Although the Seattle Storm are the reigning WNBA Champions, they have never reigned in Southern California. The Los Angeles Sparks ousted the Storm from Playoff contention with a 92-69 victory in their single-game round 2 series. The Sparks now travel to face the second-ranked Connecticut Sun in the WNBA Semifinals. The Sparks will host game 3 at Cal State Long Beach on September 22 at 4:00P.M.
“We have to quickly turn the page to a new opponent in terms of how we want to prepare,” said Sparks head coach Derek Fisher. “The things that we’re doing are working out pretty good.”
Guard Chelsea Gray led the Sparks with 21 points and eight assists, forward Candace Parker made 10 rebounds along with 11 points. Newly crowned Defensive Player of the Year Natasha Howard led the Storm with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Guard Jordin Canada had seven assists.
Storm coach Dan Hughes noted how he was inspired by his team who carried on without Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird.
“They were able to be resilient; they were able to grow in different roles and really get locked in on what this team this year needed,” Hughes said.
The Storm was the first to score, they claimed the early minutes of the game. Canada found points by driving to the basket while Howard secured two three pointers. Seattle had found a surge, but soon sent Howard to the bench after getting her second foul. The Sparks soon found a seven-point run, but a three-ball from forward Crystal Langhorne would give Seattle a one-point lead going into the second quarter. Howard secured 12 points in seven minutes.
Seattle could not score in the first three minutes of the second, allowing the Sparks to gain eight more points. Sparks center Chiney Ogwumike had two foul calls against her within one regulated minute, she was soon subbed in for guard Riquna Williams.
“[Canada] got to us in the first half,” Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike said. “We wanted to make sure that we could clog up that paint and transition a little bit more.”
The teams had three jump balls during the second phase and the Sparks gained possession in all three. One came when guard Alana Beard tried to force a turnover on Mercedes Russell.
“We have faith in her every time she steps on the court,” Gray said about Beard.
Fouls and missing shots plagued Los Angeles in the third quarter. Sparks guard Tierra Ruffin-Pratt got a foul first, sending guard Jewell Loyd to the line. Williams went for a steal and got a technical foul. Despite the call, she remained in the game.
Howard brought the Storm within one point, but the Sparks continued to find shots.
“The Sparks just came out in the second half with more energy and that fight,” Howard said.
The Storm began turning the ball over in the fourth, they also could not land long range shots. Guard Sydney Wiese hit back-to-back three-pointers, ballooning their lead to 17 points.
“We’re a type of team that when we’re able to get into the paint, there’s great things that happen,” Canada said. “Unfortunately, we weren’t able to make those shots in the second half.”