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Mabika drops 11 points in season debut

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Joe Bryant wasted little time getting
involved in his first game as Los Angeles Sparks assistant coach.

Bryant, Kobe Bryant's father, was called for a technical foul in
the first half of the Sparks' 71-59 win over the Charlotte Sting on
Tuesday night for arguing an official's call.

"It's an emotional game and I was an emotional player," Bryant
said. "It's important that we as coaches stand tall and make a
point. I want to let girls know I have their back."

Lisa Leslie scored a season-high 26 points and tied a season
best with 11 rebounds, and Chamique Holdsclaw added 18 points for
the Sparks (10-7), who have won four of five and moved within 1½
games of first-place Sacramento in the Western Conference.

Mwadi Mabika had 11 points and seven assists in her season debut
after missing the first 16 games while recovering from arthroscopic
knee surgery.

Bryant, who was hired Monday, and head coach Henry Bibby were
teammates in the NBA.

"It wasn't something I was pursuing. It fell in my lap,"
Bryant said.

Bryant, nicknamed "Jellybean," has coached in the ABA, and he
had been helping out informally during the Sparks' practices.

"A couple of times, I was just working out with the team," he
said. "Then I had to go away to take care of business.

"I came back two or three days later and (the players) said,
'Joe, where were you? Jellybean, we missed you."

Tammy Sutton-Brown had 15 points and a season-high 11 rebounds
for the Sting (3-13), who have lost four of five. Jia Perkins
scored a career-best 12 points and Tangela Smith added 11 points.

The Sting used a 9-0 run to move ahead 28-19 with 4:20 left in
the first half. But Los Angeles responded with a 17-2 run to take a
36-30 halftime lead.

Mabika led the surge with seven points, four assists and two
steals.

"I felt good in the beginning," Mabika said. "Then I got
tight a little bit at the end of the first half. I came back (to
the locker room), got some treatment and felt much, much better in
the second half."

Charlotte narrowed the deficit to 57-53 with 5:28 left, but an
11-2 run extended the Sparks' lead to 68-55 with 2:05 left.