Los Angeles (June 24, 2018) – Behind Chelsea Gray’s career passing night and Riquna Williams’ stellar shooting, the Sparks got back to their winning ways, defeating the Liberty 80-54.
The Sparks came out firing in the first quarter, with Candace Parker opening the scoring with an and-one runner. Tina Charles followed with a lay-in from the post, but those would be the Liberty’s only points for the next 3:52 of game time. A subsequent 8-0 run from Los Angeles, fueled by buckets from Parker, Nneka Ogwumike, and Essence Carson (starting in place of Odyssey Sims), gave the Sparks an 11-2 lead. After an Alana Beard free throw made the score 16-10 with 1:38 to play, the teams exchanged buckets and the Sparks took an 18-12 lead into the second quarter. Parker and Ogwumike combined for 13 in the frame, while the Liberty’s 12 points came courtesy of five different scorers.
After a pair of Jantel Lavender long twos helped to maintain Los Angeles’ lead at 25-19, jumpers from Amanda Zahui B and Charles brought the Liberty to within two points with 6:38 left in the second quarter, but the Sparks responded with an 18-4 run to end the half. Williams drained four three-pointers in the final 3:32 of the quarter, including a 24-foot buzzer-beater to send the Sparks into the locker room with a 43-27 lead. Los Angeles shot 56.2 percent (18-32) from the field in the first half, with Gray tallying eight assists. The Liberty were held to a 38.7 percent (12-31) clip.
The Liberty scored the first four points of the third quarter through jumpers from Kia Vaughn and Charles, but an and-one from Gray and a driving lay-in from Ogwumike pushed the Sparks’ lead to 17 (48-31). With 5:26 left in the quarter, Gray unleased a one-handed laser to a cutting Ogwumike for the basket, giving Gray a career-high 11 assists on the night and the Sparks a 54-34 lead. A Parker three-point play was answered by a three from Zahui B with 1:03 remaining, and the Sparks took a 61-41 lead into the final quarter. Gray finished the frame with seven points, 11 assists, three rebounds, and a steal.
Williams took over the fourth quarter, scoring the first 11 points of the frame on three 3-pointers and a fast break lay-up, single-handedly extending the Sparks’ lead to 72-41 with 6:54 left. Williams was soon subbed out to a rousing ovation for rookie Karlie Samuelson, who saw her first game action since being released by the Sparks on May 29. Following buckets from Zahui B and Brittany Boyd to push the score to 74-48, Maria Vadeeva connected on her first career three-pointer to push the lead back to 29. The Sparks went on to win by a score of 80-54. Gray posted a career-high 11 assists and Williams led all scorers with 25 points on seven long balls. Ogwumike recorded 12 points and 10 rebounds for her fourth double-double of the year. Zahui B led the Liberty with 21 points on 9-15 shooting.