Before there was Lisa Leslie, there was Tina Thompson. Not in chronological terms, but in the early development of Candace Parker.
For the first time as professionals, the mentor faced off against her prized pupil Wednesday at Staples Center, giving Parker the opportunity to display a few of the moves she gleaned from Thompson during her college days at Tennessee.
* Parker’s night
In the end, it was Parker who schooled Thompson and the Houston Comets. Parker scored a season-high 40 points to push her team into overtime, and Marie Ferdinand-Harris and Lisa Leslie took over from there, lifting the Sparks to an 82-74 victory at Staples Center.
“She is a big sister to me and I’ve idolized her since I can remember,” Parker said of Thompson. “It was just coming out and I got going early.”
Parker, a rookie who also totaled 16 rebounds, six assists and five blocks, came within a point of the franchise record of 41 set by Leslie in 2006, and finished three points shy of the league’s rookie record.
She had a chance to tie the franchise record but missed the first of two free throws with 1.6 seconds left in regulation. She made the second, however, sending the Sparks (12-6) into their fifth overtime game this season, which ties a franchise record.
Leslie, who briefly played with Thompson at Inglewood Morningside High and USC, scored on the first possession of overtime and Ferdinand-Harris then made consecutive three-point baskets to give the Sparks a 76-69 lead.
Thompson, who will play on the Olympic team with Parker and Leslie next month in Beijing, appeared headed for a big game after scoring 10 points in the first 5:10 to help the Comets to a 17-4 lead.
However, Thompson committed three fouls in less than a minute of the first quarter while attempting to guard Leslie, and she finished with 21 points.
“I knew the double team was coming,” Leslie said. “Houston has always been the team that wants to make sure I don’t beat them.”
The Sparks then chipped away behind Parker, who scored 14 of her 19 first-half points in the second quarter to close the gap to eight points. She scored 10 more points in the third quarter as the Sparks cut the deficit to two, then produced 11 in the fourth quarter.
It was her first 40-point game since high school, said Parker, who in the last two games has totaled 71 points on 27 of 41 from the field.