Atwell, Carter shined in Sparks preseason finale

13 players for the Los Angeles Sparks entered the game in their comeback win over the Phoenix Mercury (Photo credit: Megan Hines)

Los Angeles used a fourth quarter without their stars to cement win over Phoenix

This contest between the Los Angeles Sparks and Phoenix Mercury was a sight to see in person or even on the screen as the Sparks were able to overcome a 10-point fourth quarter deficit and notch a 87-84 win over the Mercury on Saturday afternoon at California State University, Northridge.

The first quarter was pretty much even for the Sparks and visiting Mercury, with the Mercury finishing the quarter with a slight two-point edge 18-16. The competitive energy was set early and Chennedy Carter thrived in that for the Sparks in the quarter and through the rest of the first half.

“When I come to the game focused and locked in, I feel like I can get my teammates engaged as well,” Carter, who finished with 15 points, two assists, and two steals, said postgame.

In the first quarter, Carter began to pick the ball up for full court with active hands. On an out of bounds play, she was able to get a steal and get an easy two for the Sparks to get the crowd going. Carter’s energy and activity helped propel the Sparks to a productive second quarter where the Sparks were able to outscore the Mercury 29-18.

“Just competitive spirit, that dog that she has in her, that’s how she plays,” Sparks Head Coach and General Manager Derek Fisher said on Carter’s productivity throughout the game, “I think her ability to push the basketball with pace and then see the gap and get there, everybody can’t do that.”

Though it was a highly productive second quarter for the Sparks, the quarter saw some words exchanged and an early exit for a big name.

Technical fouls were assessed to both Nneka Ogwumike and Phoenix’s Emma Cannon after an offensive possession for the Mercury where Cannon took exception to the contact that Ogwumike was giving which led to an offensive foul called on Cannon.

Liz Cambage, who finished the game with 4 points and 5 rebounds, had a bit of a tough go early in the game with picking up six fouls within 11 minutes of action.

Cambage was visibly frustrated with how she was being called and was voicing that through her time on the floor. Within a matter of minutes in the third quarter, Cambage picked up her last three fouls with her last foul coming on the defensive end against Phoenix’s Jeannie Sims.

Carter also picked up a technical foul in the third quarter.

The Sparks let the game slip away from them in the third quarter with Mercury outscoring them 25-13. The mounted up foul calls on the Sparks and the Mercury’s free throws gave way to a 3-point Phoenix lead heading into the fourth.

Aside from Jasmine Walker, the rest of the Sparks starters did not see game action in the fourth quarter. Nneka Ogwumike ended her afternoon with 20 minutes of play with 11 points, three rebounds, and two assists after the third quarter.

Sparks 2022 second rounder Amy Atwell built up a big showing in the contest and continued to propel to them in the fourth quarter. The Australian who played college ball for Hawaii felt comfortable in the Matadome having played against CSUN for five years in the Big West Conference.

12 of Atwell’s overall 19 points were scored in the fourth quarter and helped lead the way to the Sparks victory. Atwell went a perfect 6-6 on 3-pointers in the overall contest with four of them connecting in the fourth.

“After that and one three that I had, I was kind of like “Okay, I’m feeling good,” Atwell said then added that she was still finding her shots within the offense but knew that she had a hothand.

Los Angeles outscored Phoenix 29-23 in the fourth quarter as they pulled off the comeback from behind with the young players taking the reigns. Atwell and Carter, who scored 9 points in the quarter, led the way in fourth for the Sparks. Between Carter’s late free throws and Atwell’s final three, the Sparks were able to seal the win.

Due to Cambage’s early foul trouble, the young bigs in Walker and Olivia Nelson-Ododa (8 points, 6 rebounds) were getting opportunities on the floor. Fisher expressed how in some instances early in the season, they would not have to heavily rely on the stars to close out games.

The same could be also said for the guards this season as well with Jordin Canada (6 points 4 rebounds, 3 assists, and a steal) and Brittney Sykes (9 points, 2 rebounds, and a steal) also not taking the floor in the fourth.

“None of them will have to play big minutes in order for us to still have a chance to win and try to use our depth to our advantage,” Fisher said.

As training camp nears its end, it will obviously be a difficult decision for Fisher and his staff to cement the final roster for the season after some of the showings during camp and the Sparks’ two preseason games.

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