Sparks Valiant Effort Falls Just Short at Mohegan Sun

The Sparks began the first of a two-game set at Mohegan Sun against the first-place Connecticut Sun, and fell just short, losing 76-72. The Sparks led by as many as nine points in the second half, but couldn’t hold off the Sun frontcourt down the stretch. Jonquel Jones put up 22 points and 11 rebounds, Brionna Jones scored 23 points and Bonner added 14 for Connecticut. The Sparks got another strong performance from the bench, as Nia Coffey led the Sparks with 18 points and Arella Guirantes saw extended time again, scoring six. Erica Wheeler (13), Brittney Sykes (11) and Nneka Ogwumike (13) also reached double-figure. The game was a matchup of two Top 5 defenses and was physical on both ends. The Sun were 20-for-25 from the line to the Sparks 13-for-14, a pivotal swing in the game.

In the first quarter, Brittney Sykes helped force three turnovers early. However, All-Stars Brionnna Jones, Jonquel Jones, and DeWanna Bonner’s inside presence helped the Sun take an early lead. The Sparks struggled to score and the Sun took a 20-10 advantage into the second quarter.

The Sparks went to the bench early in the second quarter and got life from Chiney Ogwumike, Nia Coffey, and Arella Guirantes. Down 22-10, the Sparks went on a 12-3 run to pull to within 25-22. This unit clamped down on defense and got scoring from Wheeler. A 3-pointer by Chiney Ogwumike gave the Sparks a 37-31 lead, and LA took a 39-36 lead into the half.

The Sun started the third quarter on a 5-0 run to regain the lead at 41-39, before LA answered with an 11-0 run to go up 50-41, their largest lead of the game. Connecticut responded back with a 9-0 run to tie the game at 50-50. After LA went up 55-50, the Sun again went on a 9-0 run to take a 59- 55 lead into the fourth quarter.

Nia Coffey hit two 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, the second pulling the Sparks to within 67-63, but the Sun’s inside presence was difficult for LA’s undersized frontcourt to handle as J. Jones, B. Jones and Bonner continued to find layups inside and draw fouls. With Connecticut up 71-63, a Coffey layup and a Toliver 3-pointer pulled the Sparks to trailing 74-70. After a stop, a Wheeler layup made it 74-72 with 28.8 seconds remaining. The Sun then found J. Jones on a lob pass and her layup gave the Sun a 76-72 lead on the decisive play.

The Sparks stay at Mohegan Sun and will have a rematch on Saturday at 4 p.m. PT.