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Dearica Hamby and Rickea Jackson shine as Sparks defeat A’ja Wilson and Aces

Sparks rookies Cameron Brink, left, and Rickea Jackson react against the Las Vegas Aces at Crypto.com Arena.
Sparks rookies Cameron Brink, left, and Rickea Jackson react during the first half of a 96-92 victory over the Las Vegas Aces at Crypto.com Arena on Sunday night.
(Ryan Sun / Associated Press)
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After the Las Vegas Aces opened on a 14-0 tear Sunday night, it seemed as if the Sparks’ hopes for a victory might be lost.

Then Dearica Hamby and Li Yueru made shots to spur a 7-0 run.

From there, the 13,900 fans at Crypto.com Arena saw a different Sparks team, one that was aggressive and fearless, one that was completely capable of defeating the two-time defending WNBA champions.

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With a relentless defense and big performances off the bench, the Sparks defeated the Aces 96-92 in a Commissioner’s Cup game.

“It’s just a very satisfying and exciting win for that locker room,” Sparks coach Curt Miller said. “The way they are sticking together and responding out of halftime. ... it was an entire team effort. Everyone contributed in different ways. I’ve been in the league a decade now and I’ve watched some less mentally strong teams with that kind of start say it’s not going to be our night, but we refused to do that.”

Now in her second season in L.A. after being traded from Las Vegas and giving birth to her second child, Dearica Hamby is off to a fast start for the Sparks.

June 9, 2024

The Sparks (4-7) have won back-to-back games and moved out of last place in the Western Conference heading into their season-long seven-game trip, which starts Tuesday in Seattle.

Hamby led the Sparks with 18 points, five assists and 10 rebounds for her ninth double-double of the season. Rookie Rickea Jackson had 16 points and five rebounds, and Aari McDonald finished with 16 points. Cameron Brink had a career-high five blocks along with eight points and six rebounds. The Sparks shot 32 for 65 from the field and 22 for 26 from the free-throw line.

The Sparks’ defense held the Aces to 30-for-68 shooting and 11 of 26 from three-point range. Kelsey Plum had 24 points, five assists and two rebounds while two-time MVP A’ja Wilson finished with 31 points, eight rebounds, six blocked shots, five assists and two steals.

Sparks forward Dearica Hamby shoots in front of Las Vegas Aces guard Kelsey Plum on June 9
Sparks forward Dearica Hamby shoots over Las Vegas Aces guard Kelsey Plum during the second half Sunday.
(Ryan Sun / Associated Press)
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Despite Plum and Wilson dominating the paint early, the Sparks started chipping away at the Aces’ lead, eventually closing to within five by the end of the first quarter at 26-21. The Sparks’ bench made an immediate impact, scoring 14 points in the first quarter and adding six more before halftime, finishing the game with 40.

“The game is a long game, there’s going to be games with runs and we need to figure out why we are slow out of the gate,” Miller said. “We preach this league is a league of runs and we needed a spark in the second unit to get us going and we got that.”

The Sparks bounced back in the second quarter, with McDonald and Brown making three-pointers and Jackson making a two-point shot to give the Sparks their first lead with 6:21 left in the half. Las Vegas (5-4) retook the lead at 44-41 on a Kate Martin three, but a layup by Hamby with 17 seconds left made it 44-43 at halftime.

Despite strong performances from Wilson and Martin, who put up 16 and 11 points in the first half, respectively, for Las Vegas, the Sparks’ defense held Plum scoreless in the first 20 minutes and limited the Aces to 15-for-33 shooting.

The Sparks didn’t lose momentum in the second half, scoring 52 points. They extended their lead to 10 points and the Aces fell into foul trouble, with coach Becky Hammon being called for a technical foul with nine seconds left in the third quarter. Hammon was called for another technical with 23 seconds left and was ejected.

Las Vegas surged in the fourth quarter and took the lead on a three-pointer by Plum with 4:42 left. After two free throws by Plum gave the Aces a four-point lead, Jackson (driving layup) and Rae Burrell (two three-pointers) helped orchestrate an 8-0 run to put the Sparks back ahead. With two minutes left and the crowd bumping, the Sparks increased the lead. A three-pointer by Las Vegas’ Alysha Clark with one second left made it a two-point game, but after McDonald was fouled by Plum, McDonald’s two free throws sealed the victory.

Sparks rookie Cameron Brink says she made sacrifices to make the U.S. 3x3 women’s Olympic basketball team and she’s thrilled her hard work paid off.

June 7, 2024

“I think that we adapted to the officiating and it was a bit scary in that fourth quarter when you have four fouls in the first two minutes, but we responded and stayed physical,” Miller said. “Some of the growing pains have been our ability to handle physicality, but you are seeing us take steps. From where we were just a few weeks ago to being able to respond to the physicality gives me great optimism that we are growing up.”

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While the Sparks are growing up, the fans are showing up — and the players have noticed.

“It can be distracting sometimes and can be hard to hear the play calls, but I love it, “ McDonald said of the fan support. “We need to keep seeing that every night. Not just at home but on the road. Shout out to the fans, it means a lot.”

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