Johannes leads Liberty to victory over Sparks
WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — With the starters in foul trouble and struggling to score, Katie Smith turned to the reserves and they delivered.
New York’s bench scored 43 points, led by rookie Marine Johannes with 17, in the Liberty’s 83-78 victory over the Los Angeles Sparks on Saturday.
Johannes hit all six of her field goal attempts, including four 3-pointers, in her third game with New York. She missed the first part of the season helping France reach the Olympic qualifiers.
“She’s a scorer. We need production,” Smith said. “We need that to happen. We need those in the ballgame to impact the game and give a max effort. “
The victory ended a threegame skid for New York (8-10).
“Our defense was better than we did the last three games,” Smith said. “Really pleased, we got a lot of contributions from a lot of people, pleased we got out of here with a win.”
Johannes helped New York build a seven-point lead heading into the fourth quarter. The Sparks rallied behind Chelsea Gray and Chiney Ogwumike to get to 79-78 with 17.4 seconds left. Tina Charles hit two free throws to make it a three-point game.
The Sparks (10-8) had one last chance, but Gray’s 3 from the top of the key was short after she shook off defender Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe to get an open look with 9.4 seconds left.
Charles hit two more free throws to seal the win.
“We kept putting them at the line and they got some buckets. We got good looks down the stretch in the fourth. Maybe in another game we’ll convert them,” said Chelsea Gray, who had 19 points and five steals for Los Angeles.
Nneka Ogwumike had 20 points and 12 rebounds to lead Los Angeles.
The game got off to a slow start as both teams struggled to score. The Liberty bench provided a spark, scoring 11 points in the opening period to help New York take a 19-12 lead. The Liberty led 44-37 at the half. Johannes had 11 of her 13 points in the second quarter. She dazzled the crowd with a trio of 3-pointers, including one just before the end of half as the shot clock was winding down. The 24-year-old made all five of her shots in the first half.
DEPLETED ROSTER: The Sparks are down to only eight active players on the roster. Candace Parker (right ankle), Alana Beard (left hamstring), Alexis Jones (right knee sprain), Maria Vadeeva (knee) are all injured. Riquna Williams is serving the second game of her 10-game suspension for a domestic violence incident .
SPECIAL GUESTS: NBA Commissioner Adam Silver took in the game with his family as well as former Liberty player Swin Cash, who is now the New Orleans Pelicans Vice President of Basketball Operations and Team Development.
UP NEXT: Sparks at Atlanta on Tuesday.