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Clark Fever shines in L.A. showdown against Sparks

Courtesy of Kat Acosta/LBSU Athletics

By: Alyssa De La Cruz, Daily49er

LOS ANGELES — The highly anticipated matchup between the top two draft picks, Caitlin Clark and Cameron Brink, did not disappoint Friday night at the Arena. Clark’s Fever secured their first win of the season with a final score of 78-73 after Clark hit her signature step-back three-pointer. 

A record-breaking crowd of 19,103 filled the arena, the highest attendance in Sparks' franchise history. Celebrities such as Golden State Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson, Chicago Bulls small forward and Southern California native DeMar DeRozan, actor and comedian Jason Sudeikis, and actors Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis highlight the growing popularity of women’s basketball.

Courtesy of Kat Acosta/LBSU Athletics

Fans erupted as Clark took the first possession for the Fever but were quickly silenced as the Fever failed to score a jumper by forward/center Aliyah Boston. The crowd’s energy surged again when Sparks' forward Dearica Hamby scored the game's first points with a layup. Fever’s forward NaLyssa Smith responded with the game's first three-pointer, only for Brink to answer right back with an easy layup. 

Clark scored her first points of the game with a layup, sending Fever fans into a frenzy. Despite the Sparks home advantage, a significant "Clark Fever" contingent was vocally present.

Courtesy of Kat Acosta/LBSU Athletics

“I was excited to come here and play in this place," she said. "Obviously there is so much history in this building."

Clark kicked off the second period with an easy layup, but struggled with her signature three-point shots, missing all her attempts in the first half. 

“I don't know if it's a good thing or a bad thing, but I seriously think every shot is going to go in,” Clark said.

The arena was a sea of Clark jerseys, highlighting the star’s fandom and starpower she brings to women’s basketball.

Courtesy of Kat Acosta/LBSU Athletics

The crowd's intensity matched the players' on-court efforts. With forward Rickea Jackson drawing two quick fouls and Boston electrifying the crowd with her first shot, the atmosphere was tense. Despite the Fever’s efforts, the Sparks maintained a 45-34 lead at halftime.

The Fever came out strong in the third period with a 4-0 run, cutting the Sparks' lead. Brink found herself in foul trouble, sitting out after her fourth foul. Brink has faced early foul trouble in the past four games, averaging four fouls per game, which resulted in her playing limited minutes. 

Clark, though struggling with her three-point shots, excelled in playmaking, setting up crucial scoring plays.

Courtesy of Kat Acosta/LBSU Athletics

"Caitlin's vision is second to none," Fever center Temi Fagbenle said. "I love playing with her. I know I'm open, but I don't know if she knows I'm open, then she knows and I'm like, 'Oh my gosh, she knew!"

Fagbenle ended the game with a season-high 17 points, six rebounds and three assists. 

The game saw multiple lead changes, with Jackson and Fagbenle trading threes. Jackson scored a career-high 16 points, two rebounds and zero assists. 

Despite their early momentum, the Sparks ended the period trailing by three points after a series of turnovers and missed opportunities.

The final period was a nail-biter, filled with intense back-and-forth defensive action from both teams that kept fans on the edge of their seats. Boston immediately cut the lead with a layup and the Fever took the lead shortly after. In the face of Clark missing her first seven three-point attempts, she managed to rack up eight assists. 

Kelsey Mitchell’s series of impressive offensive plays with two 25-foot three-point jumpers gave the Fever the lead 63-58. She had 18 points in the game and 13 of those points came from the fourth period.

However, Clark found her rhythm, hitting her first signature logo three-pointer shot of the game to extend the lead. 

Courtesy of Kat Acosta/LBSU Athletics

“I went to the bench after and I was like, I was due. They had to go in, I had missed so many, it was time to go in," Clark said.

Brink responded with a crucial three-pointer, keeping the Sparks in the game 73-69. Brink ended the game with a career-high 15 points, nine rebounds and two assists. 

Courtesy of Kat Acosta/LBSU Athletics

Despite a valiant effort from the Sparks, the Fever held on to their lead, with Clark sealing the game with another three-pointer with 40 seconds left in the game.

"She shows a level of maturity for a 22-year-old that is unbelievable. She's special, she's different," Fever head coach Christie Sides said. "The bullets are just coming, every day we're scrutinized for everything."

Clark expressed how she speaks to the media more than she speaks to her own family and how the people are pushing the narrative of how having one of the top rookies means they automatically win every game. 

"Honestly, I feel like I talk to the media more than I get to talk to my own family, which is really kind of sad in a way," she said. “They expect us to be world champions on Day 1. That's not realistic. There's a learning curve here."

Courtesy of Kat Acosta/LBSU Athletics

This game not only showcased the talents of the league's top rookies but also set the stage for an exciting season ahead. As fans filed out of the arena, the buzz of the game lingered, promising more thrilling encounters between these emerging stars.

“Nights like tonight remind me of why I love playing basketball, why I started playing basketball," Clark said. "Because you get a win and you walk off the court and there's so many young kids just screaming your name and love getting to watch you."

Article Credit to Daily49er

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