Sky hang on to edge Sparks, 82-80

Courtney Vandersloot on the run. Photo by Maria Noble/WomensHoopsWorld.
Courtney Vandersloot on the run. Photo by Maria Noble/WomensHoopsWorld.

Los Angeles – The Chicago Sky dominated both ends of the floor down the stretch of Thursday’s match up with the Los Angeles Sparks to pull out an 82-80 win.

Stefanie Dolson hit a three-point shot with 13 seconds to go to give Chicago the slim lead, and then teammate Imani Boyette blocked two shots in a row. Nneka Ogwumike’s put-back at the buzzer was short for Los Angeles, giving them their first home loss of the season.

Dolson led the Sky with 15 points, and Courtney Vandersloot scored 14 points and dished 14 rebounds. Boyette and Allie Quigley each added 12 points.

Chicago, now 5-1 in July, also saw guard Cappie Pondexter return to the court after missing most of the month with concussion symptoms. She scored eight points in over 11 minutes of play.

Sky coach Amber Stocks said the win came from her team’s defense.

“Our recent momentum has been spurred by our offense. This game was more of a defensive game,” she said. “There were a lot of looks that we anticipated having that LA took away.”

“They did a very good job of scouting us and preventing us from getting the three-point shots that we usually get. So, we had to do the same on defense and really focus our defensive efforts and take the open shot opportunities that came.”

Imani Boyette scores. Photo by Maria Noble/WomensHoopsWorld.
Imani Boyette scores. Photo by Maria Noble/WomensHoopsWorld.

The Sparks outscored their opponents in the first quarter, and stretched their lead to double-digits by halftime. Dolson put up the first bucket in the third quarter, and Chicago outscored the hosts 21-15 in the frame, narrowing their lead to four points. Both teams traded baskets though the final period, setting up the final showdown.

Dolson said the Sky have been forging ahead with great attitudes.

“Positivity, just positivity – I mean, we just keep going, we push, even if the other team goes on the run, we have each other’s backs,” Dolson said. “We trust each other, we believe in ourselves, and that’s what’s really kept us going.”

The loss drops the record of the defending champion Sparks to 14-6, and leaves a bad taste in their mouths going into the All-Star break.

“When you play a team that’s hungry in this league – there’s a lot of talent in this league on all of the teams – the hungriest teams are gonna win,” Los Angeles coach Brian Agler said.

“We didn’t play as well as we would like today but we’ve gotten better defensively. I think that’ll be a good foundation spot for us. But we’ve got to get our rotation—our personnel rotation down. We’ve got to get a little bit more fluid offensively, not be so stagnant. But I think across the board everything that we’re doing we’ve gotten better at.”

Ogwumike and Candace Parker finished with 24 and 19 points respectively and Chelsea Gray added 17. All three, as well as Dolson and Quigley, will play in Saturday’s All-Star game.

Gray said their lack of defensive stops played a factor in the loss.

“We would get a stop, then their hands would be on the ball and then they would get second opportunities or a layup at the rim and that’s where they were scoring,” Gray said. “We just have to have our focus intact for 40 minutes and get those defensive stops.”

“We have an opportunity to something special with the second half of the season so I think we need to re-focus, rest our bodies, come back and get this win. ”

Sue Favor contributed to this report