On Saturday at the Los Angeles Convention Center, the Los Angeles Sparks faced the Chicago Sky for the third time this season, and completed a season sweep of the Sky, winning 68-63.
Both teams were missing leaders. The Sparks were without former MVP Nneka Ogwumike and two-time All-Star Chiney Ogwumike, while the Sky were without two-time MVP and former Spark Candace Parker, who remains sidelined with an ankle injury. Parker was honored by the Sparks prior at the end of the first quarter in her first trip back to Los Angeles.
The Sparks, who dominated the first quarter, were led by sophomore guard Te’a Cooper’s 7 points. The Sparks maintained a lead throughout the first half after Cooper scored a layup to put Los Angeles up with just over 8 minutes to go in the quarter. Guard Kahleah Copper scored a team-high 5 points in the first quarter for Chicago.
Los Angeles built up a 21-10 lead with a minute to go in the first period. However, the Sky would score the last 4 points of the quarter, before opening the second quarter on a 6-2 scoring run, to whittle the Sparks lead to 23-20. The Sky pulled to within two points after an Allie Quigley jumper at the quarter’s 4:37 mark made the score 29-27.
The Sparks responded with an 11-0 run that featured five different Sparks scoring. The run helped Los Angeles carry a 40-31 lead into the half.
Guard Erica Wheeler led all players with 13 first-half points on 4-of-6 shooting from the floor and 5-for-5 shooting from the charity strike. Meanwhile, center Amanda Zahui B. did a little bit of everything for the Sparks in the first half, scoring six points, reeling in five rebounds, and recording three blocks. Guard Allie Quigley and forward Ruthy Hebard led all other Sky players with 6 first-half points.
Both teams struggled offensively for much of the third quarter, as the first field goal for either time came five minutes into the period on a Cooper layup that extended the Sparks lead to 44-35. However, the Sky mounted an impressive 10-0 rally to take a 49-47 with under a minute to go in the third quarter, their first lead since being up 4-3 less than two minutes into the game. The quarter ended with the teams knotted up at 49. Leading the Sky’s third quarter charge were Copper and Hebard with 8 and 6 points respectively. Los Angeles shot just 3-of-18 from the field in the period.
The Sky held the upper-hand over the Sparks for the first few minutes of the fourth quarter. But, trailing 57-53 with just over five minutes to play in regulation, the Sparks offense came alive, rattling off 8 points in a two-minute span. The Sparks used a 12-1 run down the stretch to put the Sky away. In the fourth quarter, Zahui B. and Wheeler led the way on offense for Los Angeles, scoring 7 and 6 points, respectively.
The Sparks used just an 8-woman rotation, and were outscored 21-5 in bench points. However, they rode gritty play from their starting five to emerge victorious.
Zahui B. surpassed 1,000 career points in the game’s first quarter on her way to recording her first double-double of the season, with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Wheeler led all scorers with 22 points. She also recorded 5 rebounds and 5 assists. Also scoring in double figures for Los Angeles were Cooper (13) and forward Nia Coffey (10). Coffey finished just one rebound shy of a double-double.
The Sky’s Hebard notched a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Copper led the Sky on offense with 15 points.
Los Angeles shot 36.8% on field goals and 15.8% from three-point land, while the Sky made 33.9% of their field goal attempts and 27.8% of their 3-point attempts.
After the game, Sparks Head Coach/General Manager Derek Fisher emphasized the Sparks philosophy this season. “We have to play with a level of physical and mental toughness. We’re hungry and we’re going to play each possession like it’s the last one of the game.”
Meanwhile, Coffey, Wheeler, and Cooper touched on the positive change in atmosphere now that fans can attend games again.
“We love to have our fans in the building to hear their energy and get that momentum that makes you feel like you have a home court advantage,” said Coffey.
The Sparks, above .500 for the first time this season, now get set to travel across the country to take on the Washington Mystics on June 10 and the Minnesota Lynx on June 12.