University of Tennessee alumni Candace Parker saw her great season come to an end on Thursday in a 73-59 loss to the 7-seed Connecticut Sun.
Drafted number one overall by the Los Angeles Sparks in 2008, Parker is now in her 13th season.
She earned the top pick by being the nation’s best player during her time as a Lady Vol. Under Coach Pat Summitt she was an academic All-American, AP Player of the Year, Naismith Trophy winner, NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament Most Outstanding Player, John R. Wooden Award winner, Basketball Honda Sports Award winner, NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament Most Outstanding Player, ESPN.com Player of the Year, SEC Female Athlete of the Year and a two time NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament Champion.
In her first season in the WNBA, Parker lived up to the expectations and won Rookie of the Year while averaging 9.5 rebounds and 18.5 points per game on 52.3% field goal shooting. She also won her first of two league MVP awards. Parker has been named an All-Star five times and has been named to eight All-WNBA teams. In 2016, Parker led the Sparks to their third championship and was named Finals MVP.
Parker has now stepped up her game once again at the age of 34. She was third place in MVP voting and helped the Sparks get to the 3-seed. Their high seeding led to them earning a first-round bye. They then faced off against the Connecticut Sun in the second round after the Sun upset the Chicago Sky.
The streaking Sun team dominated the Sparks after they collapsed in the single-elimination game. Parker played well, ending the game with 22 points, 14 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 blocks and a steal. However, her performance was not enough to lift the Sparks, who were without their second-best player, Nneka Ogwumike, due to migraines.
LA got little offensive production during the game outside of Parker. Their second-leading scorer was Seimone Agustus who scored 10 points off the bench.
The 59 points scored was the lowest point total since the last game of the 2019 season for the Sparks franchise.
The Sparks had no answer for the Sun’s starting five, all of whom put up double-digit points. They were led by Alyssa Thomas, who scored 19 points, and DeWanna Bonner, who scored 17.
Not happy with the performance, Parker wanted to compete for another season.
“It’s been 13 years of the future being bright. At some point we got to put it together,” Parker said, “We gotta get better. Can’t keep saying ‘next year.’”
The WNBA playoffs will continue on Tuesday with two semi-final games between the Connecticut Sun and Las Vegas Aces and also the Minnesota Lynx and Seattle Storm. The last former Lady Vol in the playoffs is Mercedes Russell and she and the Storm look to win their fourth finals.
Edited by Christian Knox and Gracie-Lee Strange
Featured image courtesy of the LA Times