The Los Angeles Sparks dropped another game on this current road trip, 93-80, against the New York Liberty. They fell to 0-5 on the trip. But one bright spot for the Sparks, despite the loss, was the play of second-year guard Zia Cooke. Cooke had her best statistical game of the season and credited being able to navigate the Liberty's defensive game plan.

“I really just let everything flow for myself. When I came into the game all I really wanted to do was bring energy, and my main focus was trying to bring energy on the defensive end,” Cooke said. “Somehow it just translated to the offensive end. I was noticing my defender was kind of leaving the nail open a little bit, so I was trying to take advantage of that.”

Cooke finished with a season-high 13 points, two rebounds, one assist, one steal and one blocked shot. She shot 4-0f-7 from the field and 4-0f-6 from the free-throw line. Nine of her 13 points came in the fourth quarter as the Sparks erased a double-digit deficit to crawl back into the game.

“I think it's all about trusting my process. . .just being ready and stepping up when the opportunity presents itself,” Cooke said. “Making sure I'm getting my shots up in the gym and doing what I need to do. It definitely felt good to be out there, it felt great. To see the ball go in, it felt even better. But the ultimate goal is to win games.”

Sparks focus this season should be development

Los Angeles Sparks guard/forward Rae Burrell (12) dribbles the ball against Las Vegas Aces center/forward Cayla George (13) during the fourth quarter at Michelob Ultra Arena.
Lucas Peltier-USA TODAY Sports

The Sparks came into this season in year one of a rebuild. With plenty of young players on the roster, development should take priority over anything else. The Sparks need to see how many of them fit the long-term plan.

With Cameron Brink essentially lost for the season due to an ACL injury, development and finding available minutes for the youth on the roster becomes more significant. In addition to Zia Cooke, the Sparks have another young on the bench in Rae Burrell.

Burrell was the No. 9 overall pick by the Sparks in the 2022 WNBA Draft. Like Cooke, she's been on the bench for most of the season with minutes hard to come by. But Burrell also got her chance during the Sparks' loss to the Liberty. She scored a season-high 11 points including seven in the fourth quarter during the Sparks rally.

The Sparks currently have two more games on this trip, one more against the Liberty and one against the Phoenix Mercury before they return home to begin July.