Skylar Diggins-Smith conducts the offense against the Sparks. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Skylar Diggins-Smith conducts the offense against the Sparks. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Storm pour it on in the fourth, wash out Sparks

Seattle used a huge 10-0 run late in the fourth to take control over Los Angeles.

After falling disappointingly to the Minnesota Lynx on June 9, the Seattle Storm got back on the right foot at home with a 95-79 win over the Los Angeles Sparks for their fourth game of the Commissioner’s Cup.

“LA has a lot of talent. Their record is not vindictive of what they have on that team… It is a tough matchup. They have fire power at a lot of positions,” Head Coach Nicolle Quinn said.

For the majority of the game, the Sparks were able to keep it a competitive close game. But with the Storm looking to pull away in the final 3:42, Nneka Ogwumike, or aptly named “Big Shot Nneka,” did just that and drilled a corner three and crushed the idea of a comeback in the minds of the Sparks.

“That’s big shot Nneka” Jewell Loyd said. “She makes it look easy and effortless, but that is all the preparation that goes into it. She puts a lot of work into her body and her game.”

Despite Ogwumike saying she had never heard that nickname before: “That’s not what they call me… That is the first time I am hearing this folks,” Ogwumike said with a laugh.

Ogwumike finished with a season high of 26 points, 8 rebounds, 2 blocks and one assist against her former team. It was the first regular season game against the franchise that she played with for the first 12 years of her professional career. But it didn’t matter, she was there to play basketball.

“I am just someone who shows up and plays the game and respect the game…. I am really good at staying focused, it happened to be a good one (against LA). I think I want to play like that every night,” Ogwumike said.

In the first quarter, the Storm got out to a 13-5 lead, but the Sparks found their way back into the game and ended the frame at 25 each.

The theme of the first half was the Sparks keeping it close. Seattle tried to break away a couple of times, extending the lead to four twice, but the Sparks kept reeling them back in.

Another first year Storm player, Skylar Diggins-Smith, has been playing well recently. In five of her last six games, she has scored 16 or more points and has distributed just over six assists per game over that span. In the first half against Los Angeles, she had 10 points, three assists and three rebounds.

Ogwumike was battling foul trouble in the first half, so along with SDS, Jewell Loyd took control of the offense, as she had 13 first half points.

Come third quarter, Ogwumike found her groove. After just eight first half points, she rattled off 11 in the third and capped it with a buzzer beating layup, thanks to Jordan Horston. Horston came off the bench and played with a fire that the Storm needed. She intercepted a pass and found Ogwumike down the court for the buzzer beater.

“Horston has a lot of talent as it relates to what she does on the floor… When she is locked in and focused on her assignment and her skills, it gives us a lift,” said Quinn.

In the fourth, the Sparks cut the Storm lead down to six points, 76-70, then Ogwumike hit her three pointer in the corner and SDS hit a three pointer on the next possession and that put the nail in the LA Sparks’ coffin. Those six points kick started a 19-9 run to close the game.

“There was a lot of intensity in those moments that were lacking a couple of games ago,” Quinn said.

The 79 points were hard to come by for Los Angeles. The Storm are leading the WNBA in blocks and blocks per game. Seattle also has held teams to under 80 points seven times this season, which is tied for second most in the league (Connecticut and Minnesota).

“Sometimes we over concentrate on defense then on offense we almost relax a little bit. But tonight was a good example of how we can get stops and convert them,” Ogwumike said.

Since May 22, the Storm have won seven out of eight games and are kind of flying under the radar nationally. That is OK for the Storm players.

“We do a really good job of keeping things in the locker room. Keeping things with the Storm… Pokey (Chatman) said at halftime, ‘We have big goals, our goals are big.’ That really resonated with me,” Ogwumike said.

The Storm have shown they can compete with the best of the WNBA this season. With the way they are playing, those goals are looking more and more achievable.


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Ezi Magbegor makes a move on LA’s Cameron Brink. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Ezi Magbegor makes a move on LA’s Cameron Brink. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Jewell Loyd sets up a cross-over dribble at Climate Pledge Arena. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Jewell Loyd sets up a cross-over dribble at Climate Pledge Arena. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Nika Mühl, Kiana Williams and Jordan Horston celebrate the win over Los Angeles. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Nika Mühl, Kiana Williams and Jordan Horston celebrate the win over Los Angeles. Ben Ray / The Reporter

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