The latest Ogwumike vs. Ogwumike showdown was the dominant storyline in Thursday night's nationally televised game between undefeated Los Angeles and Connecticut squads.
While the Ogwumikes did not disappoint with Chiney scoring 18 points to lead the Connecticut Sun to the 102-94 victory and Nneka finishing with 19 points while leading all players by playing 38:23 in the game, there was another sister-related story worth addressing.
With UConn All-American Katie Lou Samuelson at Mohegan Sun Arena looking on, her older sister Karlie played nearly 10 1/2 minutes. She made both of her field goal attempts including a 3-pointer to finish with five points for Los Angeles.
"Very special, we were lucky to play last year (at Mohegan Sun Arena) in camp and this year a few games for preseason and now a regular season game so I feel like it is real special for me and for her," Karlie Samuelson said.
Samuelson played in three preseason games in 2017 including both of the ones at Mohegan Sun Arena. She would finish the preseason averaging 7.7 points per game while shooting 53.3 percent from the field and 50 percent from 3-point range but a foot injury suffered late in camp ended any chance she had of making the Sparks. She was once again signed to a training camp contact and yet again got to play two of her three preseason games at Mohegan Sun Arena meaning that she has actually played more games on that court than her sister. She got the start against host Connecticut on May 7. She finished with 14 points and four rebounds and would average 9.7 points per game. Once again her shooting numbers were rather impressive as she drained 68.8 percent of her shots from the field, 62.5 percent of her 3-pointers and both of her foul shots.
While she had her moments of brilliance in the six preseason games she played on, it isn't too hard to pinpoint her most memorable moment.
Samuelson's first regular season game happened to be a rematch of the 2017 WNBA Championship Series. She wasn't even supposed to be on the team as she was one of the final cuts but with the Sparks missing former MVP Candace Parker because of a back injury, veteran post player Jantel Lavender still playing overseas and No. 1 draft pick Maria Vadeeva still in Russia, she was able to be added to the roster. Samuelson's night figured to be done when she was subbed out with 9:03 to play as there were enough veterans left to finish out what has become the top rivalry in the WNBA. Well, after Lindsay Whalen made two free throws with 5.8 seconds to play, Los Angeles coach Brian Agler called a timeout to set up a final play and also have the ability to advance the ball into the frontcourt. He did something else, he took out Essence Carson and replaced her with the undrafted rookie from Stanford. Samuelson flashed to the top of the key, received the inbounds pass and then fed the ball to Chelsea Gray. Gray did the rest by driving to the basket for the game-winning layup to give Los Angeles the 77-76 in a game that ESPN said was watched by 297,000 viewers.
"Brian told me I get to suit up for the Minnesota game so that was pretty crazy," Samuelson said. "It was a whirlwind but it was exciting. Brian drew up a great play and we executed it. I got the ball to Chelsea and that was incredible, it was really awesome to be there for that.
"Whether I was on the court or on the bench, I had a great view of Chelsea's shot, I'll give you that. It was crazy to be a part of."
Samuelson has averaged 4.7 points, 1.7 rebounds, 0.3 assists, 0.3 steals and 0.7 blocked shots in 14.7 minutes per game in the first three games of the season. Although playing on the wing at Stanford, the Sparks are a little thin in the post so she got to play a power forward position for the team.
"I am playing the 4 out here," Samuelson said. "The players on the team are unbelievable, Nneka, Alana, Essence, Chelsea, Cappie, Candace has helped me out at the 4 (power forward) a lot because we don't have a lot of bigs. It is unbelievable to learn from these women who are amazing role models."
Her teammates have plenty of confidence in her ability as do her coaches otherwise she never would have been out on the court for the final play in the Minnesota game.
"We knew what she could bring and I knew she was probably first one on the list for camp this year and for her to able to make the team after everything we've been through and obviously the Stanford connection is really good for us too," Nneka Ogwumike said.
"She just needs a chance, she can capitalize on any opportunity she gets."
Parker is listed as being day by day and Lavender could be joining the team as early as Sunday when Los Angeles kicks off a five-game homestand against Phoenix. That could leave Samuelson on the outside although she certainly has shown that she can play in the WNBA.
"I don't know how it will all go down but I am happy," Samuelson said.
Of course I wasn't going to let Karlie get away without asking about her younger sister. I focused on the toughness Katie Lou displayed fighting through tremendous pain after injuring her ankle early in her junior season. The injury was severe enough that she needed surgery after the season was over. It reminds me of hockey players who play through incredibly painful injuries and once they are eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs, word comes out of the medical procedures they need to undergo.
"Her ankle was so bad throughout the whole season," Karlie Samuelson said. "It just shows her resilience, she is not going to stop, she wants to be there for her team. She wants to win and she is competitive so just shows."