Two Los Angeles Sparks players garnered league honors as the team battles to get the championship title. Center Nneka Ogwumike became WNBA MVP and center Jantel Lavender was awarded Sixth Women of the Year for this season. Their honors came at the beginning of the WNBA Semifinals.
Ogwumike is the leading scorer of the Sparks with 19.7 points and 9.1 rebounds. During this season, she displayed her offensive and defensive ability by earning 16 double-doubles.
“I think that this award is reflective of how hard that [the Sparks] worked this year,” Ogwumike said to ESPN. “Efficiency is always what I strived for and I want to be the best out there for my team.”
The league celebrated her talents by naming Ogwumike the WNBA Western Conference Player of the Week six times.
Prior to the WNBA, Ogwumike became the second all-time leading scorer for the Stanford Cardinal women’s basketball team. She also helped the Cardinal reach the Final Four in the NCAA championships four times.
Lavender also comes from a decorated past, she was inducted into the Ohio State Athletics Hall of Fame last month. The Cleveland, Ohio native was the Gatorade State Player of the Year and a McDonalds All-American in 2007.
Lavender was the first Big Ten freshmen to become Big Ten Player of the Year; she earned the honor three more times. She is the second player in conference history to earn over 2,800 points.
Both Ogwumike and Lavender played passionately through the start of the WNBA semifinals. The Sparks faced the Chicago Sky in the series. Chicago finished the season with an 18-16 overall record, making them second place in the Eastern Conference.
In Game 1, Ogwumike showed off her defensive aggression in the Sparks’ 95-75 rout against the Sky; she earned 27 points and 10 rebounds. The crowd in the Walter Pyramid in Cal State Long Beach chanted “M-V-P, M-V-P” while Ogwumike played. Four Sparks’ players scored in the double digits with center Candace Parker leading in scoring with 30 points.
Chicago had to carry on without their standout player Elena Delle Doone, who won the league MVP award last season. Guard Jamierra Faulkner led the team in scoring with 13 points.
The Sky kept the game competitive while the Sparks tried to find their offensive groove early on. By halftime, Los Angeles had a 17-point lead.
Chicago came out with more fight in Game 2 at the Staples Center. Lavender aided in the Sparks second win by scoring 10 out of the 11 field goals she shot.
“She’s a microwave honestly, that’s what I call her,” Parker said in regards to Lavender. “She comes in, she heats up, she does what she’s supposed to do… she plays phenomenal.”
Lavendar tied with Parker at 20 points when the Sparks defeated the Sky 99-84 in game 2. Parker also led the boards with 12 rebounds.
The Sparks were in the perfect position to sweep the five-game series when they traveled to Chicago to play the Sky on Sunday. Rookie center Imani Boyette earned 13 points and 11 rebounds to help the Sky to a 70-66 victory over the Sparks in game 3. Guard Courtney Vandersloot led Chicago with 17 points. Ogwumike and guard Kristi Toliver were the only Sparks that scored in the double digits with 22 and 13 points respectively.
Game 4 will take place on Thursday at the Staples Center.