks continued exchanging baskets in the second quarter. Sykes scored a layup on the right wing, then Seattle forward Katie Lou Samuelson stole the ball and went for the easy layup. Sparks forward Nia Coffey then scored her 500th career point. Four-time WNBA Champion and Seattle guard Sue Bird and Stewart led the Storm on a 15-8 scoring run during the first half of the quarter. The Sparks stayed the course, led by Sykes (9), and guard Erica Wheeler (7). The Storm led 39-30 going into halftime.

Los Angeles started off the second half on a 14-3 scoring run. The Sparks crawled back into the game with three steals, and back-to-back three-pointers, courtesy of Nia Coffey and Sparks forward Karlie Samuelson. Brittney Sykes got the Sparks to within one with a steal and layup with six minutes to play in the second quarter. Coffey led the way collecting a block, and taking a charge on the defensive end, while scoring 11 points. The Sparks went on a 26-10 run, taking their largest lead of the game at 56-48, but the Storm closed the quarter on a 8-2 run. The Sparks led 58-56 going into the fourth quarter after shooting 58.3% from the 3-point line.

The Sparks and Storm battled back and forth throughout the fourth quarter. Seattle took the lead, but Wheeler scored a layup and hit a right elbow jumper to cut their lead to just three points, at 64-61 with 6:30 to play. The Seattle Storm pulled away, going on a 14-3 scoring run of their own. Stewart scored seven fourth quarter points, and the Storm led by as many as 12 points in the fourth, eventually securing the road win.

Off the court, sisters Karlie (Los Angeles) and Katie Lou (Seattle) Samuelson played against one another for the first time in their college and WNBA careers. The Samuelsons are Southern California natives who played high school basketball at nationally renowned Mater Dei High School. The sisters played in Spain together during the 2020 offseason.

When asked to describe what the moment meant to them on pregame shootaround, Katie Lou said “I probably say it’s just surreal.” Karlie said, “This moment is definitely surreal like I’m just taking it in.”

Despite the loss, the Sparks showed flashes of strong play against the top team in the league and defending champions. The Sparks shot almost 40% from behind-the-arc. The Sparks will play on the road against the Storm for the second straight game on Wednesday, July 7 at 7:00 PM.