Sparks Stun Sky In Electric Performance


By Ashley Wijangco (Sky Lead) and Jeffrey Newholm (Sparks Lead)

Sparks: Canada, Nneka Ogwumike Magnificent As Cambage Celebrates New Team

Sky have the ball, side-out off a timeout.

The opponent races for a foul.

Chicago with one of the best point guards in the game; what hope could there be?

But sometimes, in addition to the five players on the court, lady luck serves a great sixth woman. Just as Courtney Vandersloot‘s wild pass ended the Sky season in the 2019 playoffs, a whoops of a throw gave the Sparks, a magnificently proud franchise, another chance.

And did they take advantage!

Liz Cambage, living in her jammin’ world of fun (if only we could have such a vivid life!), had played limited minutes with foul trouble, and Chennedy Carter, despite an electric heart, couldn’t penetrate the rapid Sky defense wall. But Nneka Ogwumike (with her sister, Chiney, also hooping like a fiend) provided the rugged leadership needed for a roster in transition.

And, when all hope seemed lost, a split-second mistake gave LA another chance.

Vandersloot’s pass bounced far past a meandering Candace Parker; although Derek Fisher had used all his timeouts (to significant effect), LA needed but one chance.

Enter the great hustler Jordin Canada.

Canada leaped into Dana Evans, and – yes! drew a foul. Vandersloot, faithful to her successful tactic, whipped a frustrated Chicago crowd into a thunderstorm.

First Step

No matter. Swish – swish – swish. Overtime.

A dispirited Sky team offered little resistance as the Sparks hit free throws. Although minutes remained on the clock, a too-long-defeated fanbase (before a sudden 2021 triumph) knew time was already up. As the stands emptied early, Nneka, Cambage, and Canada knew: the last championship belonged to Chicago.

But 2022? A new world for the WNBA, with the shorthanded champs already facing questions and doubt. And the 1-0 Sparks? True, not an overwhelmingly convincing win. But every win counts, with only the top four teams guaranteed home playoff games.

Although 2,015 miles from their sunny homes, the Sparks found satisfaction in an artistic first step towards an overdue championship in the heart of the Midwest’s fiercest WNBA dungeon.

But, for Chicago, the path back to the championship sky cruelly stuck a branch as Vandersloot and Parker tripped. What specifically can the Sky improve as they regroup, and what positives can they gleam from the near-miss?

Sky: Offensive Overload Outdone by Turnover Terror

From an energetic opening that produced a 12-2 start to a 3-point overtime that led to a loss, the reigning champion Sky started 2022 disappointingly, lessening the thrill of high-scoring games from Parker and Evans.

Parker — who began training camp two weeks late, arriving on May 2 after recovering from COVID-19 — put up an offensive performance suggesting otherwise. The Naperville, Illinois-native scored 21 points on 8-for-14 shooting with three 3-pointers.

Meanwhile, Evans had a career night with a career-high 24 points to lead all players.

But 25 total turnovers never complements impressive offensive play; it negates it — unless you’re the opposing team.

Sights Set on Discipline and Care

One game into the season leaves plenty of room for optimism and time for growth, especially for a Sky team that isn’t even at full strength yet. Three-time all-star Allie Quigley sat out the opener due to a knee injury. Reigning WNBA Finals MVP Kahleah Copper hasn’t even joined the team yet this season due to overseas commitments.

Regardless of what Chicago’s roster has yet to look like, though, one thing remains clear after the season opener: discipline and care need to be priorities.

The Sky were well on their way to winning the matchup in the fourth quarter, up 88-85 with just 6.7 seconds to go in the game, thanks to an Emma Meesseman layup and away-from-the-play free throw.

But then came Dana Evans’ foul on Canada’s 3-point attempt with 1.5 seconds left. The error isn’t the foul but rather the timing of it. Commit the foul in transition, and Chicago could have avoided the shooting foul.

Then there are the rushed plays — namely passes — that led to turnovers.

In the fourth quarter, the Sky turned the ball over four times, helping provide the momentum the Sparks needed for a comeback.

Such matters are understandable given the young season. No team is in quite the right groove yet. However, these mishaps were very much so avoidable, and the season’s infancy doesn’t make them acceptable.

It’s good that there are 35 games to go.

About Ashley Wijangco

Ashley is a Filipina American writer and Illinois journalism graduate based in the Chicago suburbs. She has a decade's worth of sports writing experience, having been published in several online publications. She writes about the Bulls, the Sky, and general NBA content for The Lead.

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