May. 13, 2016
Los Angeles Sparks? Oh, you mean the 2016 WNBA Champions!
They did it. The Los Angeles Sparks did it. It took 14 years to bring back home the trophy to Los Angeles, but they did it.
This WNBA series has been really intense, and if you weren't watching this series over the last few weeks, you missed quite the action. The Los Angeles Sparks won WNBA championships in 2001 and 2002. They are the only team to win back-to-back championships. Of course that was when Lisa Leslie, the all-time great of the Sparks was playing, but that was the end of that era. Candace Parker and WNBA MVP of the Year, Nneka Ogwumike were hungry for a championship. The Lynx won three championships in 2011, 2013, and 2015.
It's been 20 years since the beginning of the WNBA. 20 years since little girls could aspire to play in a league of their own. 20 years since women were able to show their worth by playing a sport professionally and not just collegiately. 20 years since the beginning of where we are now with the WNBA.
So, it would make sense that the 20th season of the WNBA would have a great series for the finals. For the last 19 years, the finals have been played by the best team from the Western Conference and the best team from the Eastern Conference. However, this year it was decided that the finals would be played by the two best teams overall in the league. Both the Lynx and Sparks are from the Western Conference and both had extremely strong records for the regular season.
The first quarter was a close one with the Lynx leading only by one point, 18-17, before starting the second quarter. At the end of the half the Lynx were at a bigger lead with 34-28. Lynx stars, Maya Moore and Simone Augustus had scored the last 12 points to make that lead possible.
In the third quarter, the Lynx were taking possession even though one of their top players, Sylvia Fowles, had an injury with her middle finger, which seemed to have been dislocated. She was showing her face in pain and had to be taped up before going back out and playing as if nothing happened. Head coach of the Lynx, Cheryl Reeves received a technical foul and the Sparks went on a 9-2 run. However, the Lynx ended the third quarter 55-54.
The fourth quarter was where the intensity of the Sparks grew. They got their rebounds and made sure each attacking play earned points. The Sparks didn't have the biggest lead of the game until the fourth quarter, which was three points and then eventually five points. Nneka Ogwumike had 5 fouls, Krist Toliver had 5 fouls, and Esence Carson had 4 fouls with just four minutes left in the game. Kristi Toliver made the most insane three pointer of the game. With only a second left during a play, Toliver threw the ball with a defender on her and swung her body to the side. She made it, and that got the Sparks amped up even more as Candace Parker got a rebound and scored on the backboard, giving the Sparks their largest lead of the night, 71-63 with only three minutes left. Maya Moore had not scored in the last fourteen minutes of game action, but eventually made a free throw and then a three pointer, putting the Lynx back at 67. Rebekkah Brunson put the ball in and go the Lynx to 69, while the Sparks felt the pressure coming on with a two point game. They had 1:53 to do something. As soon as the ball was passed in for the Sparks, Lindsay Whalen of the Lynx stole the ball and put the Lynx at a tied game. Thankfully, Nneke Ogwumike got a rebound and put the ball in to make it 73-71. However, after the commentators and viewers at home were able to see the review of that shot, it was clear that the ball was in Ogwumike's hands at the buzzer. The referees did not review it, so the score stayed. Simone Augustus quickly pulled a jump shot and it was back to a tied game. Rebekkah Brunson got fouled and made 1 out of 2 free throws with 23 seconds left.
The ball went back and forth when finally the Lynx were leading by one point with 15 seconds left on the court. It would Nneka Ogwumike who got the team's rebound and put the ball back in, helping the Sparks lead the game by one. There was 3.1 seconds left for the Lynx to make a play with no timeouts left. Lindsay Whalen got the inbound and she threw it from half court but it would not end happily for the Lynx. The final score was 77-76.
The Sparks won on Minnesota's home court in front of Lynx fans. This is first championship for that the Sparks have won since 2002, and now it is their third. Candace Parker won WNBA Finals MVP as she finished the night with 28 points and 12 rebounds, and speaking of rebounds, Parker said that rebounds and defense was the only thing on her mind in order to win the game because she had listened to a recording of her Tennessee coach Pat Summitt give a speech to amp up the girls from Parker's days in college. Summitt died this past year and Parker said that she was only going to play the rest of the season in her memory.
“This is for Pat,” said Parker as she fought through tears. “This is for Pat.”
This game will remain controversial for the sake that the ball was still in Ogwumike's hands of that one shot, but that's life and that's sports. Sometimes it is fair and other times it is not.
Congrats to the Los Angeles Sparks for bringing home the championship!