Nneka Ogwumike celebrated her birthday in style, as she led the Los Angeles Sparks to their first victory of the season over the San Antonio Stars.
Los Angeles, CA — The Los Angeles Sparks faced off against the San Antonio Stars Thursday night, still in search of their first win of the season. With Toliver back for her first home game, and Nneka Ogwumike and Marianna Tolo celebrating birthdays, what better way to end the night than with a victory.
Toliver was more than ready to get a win for her team in front of the home crowd.
“It feels good,” said Toliver. “I am really happy to be back and be a part of this team and be a piece that can help us push forward and get some wins.”
Los Angeles was determined to make sure this night was a victorious one. The Sparks who started the game off with four turnovers and gave up 22 points in the first quarter, initially, were not playing like a team desperate for a win.
San Antonio shared the ball very well in the opening quarter, as six players scored for the Stars in the first. San Antonio rookie Dearica Hamby has been an excellent addition to the Stars, averaging nine points and six rebounds this season.
Los Angeles turned it around in the second quarter, lead by the strong inside presence of Ogwumike and Lavender, who scored seven and six points respectively in the second. Sparks shot 47.1% in the 2nd quarter scoring 26 points and outscoring the Stars by eight.
Despite giving up a season-high in field goal percentage allowed at 54.8%, Los Angeles headed into the locker room down by only 2 points. The Sparks who have seemingly struggled to come out strong in the 3rd scored 22 points lead by the birthday girl, Nneka with 8 points.
Heading into the final period San Antonio led by five, thanks to the play of Danielle Robinson who finished with a career-high 13 assist. The fourth quarter was a close one that brought about seven lead changes.
Ultimately, turnovers hurt the Stars in the final period who committed five yielding nine points for the Sparks. Stars forward Hamby led her team with 19 points and eight rebounds.
San Antonio head coach Dan Hughes in spite of the loss was pleased with the play of Hamby.
“We kind of threw her in the fire. She’s been playing some big minutes with this basketball team. She’s got a bright future ahead. She’s learning in the league and showed good presence today. She battled well today and has been all season.”
With both teams battling and shooting well from the floor, the game would come down to defense. Sparks Coach Brian Agler was proud as the Sparks won the defensive battle defeating the Stars 81-86. “I’m happy for our players they dug down deep and made plays down the stretch.”
Janet Lavender continued her game-changing play, recording a double-double with 21 points and 10 rebounds. Ogwumike could not have asked for a better birthday gift, as she lead her team to the victory scoring a season-high 27 points and 8 rebounds.
“It feels great, I don’t think anyone else thinks otherwise,” said a very happy Ogwumike. “What’s most important is that we want to try and make it a streak, that’s what we are focused on.”
The Sparks will look to do just that as they take on the Tulsa Shock in a back-to-back game tonight in Los Angeles.
Postgame video: Kristi Toliver