Nneka Ogwumike reaches more milestones in Sparks’ loss to Liberty

Ogwumike (20 points) moves past Candace Parker (5,684) into second on the franchise’s all-time scoring list, but New York ends the game on a 10-2 run to prevail, 76-69.

Nneka Ogwumike reaches more milestones in Sparks’ loss to Liberty

LOS ANGELES — Nneka Ogwumike scored 20 points and passed Candace Parker for second place on the franchise’s all-time scoring list, but it wasn’t enough as the Sparks squandered a fourth-quarter lead in a 76-69 loss to the New York Liberty on Tuesday night at Crypto.com Arena.

Ogwumike now has 5,691 points as a Spark, trailing only Lisa Leslie (6,263) after surpassing Parker’s 5,684. Ogwumike also played in her 344th game, tying DeLisha Milton-Jones for the second-most games played behind Leslie’s 363.

“I feel very blessed,” Ogwumike said. “I don’t want people to think I’m not appreciative. It’s just I’m not aware of a lot of these things but I’m very grateful and very blessed, especially to be in a Sparks uniform 12 years doing this.”

Ogwumike expanded on the milestone before tip-off: “For me, I just like being in the moment. That’s what I try to focus on. I’m just very grateful to be in the league at this time, 12 years in, healthy, being able to play with my teammates and especially those who are making names for themselves in their career (motioning at Sparks starting point guard Jordin Canada). And to do it all in a Sparks jersey is certainly an honor, and to be in the conversation with people like Lisa (Leslie) and Candace (Parker). That’s not anything that I really anticipated coming to this team (in 2012) but I’m very, very grateful to say that I’m still here, hopefully contributing to the history of this organization.”

“I’m not the same caliber as Nneka so I feel funny saying this but I’m really proud of her. It takes a lot to do that and she is consistent, especially this year. Her numbers are off the charts and it’s almost casual. She’ll have 15 at halftime and that’s consistent. It’s kind of not talked about enough and it’s just a thing that she does, but it is excellence and I’m proud of her. I’m not surprised though because that’s the human she is,” added Sparks forward Karlie Samuelson, who was first introduced to her when her older sister Bonnie played with Ogwumike at Stanford.

Jordin Canada added 13 points and six assists, and Layshia Clarendon scored 11 points for the Sparks (9-17).

Courtney Vandersloot scored 20 of her season-high 23 points in the second half and added seven rebounds and six assists to pace the Liberty (20-6), who closed the game on a 10-2 run to beat the Sparks for the second time in three days. Breanna Stewart added 16 points, 12 rebounds, four steals and three blocked shots, while Sabrina Ionescu scored 11 points and Jonquel Jones had nine points and eight rebounds.

New York trailed 54-50 entering the fourth quarter before holding the Sparks to 15 points in the final 10 minutes.

“Obviously, not the result that we wanted but the fight that we wanted,” Sparks coach Curt Miller said.

Canada’s floating jump shot pulled the Sparks within 61-60 with 4:48 left, before a Clarendon 3-pointer tied the score at 63-all and an Ogwumike layup gave the hosts a 65-63 lead with 3:31 left.

The Liberty regained the lead on a Vandersloot 3-pointer, but Ogwumike made two free throws for a 67-66 lead with 2:58 left. New York’s Betnijah Laney made one of two free throws to tie the score with 2:37 left, then Laney and Vandersloot made back-to-back layups to extend the margin to 71-67 with 1:08 left. A pair of Ionescu free throws made it a six-point lead with 15.1 seconds left.

Ogwumike, who added eight rebounds, scored with 14.1 seconds left for the Sparks’ only field goal in the final three minutes, then Vandersloot and Ionescu made three of four free throws from there to ice the game.

The Sparks were coming off an 87-79 loss on Sunday, in which the Liberty made 15 3-pointers.

“I’d say that we put together definitely five, at least six good quarters (against New York),” Ogwumike explained. “I think we’ve learned from how we started the first game and with a team like that you can’t start that way but it’s kind of been a theme for us, is just starting with more energy.

“We have the want to, we have the determination and the belief but we need to turn all of that into real confidence and just having a little bit of swagger. I think that’s what we saw (Tuesday night) and we want to definitely build off of how we feel. For me, I play for intangibles so you can run as many plays as you want to, you can throw all these different schemes out but it’s not going to matter if you’re not locked in with the people that are out there. I think that’s what we realized in these last few games at home.”

The Sparks began the game with a measured approach and led 19-14 at the end of the first quarter, stepping up defensively to hold New York to 18.2% (2-for-11) shooting from behind the arc.

“We have to come out and be more aggressive and make sure we’re disrupting their flow,” Canada said before tip-off.

Midway through the second quarter, the 5-foot-6 Canada, the team’s defensive sparkplug, stood tall against 6-6 center Jones and forced a shot-clock violation.

“She switched and in rotation, she finds herself on a big and she doesn’t let that affect her and she helps get a big stop. Can’t say enough about Jordin.”

The Sparks led 34-32 at halftime after both sides shot 37.5% from the field (12 for 32).

“We believe in the game plan that we have set forth. There’s a lot of buy-in in that locker room,” Miller said before the game.

After scorching the Sparks from the perimeter on Sunday, the Liberty shot just 22% (8 for 33) from 3-point range in the rematch.


The Sparks signed former UConn guard Evina Westbrook to a seven-day hardship contract on Monday, giving the team a healthy 10-player rotation for the first time in more than a week.

The Sparks will play back-to-back games at the Washington Mystics on Friday and Sunday, before concluding their three-game road trip at Indiana next Tuesday.