Coffey, Walker shined in Sparks preseason finale
After a hard-fought preseason game that had two players leaving the floor after sustaining injuries, both the Los Angeles Sparks and Las Vegas Aces agreed to conclude the game with an 85-85 score at the end of regulation with no overtime action to be played in the Sparks’ temporary home, the Los Angeles Convention Center.
Sparks forward Nia Coffey, who finished the game with 11 points on 2-6 three-point shooting, five rebounds, and two assists, hit a long jumper to make it a tied game at 85 all with just 41.8 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Aces star forward A’ja Wilson had an opportunity to give Las Vegas the lead and winning shot but it just did not connect in the final moments of the fourth quarter.
Due to Los Angeles resting some players in this game, including centers, Chiney Ogwumike and Amanda Zahui B., they were working with small lineups throughout the game that worked against them at times with Aces center Liz Cambage having her way in the paint finishing with 21 points shooting 6-8 from the field and hitting 9-12 free throws.
In rolling out a small lineup to close out the game, the Sparks put some emphasis on trying to cover Cambage and get a pick to gain an advantage on the possession of Coffey’s game-tying shot.
“I had a three but I felt more comfortable hitting a two,” said Coffey as she described the late-game play-action to media following the game.
Though she’s on a training camp contract and hopes her play just speaks for itself to lend her a solidified spot, Coffey is focused on continuing to bring herself to task every day on and off the floor. The roster hopeful knows that she can bring value to the team in every aspect of her game.
“If that’s defense, offense, getting rebounds, or its stuff that shows up on the stat sheet if it doesn’t show up on the stat sheet, who cares,” Coffey said. “I’m just trying to do what I can for this team and I’m here to serve and get better so I’m just trying to do all that I can.”
Along with Coffey, Sparks rookie Jasmine Walker had a stellar showing in the team’s first game on their temporary home floor. Walker’s big afternoon began in the first quarter where she led the Sparks in scoring with eight points on 3-5 shooting from the field, two of which were three-point shots.
Through the first three quarters, Walker racked up 17 points on 5-8 shooting from the three. She shot from beyond the arc with no hesitation and did not look like a rookie on the floor. Walker concluded her afternoon with 23 points on 7-11 threes and nine rebounds.
“To see most of my threes go in, [my] confidence is through the roof,” Walker said, “to be able to accomplish my dream, play in a WNBA game, put up numbers like that, [my] confidence is through the roof.”
Sparks Head Coach Derek Fisher praised Walker for being a true worker and constantly wanting to improve every day. So far for Walker, that has shown and proved for her in the offseason.
At one point in the fourth quarter, Walker got herself into a three-point shot out with former Sparks guard and current Aces guard Riquna Williams. Williams was able to get her hot hand going early in the fourth quarter but Walker continued to respond with her barrage of threes for some consecutive possessions.
Nneka Ogwumike, who finished the game with 12 points, three rebounds, and two steals, also showed some love to Walker for the kind of player and teammate that she has shown that she is during camp. Ogwumike said that Walker knows her capabilities and absorbs everything “like a sponge.”
Te’a Cooper, and Bria Holmes also contributed with double-figures against the Aces. Cooper had 11 points and five assists while Holmes had 10 points, two rebounds, and two steals on the afternoon. Cooper left the game in the fourth quarter after getting kneed in the quad with locked up muscles. Fisher said Cooper should be fine ahead of the Friday’s home opener.
Some tough decisions are just around the corner for the Sparks with the deadline for final cuts being on Wednesday, May 12th. With a few more days of evaluation, this preseason game was just one factor of that process. Fisher knows it’ll be a tough decision but knows that each player is deserving of a roster spot.
“Every player here has done everything she can possibly do and will continue to do the next couple of days,” Fisher said to media post-game.
In an already competitive camp, it’ll be interesting to see who will be on the opening day lineup as the Los Angeles Sparks host the Dallas Wings at 7:30 p.m. PST on Friday at the Los Angeles Convention Center.