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Sparks Fall to Lynx in Augustus' Return

June 12, 2021 - Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) - Los Angeles Sparks News Release


The Los Angeles Sparks battled the Minnesota Lynx at the Target Center in their road trip finale. Though the Sparks lost 80-64, the night was all about Seimone Augustus. It was the first time Augustus, the recently retired, and newly appointed Sparks Assistant Coach, returned to the Target Center since announcing her retirement. She played 14 of her 15 WNBA seasons with the Lynx where she won four WNBA titles, and created one of the most well-known rivalries in league history against the Sparks. The Lynx announced pre-game that her number 33 jersey will be retired in 2022. Augustus was visibly emotional during the pre-game honors, showing just how much the city of Minneapolis, the fans, and the game of basketball mean to her.

It was also a night of homecoming for Sparks Center Amanda Zahui B, who played at the University of Minnesota and guard Nia Coffey who is a native of St. Paul, MN. Zahui B. was an AP All American while playing for the Golden Gophers. Coffey is an alumnus of Hopkins High School in Minnetonka, MN where she became a McDonald's All American.

"She (Augustus) is one of the reasons why I wanted to play in the WNBA." Sparks Center Amanda Zahui B. said. "I don't think I have really grasped the fact that she's done, and what she has done for the game of basketball. She used to be my screensaver in high school. It was beautiful but emotional."

After pre-game festivities concluded, the first quarter started strong. Te'a Cooper led all scorers with eight points, as the Sparks shot 50% from the field. For every punch the Lynx provided, the Sparks answered. Cooper attacked the Lynx defense early, knocking down strong layups, proving herself to be an offensive weapon. The Sparks trailed 26-19 at the end of the first quarter.

Sparks veteran guard and two-time WNBA Champion Kristi Toliver tallied nine points in the second quarter to keep the Sparks within shooting distance. Zahui B. recorded eight points and got to the free throw line while battling WNBA legend Sylvia Fowles. The Lynx played stifling defense and held the Sparks to just 34% shooting from the field. Fowles led all Lynx players with eight points and four rebounds, to go along with 21 bench points. The Lynx led 49-35 at the half.

Los Angeles locked down defensively in the third quarter and went on a 19-5 scoring run to erase their halftime deficit. Toliver set up a perfect transition pass to Zahui B. off the fast-break, where she finished the easy layup to cut the lead to 54-52.

Los Angeles outscored Minnesota 22-8 in the period, which was the Sparks lowest opponent scoring quarter this season. Cooper knocked a long range three from the left wing to tie the game at 57 and end the third quarter. Towards the end of the third quarter, Sparks guard Erica Wheeler landed hard, was helped to the locker room and did not return.

"Fish really set the tone at halftime and told us 'You have the next half to go hard' We don't have another opportunity after the buzzer goes off." Cooper said. My mindset was just to be purposeful with what I am doing with every little detail."

The Lynx started the fourth quarter on an 8-0 run to take the lead 65-57. The Sparks responded with a layup and 3-pointer to cut the lead to 66-62 with five minutes to play. The Sparks struggled to regain momentum, as the Lynx cracked open the game to win 80 to 64. Cooper notched a new career-high with 17 points, while two other Sparks scored in double figures: Zahui B. (15) and Toliver (13).

"We showed signs of what we need to do to win games," Sparks Head Coach Derek Fisher said. "It's just about finding ways to sustain them."


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