PARADISE, NV – It was a night where the House was rockin’, and the Los Angeles Sparks got knocked around as the Las Vegas Aces rolled to an 83-70 win in the WNBA regular-season opener for both teams.
But Las Vegas had to get warmed up. The Sparks put four points on the board before Carolyn Swords scored the first Aces’ points of the campaign with two free throws. Los Angeles held a 19-15 lead with around four minutes left in the first quarter.
Then the Aces hit their stride. Las Vegas ended the first half on a 30-12 run and put it on cruise control the rest of the way before a crowd of 7,249 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center. One notable member of the audience was former Los Angeles Laker and NBA All-Star Kobe Bryant.
Second year forward A’ja Wilson led the Aces in scoring with 21, while Kayla McBride pitched in 20. Center Maria Vadeeva was the game-high scorer with 24 for the Sparks, while Nneka Ogwumike contributed 17.
Both teams were missing valuable components. Free-agent acquisition and center Liz Cambage was out with an Achilles injury. For Los Angeles, All-star Candice Parker was held out with a hamstring issue.
The 30-12 run in the second quarter got its’ start when Dearica Hamby entered the line-up. The fifth year forward out of Wake Forest provided some defensive intensity as well as an offensive push. She finished with 14 rebounds and 12 points in almost 27 minutes of playing time.
Hamby is from the metro Atlanta area, and played high school at Norcross under legendary coach Angie Hembree. She is still in contact with her old coach. “We talk once every few months,” said Hamby. “She made me the person I am today and was the reason why my career turned out this way. I’m grateful to her.”
Hamby was rewarded with a three-year contract extension. Aces head coach Bill Laimbeer was honest with what he expects from her. “She asked me ‘What do you think of me?’ I told her she was a great bench player on a championship team. That shocked her a little bit. She said it was the greatest compliment I ever gave her. I don’t give her many compliments. When she plays with her energy, she makes things happen. That’s what great players do.”
The other big moment occurred at the end of the first quarter. Los Angeles attempted a buzzer-beater shot that initially was ruled legal but was later waved off as the officials said it was released too late. If it was good, then Los Angeles would have been down by just one heading into the second quarter.
Sparks head coach Derek Fisher acknowledged as such. “At the time, the way we finished the quarter we had started to stumble and struggle a little bit and those three points could have given us a little bit of a psychological lift.”
The Aces are starting their second season in Las Vegas, and after a 14-20 maiden season, they have emerged as a trendy pick to win the WNBA this season. Laimbeer liked what he saw, but he’s not ready to completely buy into the hype.
“We still have to learn how to win,” he said. “But today was just a start. It was a good start. They came out and wanted to win the basketball game. If they could do that every night and play like a playoff game, we’re going to be okay.”
“They (the national media) keep saying and writing that we’re good. We’re going to be good. But we still have to prove it. And we haven’t done that yet.”
Las Vegas now makes the short drive to play the Phoenix Mercury on Friday, while Los Angeles has their home opener that same night versus Connecticut.

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