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Los Angeles Sparks Get First Season Win in Walter Pyramid

As Long Beach Poly alum Snoop Dogg once said, “Ain’t no party like a West Coast party, ‘cause a West Coast party don’t stop.”

Walter Pyramid proved this to be true, as Long Beach hosted the Los Angeles Sparks once again. The Sparks (1-2) secured their first win of the season in a 70-68 score over the Washington Mystics (0-4). 

“Every win is huge for us, for our confidence in what we’re doing, and so, you know, really proud of them,” Head coach Curt Miller said. “Just truly exciting for us to get one in the win column.”

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The home team got the party started when starting forward Cameron Brink won the tip off and starting guard Layshia Clarendon drained a three after a little over a minute of game play.

Walter Pyramid was jumping with Los Angeles fans excited to see the Sparks get on the board first. The crowd kept their hype the entire game, as the Mystics stayed close with the Sparks throughout the night.

“I think all of the fans were really excited to have them here, being with a local community and such an intimate space,” spectator Xol Aceytuno said. “The energy was great tonight, and so it was really fun.”

The Mystics responded with two buckets from starting forwards Shakira Austin and Karlie Samuelson. 

Samuelson played for the Sparks in 2018, 2019, 2021 and 2023. She had nine points on the night but proved to be a key player for the visitors, spending a little over 30 minutes on the floor. 

“Big credit to Rickea [Jackson], really guarded Samuelson well in the second half,” Miller said.

Jackson and Brink continued to prove why they were top five picks in the 2024 WNBA draft, being consistent players on the court for the Sparks.

“Those two [Jackson and Brink] are going to help bring that gold star back that people are going to want to play in LA,” Miller said. “They are truly, truly special people.”

Both teams were hot in the first quarter, as good ball handling and movement kept them even. The Sparks had a 24-23 lead at the end of the quarter thanks to a last minute three pointer from guard Lexie Brown. Brown was the game’s lead scorer with 20 points.

The second quarter didn’t see the same heat as the first. The visitors scored 13 points, while the Sparks managed to score eight. Most significantly, the Mystics went on an 11-0 run to hold a 36-32 lead at the end of the first half. 

However, the second half brought back the fire the Walter Pyramid saw in the first quarter. 

Starting forward Kia Nurse drained an electric three with 2:22 left in the third quarter to pull the Sparks even with the Mystics at 50.

A minute later, Nurse faked a defender out to sink another three and give the Sparks a 53-52 lead. This was the first time the home team had a lead since the beginning of the second quarter.

“I think we just picked up the pace on the offensive end,” Brown said. “They came out and punched us first, and we recovered.” 

The third quarter ended with the teams tied 55-55, and Walter Pyramid was buzzing for a Los Angeles win. Nurse got the last quarter started with another three, her third in three minutes. 

As both teams were fighting for their first victory of the 2024 season, intense emotions began to show. Whether it was disagreement on calls or choppy conversation amongst the teams, tensions began to rise in the Walter Pyramid. With a close game on the line, the Sparks were trying to stay composed.

“We turned our focus to our stops and our defense, because we didn’t want to dwell on the turnovers or lack of shots we weren’t getting,” Miller said.

Starting center Dearica Hamby led the charge on this front. After scoring only two points in the first half, Hamby finished the game with 17 points and 18 rebounds.

Hamby played 36 minutes of the game, a huge part of the Sparks closing five. After Clarendon was subbed out for Jackson with 6:01 left in the third quarter, no more substitutions came on for the Sparks.

Brown, Hamby, Nurse, Brink and Jackson stayed on the floor for the entire fourth quarter as the game got down to the wire.

“We brought back a fight and was proud of that group,” Miller said. “I rode the starters and Rickea a lot of minutes tonight.”

Leading 70-68, Brink had a huge block with 1.1 seconds left on the clock. The Mystics challenged the play for a foul, where 0.3 was added back onto the clock. 

The visitors couldn’t net a last basket, as the Sparks came away with the home team victory. Although not their home gym, Walter Pyramid was ecstatic to see Los Angeles win.

“They’re coming out to different communities in LA County and Long Beach, it just makes the community of LA Sparks fans a lot closer,” spectator Carolina Mariscal said.

The Sparks return to Crypto.com Arena on Friday, where they will host the Indiana Fever and No. 1 draft pick Caitlin Clark. Tip off is set for 7 p.m.

PHOTOS: Los Angeles Sparks vs. Washington Mystics, WNBA Basketball
Nina Fife
Nina Fife is a freshman at Pepperdine University majoring in journalism. She began working with The562 in the inaugural intern class before being hired as their Social Media Director and now Assistant Editor. Nina is a proud Long Beach schools alum who graduated with valedictorian honors.