Jo­hannes leads Lib­erty to vic­tory over Sparks

Antelope Valley Press (Sunday) - - Sports - By DOUG FEIN­BERG

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.

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