Walker, Sparks Guards Shine in Preseason Loss

PHOENIX (May 11, 2019) — The Los Angeles Sparks traveled to Phoenix’s Talking Stick Resort Arena for their first preseason game of 2019. With much of the roster populated by veteran players, a new face occupied the bench as head coach Derek Fisher took the sidelines for the first time in his WNBA career. The Sparks got encouraging play from several young players, but ultimately fell 82-75. Ashley Walker scored 16 points, grabbed seven rebounds and had three steals in 24 minutes to lead the way for the Sparks. DeWanna Bonner scored 20 points and grabbed eight rebounds to lead Phoenix.

Phoenix won the tip and Brittney Griner scored the first points of the game. Nneka Ogwumike quickly followed with a layup of her own to get the Sparks on the board. Minutes into the game, Candace Parker suffered a hamstring injury and would not return; she’ll be evaluated by the Sparks medical staff in the coming days.

Ashley Walker entered in the third minute and immediately knocked down a 3-pointer in her first minute as a Los Angeles pro. Soon after, Marina Mabrey hit a 3-pointer for her first points in the WNBA. With a minute remaining in the first quarter, Walker grabbed a steal and hit a running layup to take the lead. The guard was instrumental in the Sparks charge to overcome a seven-point deficit and finish out the first quarter up 23-21.

The second quarter opened up with a Phoenix run, but the Sparks guards held their ground. Mabrey hit another 3-pointer, her second of the contest. Karlie Samuelson hit back-to-back 3-pointers in the sixth minute of the second quarter. Los Angeles finished the first half 7-for-11 from beyond the arc and led 45-43 at the break. Nneka Ogwumike and Mabrey were key performers with eight points apiece. Walker grabbed three steals before halftime.

Rallying at the start of the second half, Nneka Ogwumike added four points, but Bonner and the Mercury forced several Sparks turnovers and capitalized. Chiney Ogwumike hit back-to-back layups to keep Los Angeles afloat at the end of the third quarter and they took a 63-61 into the fourth.

Phoenix tied the game at 70 early in the fourth quarter and extended to a 77-70 lead. Alexis Jones, who scored 11 points, cut the lead to four with 2:40 remaining, but the Sparks were unable to get pivotal stops and managed just 12 points in the final period. It was an encouraging game for the Sparks youth as the team shot 11-for-22 on 3-pointers.