Aces see Young ‘grow up’ in win over Sparks

2019 No. 1 pick makes key plays late; Aces make a roster move

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Two numbers really popped from Friday’s final tally as the Las Vegas Aces secured an 86-82 win over the Los Angeles Sparks. Angel McCoughtry and A’ja Wilson combined for 50 points on 19-of-34 shooting, hardly a surprise given their stature in the league. The other was a reflection of a more recent development: Jackie Young (15 points, 7-of-12 shooting) stepped up late to help lead the team to victory. 

“I think two things happened,” said Aces head coach and president of basketball operations Bill Laimbeer postgame. “You saw what Angel McCoughtry can do for us. We all know what A’ja can do for us; she made some big shots. But we also saw Jackie Young grow up tonight. She implemented what I talked about all last year. What I think her greatest forte will be is to get in that lane and raise on people and make shots. That’s what she did. I put her at the 1 a lot tonight, and she ran the show well for us.” 

Five of Young’s seven made field goals came in the second half, including two baskets in the closing minutes, both with the Aces up by three points. Coming off that same high screen by Wilson that led to the tough floater in the game’s final minute, Young fed Wilson for a pick and pop jumper with about four minutes remaining.  

Young’s aggressive approach complemented what the team expects to get from Wilson and McCoughtry on a nightly basis. Further, Young’s big night was a necessity, even, to prevail against the Sparks as Kayla McBride (two points on 1-of-6 shooting in 29 minutes) had a quiet scoring night. 

The Sparks were short-handed, playing without All-WNBA forward Nneka Ogwumike (hamstring) or Seimone Augustus, one of the team’s biggest threats off the bench. Chelsea Gray and Candace Parker led the charge for L.A., and Sydney Wiese poured in 16 points in the first half. Laimbeer noted postgame that he felt getting bigger guards like Young and McBride onto Wiese more often later in the game made a difference. 

The duo of Young and Dearica Hamby will continue to give the Aces a tremendous lift off the bench. Both players have already approached or surpassed the 30-minute mark in multiple games this season. Hamby keyed some big defensive stops late in the game. Young’s scoring was a welcome sight. Will that performance lead to a lineup change? Laimbeer said postgame that he plans to continue bringing Young off the bench. 

The Aces made a roster move on Saturday, waiving reserve center Avery Warley-Talbert and signing forward Megan Huff. Warley-Talbert did not play (coach’s decision) in each of the last three games after logging 24 minutes in the first three contests. Huff was waived on Thursday by the Lynx as they freed up a roster spot to activate All-WNBA guard Odyssey Sims. 

Huff played sparingly in her short stint to start the 2020 season with Minnesota. At 6’3”, she’s a stretch big that can open up the lane and attack off the dribble from the perimeter. Huff shot 37 percent on 4.5 3-point attempts per game as a senior at Utah in the 2018-19 season and was selected by the Liberty in the third round of the 2019 draft.