Sparks surge past Sun for 90-64 win

 

The Associated Press

Nneka Ogwumike has early bragging rights over her sister Chiney after the first meeting between them on the basketball court turned into a rout.

She scored 24 points and the Los Angeles Sparks used a big third quarter to blow open a close game, and beat the Connecticut Sun 90-64 on Sunday.

The sisters, who were both No. 1 picks in the WNBA draft, exchanged a pregame hug and were constantly guarding each other. They said though, that once the game started it was just about basketball.

"I think there were more emotions before tiopff when I realized 'oh I'm actually going to play against Chiney,'" Nneka Ogwumike said. "It really wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. We're both aggressive and competitive and I thought it was a good matchup."

Nearly 30 members of the Ogwumikes family were in attendance, including their mom and dad as well as a younger sister.

"I came out really focused. Maybe it's because of the occasion," said Chiney Ogwumike, who had 18 points to lead the Sun. "Maybe I need to envision everybody I'm going against is my sister from here on out and keep that focus."

The two teams will play again in Los Angeles on Aug. 3.

"I wish we could have competed a little bit better, but that's why there are two games in the series."

Sibling showdowns are a rarity in the WNBA as there have only been a handful of sister matchups, according to the league.

The Sparks led by four points early in the second half when Nneka Ogwumike made two free throws, followed by a running jumper.

Alana Beard, Ogwumike and Jantel Lavender each added a jumper to give Los Angeles its first double-digit lead at 54-42.

"All along I felt like if we played harder, we wouldn't have been in so many of those close games," Sparks' coach Carol Ross said. "We need to be able to finish out no matter what the score is.

"Today I was very pleased with our intensity coming out of the locker room at the half. I thought our third quarter is where we really imposed our will and played strong."

Armintie Herrington's 18-foot jumper gave Los Angeles its biggest lead at 84-53 with over four minutes left in the game.

"They're a bad matchup for anybody in the league," Sun coach Anne Donovan said. "When they put Lavender into the starting lineup (at center) and put Parker permanently at the three, it's a nightmare."

It was the second straight win for the Sparks, and just the second time they've won back-to-back games in what has been a frustrating season.

The game did have a moment of levity late when Chiney tried to sneak in to take a jump ball against her sister midway through the fourth quarter. It didn't work as the official moved her out of the circle as she wasn't the one who was supposed to take it.

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