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Sparks rally from behind to edge Sky, 84-81

Chelsea Gray runs past Gabby Williams to score. Maria Noble/WomensHoopsWorld.
Chelsea Gray runs past Gabby Williams to score. Maria Noble/WomensHoopsWorld.
Chelsea Gray runs past Gabby Williams to score. Maria Noble/WomensHoopsWorld.

Los Angeles – The Los Angeles Sparks overcame a slow start and a 16-point deficit to roar back and edge the Chicago Sky Sunday, 84-81.

Chelsea Gray led the way for the Sparks with 26 points, while Nneka Ogwumike scored 17 and grabbed 12 rebounds in the team’s fifth straight win. Tierra Ruffin-Pratt, who added eight points, said it was defense in the end that made the difference.

“We got stops down the stretch,” she said. “That’s been our go-to for most of the season, being able to get stops. Coach always says that when it comes down to it, to be able to win games you’re going to have to be able to get stops.”

Allie Quigley scored 20 points for the Sky, who were without starters Courtney Vandersloot and Jantel Lavender, as well as reserve Jamierra Faulkner. Cheyenne Parker added 19 points and Diamond DeShields, 16.

Los Angeles was sluggish to start, not scoring until 7:58 and trailing 4-14 at the 5:52 mark. At that point, coach Derek Fisher pulled Ogwumike, Ruffin-Pratt, Candace Parker and Sydney Wiese from the court and sent out four reserves to play with Gray. Chicago led 27-15 at the end of the frame.

The hosts picked it up a bit in the second quarter, trimming their deficit to five by the break. They chipped away in the third period, ending with momentum on a Maria Vadeeva putback layup to end it with a 61-59 Chicago lead.

The back-and-forth battle continued in the fourth, and at the two-minute mark, a Quigley three-pointer gave the Sky a 79-75 lead. Gray answered with a three of her own 35 seconds later. She made two free throws with 30 seconds to go, then grabbed a rebound that set up an Ogwumike shot to give the Sparks a three-point lead. Quigley’s three-point shot attempt as time expired rimmed out.

Gray said the Sparks focused on raising their energy level up as they mounted their comeback.

“Our defensive intensity picked up in the second half,” she said. “They had a lot of aggression to start the game, denying the passing lane, making us uncomfortable when we penetrated the lane, getting hands on balls. They were the first ones on the ground to get loose balls, and we talked about that at halftime, how we had to have that fight, that edge.”

“So down the stretch, we had that. And with all the turnovers we had in the last two minutes and we were still able to win the game is amazing.”

DeShields took positives from the loss.

“We all just genuinely wanted to get that win for the guys that aren’t playing, but we got a talented roster,” she said. “One through 12, I think our depth really showed tonight, and I think that we can match up with anyone with or without starters in the lineup or not, and we showed that. That kind of sends a message to the rest of the league, and sends a message to ourselves.”

Los Angeles is now 15-8 and in third place, while 14-10 Chicago is in fifth place. The two teams face off again Friday, on the Sky’s home court.

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