Nneka Ogwumike’s dunk energizes Sparks for second half of WNBA season – San Bernardino Sun

LOS ANGELES — Nneka Ogwumike’s dunk in the WNBA All-Star Game was on the minds of the Sparks players and coaching staff, as the team prepared to host the Washington Mystics on Tuesday night at Crypto.com Arena.

The Sparks (10-12) have won three of their last four games but are coming off a 37-point loss to the Seattle Storm last Thursday.

The Mystics (14-10) have been among the league’s top tier of teams this season, especially with All-Star guard Ariel Atkins averaging 15 points per game.

Meanwhile, Washington is even better when two-time league MVP forward Elena Delle Donne plays this season. The Mystics are 11-4 when Delle Donne is in the lineup.

The Sparks know that to be effective against the Mystics, they’ll need to defend against Washington’s balanced scoring.

However, Sparks guard Brittney Sykes was back at practice on Monday. Sykes is expected to play this week, after missing the past four games while in the health and safety protocols.

“It’s all about the effort and energy defensively and closer out much tighter on the 3-point line and defending the paint inside,” Sparks interim head coach Fred Williams said.

The Sparks also want to be aggressive offensively against the Mystics’ seasoned perimeter defenders like Natasha Cloud, Atkins and Alysha Clark.

“We definitely need some time to rest and recover,” Sparks forward Katie Lou Samuelson said when asked about logging more minutes recently.

In the six games since June 25, the 6-foot-3 former Mater Dei High star is averaging 34.3 minutes per game.

“I love the opportunity to play. I think that’s the first thing, I’m grateful for every moment I get on the court. It’s been a lot with the schedule, with the back-to-back (games). We’ve had some people go down (with injuries) and you gotta step up, if you’re feeling up to it, you gotta put your best foot forward.”


“It went in, yes,” Williams shared. “Fingertips on there, yes. … I count it as a dunk, she got up. The women are starting to play above the rim. Look out fellas, here they come.”

Williams said he would not be mad if Ogwumike decided to dunk again during a home game.

“If she tried, one or two or three, I wouldn’t be mad at all. That just shows you the effort and energy of a player that’s trying to take the women’s game to another level,” Williams continued. “It was good to see Sylvia Fowles go in there and hammer one home too.”

Sparks guard Lexie Brown, the daughter of Dee Brown, who won the 1991 NBA Dunk Contest, had a slightly different take.

“It was a dunk attempt but it was still two points. The fact that she got up there was impressive so I think that you consider it a dunk but two points is two points,” Brown added. “Her being able to do that is incredible and Syl that was literally the first thing I saw when I turned the TV on was Sylvia Fowles dunking and I was amazed because who can do that. … I haven’t seen Syl do that in a few years, so that was really cool to see.”

Brown said the last time she saw Fowles dunk was during a 2020 practice inside the WNBA bubble in Florida.

“I wish more players would bring that out in-game, I think it would be cool to see,” Brown added.

Meanwhile, Samuelson said Ogwumike often jumps above the rim for rebounds, so she was not surprised that Nneka has the ability to dunk.

“Yeah, it was a dunk,” Samuelson said with a smile on her face. “Count it as a dunk, give it to Nneka all day long.”

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