PASADENA — The Sparks were winners in their second preseason game, defeating the WNBA champion Seattle Storm 92-85 on Friday night at Pasadena City College.
The Sparks put the pedal down in the third quarter, playing suffocating defense and wiping away a five-point deficit by outscoring the Storm 29-10. Nneka Ogwumike scored 10 of her team-high 18 points in the third, including a pair on an open jumper that came as the result of a behind-the-back pass from sister Chiney Ogwumike in transition.
Nneka Ogwumike also had a team-high seven rebounds and four steals.
Ashley Walker, the 32-year-old with a decade of overseas playing experience, continued to make her case as a professional scorer worth keeping around.
After leading the Sparks with 16 points in their first preseason game in Phoenix, she finished with 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting.
Second-round draft pick Marina Mabrey was active and assertive too with nine points, five assists, two steals and four fouls.
Center Maria Vadeeva showed off her touch around the rim, finishing with 11 points on 5-for-8 shooting.
The Sparks shot 54.3 percent from the field and also got double-digit contributions from Sydney Wiese (13 points) and Chiney Ogwumike (12).
UCLA product Jordin Canada started at point guard in place of Sue Bird (rest) and scored a team-high 18 points to go with seven assists.
Sparks point guard Chelsea Gray, back from Turkey, was in attendance. The Sparks will have to cut someone to activate her to keep the number of players in training camp at 15. Jantel Lavender also is expected to join the team soon as well.
The Sparks will have to reduce their roster to a maximum of 12 by May 23.
A BIG JOB INTERVIEW
The Sparks’ exhibition game Friday wasn’t going to count record-wise, but it meant a lot to Cierra Dillard, one of the rookies in L.A. auditioning for a role as a professional basketball player. In her first appearance with the team, she played just a minute, missed her only shot and was whistled for a foul.
But for Dillard, every practice, every possession, every interaction she has in this, her first visit to California, counts for a lot.
“Definitely, it’s a job interview,” said the former University of Buffalo star whose flashy passing in college landed her on ESPN’s Top 10 plays. “You never know where you’re gonna be even next week let alone next year, so it’s definitely a job interview.
“Basketball’s a big sport, but it’s a small circle, so overseas (coaches), they may call Coach (Derek) Fisher, ‘Hey, how is she as a player? How is she as a person?’ You know what I mean? So no matter where you’re going or where you’re at, where you’ve been, you definitely got to keep good connections with everybody. Because it is a small circle.”
After averaging 25.2 points per game in her senior season at Buffalo, second-most among Division I players, the 5-foot-8 guard was drafted 20th by the Minnesota Lynx in April before being waived May 11. The Sparks claimed her May 13.
Dillard understood that was a possibility, but that didn’t soften the blow, she said.
“I felt that down because you care about what you’re doing, you’re very passionate about your job, very passionate about the sport that you play and I just wanted to help them as much as I could,” Dillard said. “Then my agent said, ‘Keep training, you’re gonna have another opportunity.’ I just didn’t think it would come this soon.
“Just to get the call, the next day, is unbelievable,” added Dillard, who didn’t even have to repack her bags. “To be learning from (Penny Toler) and Derek Fisher, obviously, one of the GOATs in the Lakers business, is definitely amazing. So my first reaction was surprised but excited, just grateful and blessed to be here.”
Here, interviewing for this job, and others as well.
Here is the bounce pass from Cierra Dillard to Stephanie Reid. My goodness. Put it on the “how to” video for kids! #SCTop10 pic.twitter.com/UWGRJZrN9x
— Sal Capaccio 🏈 (@SalSports) March 24, 2018
The public is invited to the Sparks’ “traveling practice” on Saturday from 2-4 p.m. at Santiago High in Corona.
The team is scheduled to practice, hold a Q&A and a hot shot competition and sign autographs.
Santiago High is located at 1395 Foothill Parkway in Corona.
May 18th is right around the corner👀
Take the Show on The Road at @SantiagoSharks!🙌
🎟: https://t.co/TbIYaxDRen#GoSparks #LeadTheCharge pic.twitter.com/hegmiANbJn
— Los Angeles Sparks (@LA_Sparks) May 9, 2019