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LA Sparks defeat Griner, Mercury 94-71 in WNBA season opener

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Nneka Ogwumike scored 17 points, rookie Zia Cooke added 14 and the Los Angeles Sparks defeated Brittney Griner and the Phoenix Mercury 94-71 on Friday night in Griner's first WNBA game since being jailed in Russia.

Griner had 18 points, six rebounds and four blocked shots in 25 minutes. She has been free since December when she was part of a high-profile prisoner swap after spending months in a Russian jail.

Griner was arrested at a Moscow airport in February 2022 after Russian authorities said a search of her luggage revealed vape cartridges containing cannabis oil.

Cooke shot 5 of 6 from the floor and made both her 3-pointers in her league debut in front of Dawn Staley, her former college coach. Cooke was taken 10th overall by the Sparks in the draft after starring at South Carolina.

The Sparks led 54-41 at halftime, having pulled away in the second quarter after what began as a close game.

Chiney Ogwumike added 15 points for the Sparks, who had five players in double figures.

Among those in attendance were Magic Johnson, Pau Gasol, Byron Scott, Robert Horry, Billie Jean King and Los Angeles Lakers coach Darvin Ham. Vice President Kamala Harris visited both teams in their locker rooms before the game.

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