The Las Vegas Aces kicked off the 2019 season with an 83-70 win at home over the Los Angeles Sparks.
All-Stars Kayla McBride (20 points on 9-of-15 shooting) and A’ja Wilson (21 points on 8-of-16 shooting) led the way for the Aces. Reserve forward Dearica Hamby (12 points, 14 rebounds, three assists, two steals, three blocks) was a game-high plus-20.
The Sparks led 19-15 in the first quarter when All-Star point guard Chelsea Gray took a seat for the first time. The Aces outscored L.A. 12-4 in the final 3:54 of the first quarter and started the second quarter on a 7-0 run against L.A.’s bench unit.
Las Vegas took a 14-point lead into the break and the teams played about even the rest of the way. Liz Cambage (Achilles), listed as doubtful for the opener, did not dress for the game. All-WNBA forward Candace Parker (hamstring) did not play for the Sparks.
Second-year big Maria Vadeeva drew the start up front alongside Nneka Ogwumike for L.A. and scored a career-high 24 points on 11-of-20 shooting. Vadeeva knocked down several pick-and-pop jumpers, including two 3-pointers, which paired nicely with her ability to drive into the lane and finish with either hand.
2019 No. 1 overall pick Jackie Young shot 4-of-4 in 23 minutes in her debut. Tamera Young, Sydney Colson and Sugar Rodgers played at least 11 minutes apiece off the bench for Bill Laimbeer.
Eventful week for Colson
Reserve guard Sydney Colson was on the floor for the entirety of that 19-4 first-half run. Three days prior as the Aces needed to finalize the roster, Laimbeer initially planned to cut her before changing course.
“There was some uncertainty about where I would be,” Colson told High Post Hoops postgame. “But I was faithful and believing that God had me here for a reason. Even if I was going home I was just trying to do what I could while I was here. I didn’t know what would happen in the first game. I didn’t know if I would play. Your mindset as a professional has to always be ready to go in.
“I just try to play defense, bring energy, talk, lead us on the offensive end. That’s my job. That’s what I try to do.”
“I thought Sydney played a very outstanding first half,” Laimbeer said. “Second half, okay, well. The first half was outstanding. Really helped our second unit.”
Laimbeer kept all of his players in the loop as they finalized their roster on Thursday. The team ultimately opted to agree on a buyout with Kelsey Bone and to waive Jaime Nared.
“I actually told her that she was the one getting cut that day,” Laimbeer added. “That all changed an hour later when I changed my mind. I thought we needed a guard of her skill and style. I made the choice that okay, we’ll buyout and go with 11 this year, which for us is unusual, but what she does and can give us was absolutely necessary and the players agreed.”
Colson, now in her sixth year, understands the nature of the business. Roster spots don’t come easy. She came ready to contribute for a team that had an opening for another point guard off the bench.
“She’s a professional basketball player. You have your ups and downs, especially when you’re a bubble player. If you’re a star, okay, I get it. But if you’re a bubble player, you take what comes your way. You’re hungry every day, you keep yourself in shape. And if you don’t, well you’re not a professional basketball player. She is.”
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