It was a night of resiliency. The Dallas Wings came surging back to steal the game from one of the league’s top teams as they outlasted the Los Angeles Sparks, 84-78. The Sparks were riding on a season-high, 5-game winning streak coming into Dallas on Wednesday night. They had every reason to believe they could stretch that to 6 knowing how shorthanded the Dallas bench was. They could take advantage of this opportunity.
The Wings were coming off a road win versus the Phoenix Mercury, but with multiple suspensions amongst their players, it left Head Coach Brian Agler only eight total dressed players for this game. One of those players took leadership, poise, and control of the latter part of the game that willed her team to victory. That was none other than guard and Rookie of the Year contender Arike Ogunbowale, who finished with a game, season, and career-high 35 points.
“I just tried to stay how I was and play how I normally play. I tried to be vocal when I could, and I think that the older players stepped it up a lot too.” Says Ogunbowale. One of those older players she mentioned is forward and 6-year veteran Glory Johnson, who finished with her own season-high of 20 points. Having said that, getting a rookie to push the team to victory speaks a lot within itself. Let alone, against a playoff contender like the Sparks. Coach Agler mentioned about Ogunbowale’s leadership, “I think she understood the importance of a lot of people stepping up.” With Dallas sitting at 8-17 and looking on the outside-in of the playoff race, this provides hope for them going into the final stretch and into next season, knowing Skylar Diggins-Smith will be ready to return and the surge of rookie Ogunbowale.
On the opposite end of the court, you have the Los Angeles Sparks, coming off of the winning streak of 5 games, only to go to a sudden halt against one of the lower seeds in the league. The Sparks fell behind by double digits early in the game before going on a run and getting their first lead early in the 2nd quarter. But even then, Sparks forward Candace Parker notices the change of pace, “We’ve got to start better…we didn’t play well on the road in this first [road] game.”
Sparks Head Coach Derek Fisher was asked if this sort of loss was an example of a wake-up call. “Sometimes when you’re winning, it’s hard to go in the locker room and curse players out and tell them how many things they’re doing wrong because you’re winning every time.” In a sense, he is right. Mistakes are almost overlooked during a winning streak, until when the actual loss comes around and those mistakes are then magnified and can maybe serve as the wake-up call the team needed. “I have to be better”, says Coach Fisher about his outlook on preparation for the game.
The two teams who faced each other tonight were heading in opposite directions in their respective seasons. But as it turned out, it seemed as if they switched places for one night and it’s an example of how anything can happen on any given day in this league. The Sparks, now at a record of 15-9, will now move ahead on this road trip to face the Chicago Sky as they look to begin a new winning streak and stamp their ticket into the postseason. The Wings will try to build on this win vs. the New York Liberty on Friday as they look to gain momentum heading into next season.