New York, NY – In an overtime thriller at Madison Square Garden the Indiana Fever (13-7) defeated the New York Liberty (9-10) by the score of 84-81 in Sunday evening basketball. With the victory today the Indiana Fever now have first place in the Eastern Conference while the Liberty now falls to last place in the standings.
“These series with the Liberty and the Fever is becoming a good rivalry for the league and for the eastern conference,” forward Ebony Hoffman said after the game. “I really think we always have good games against each other, it always comes down to the wire. We have had several overtime games already, and it always goes down to the wire every year. Every year it is a great game and we come in ready to play and ready to fight it out.”
Forward Tamika Catchings had a double-double and was one of the key offensive threats countering every New York scoring threat, as she tallied 22 points and 10 rebounds to go along with seven assists. Nine of Catchings points came in the overtime frame for the Fever. Guard Katie Douglas followed with 21 points with four rebounds and four assists. Hoffman was a strong presence for Indiana all evening long cashing in on 15 points and grabbing four rebounds.
“It was a huge win for us today, “Catching said after the game. “When we went into overtime I really did not want us to lose this game. This is the time I have to step-up and help the team win the game. Everyone hit their shots, the defense really stepped up and it was a great overall performance.”
New York, whose three-game winning streak was snapped today, was led by guard Cappie Pondexter who established a career-high 40 points, while also dishing out seven assist and grabbing six rebounds. Guard Leilani Mitchell scored 15 points and forward Janel McCarville added 12 to lead the Liberty offensively.
“To me it’s not about the points, it’s about getting wins,” Pondexter said after the game. “It stinks because we’re definitely in the playoff race, we are trying to get a spot in the playoffs in the east and we let this one get by us today and it was disappointing. But we need to let it go and we need to move on.”
The combination of missed buckets and some key Indiana defensive plays led to the Liberty loss today. As New York was 31-77 from the field in shooting today, the team shot 14-33 from the field in the fourth quarter which could have helped to propel them to the victory.
“They made some though shots down the stretch,” Mitchell said of the game. “They played some great defense and put a lot of pressure on us. They did some different things with their defense that kind of threw us off a little that we don’t really see too often.”
Indiana meanwhile had solid shooting all evening long as Catchings was on fire in the fourth quarter. Starting with a key defensive rebound at the 7:20 mark of the fourth quarter, she would hit a two point bucket at the 6:19 mark to give the Fever the 62-60 lead. An offensive rebound which was followed by a jumper in the paint by forward Janelle McCarville made the score 62-62 at the 5:22 mark.
At the 5:02 mark the Fever struck back with a good jumper by forward Jessica Moore which gave them the 64-62 lead. New York answered right back in a game that featured nine lead changes with a driving lay-up by Cappie Pondexter at the 4:52 mark, which tied the two teams up 64-64. Catchings would break that tie with a driving lay-up at the 4:27 mark to only have that lead cut again by New York and a jumper by McCarville making it 66-66.
Leilani Mitchell would give the Liberty the three point lead with a beautiful shot on the outside arc at the 3:14 mark, the Liberty would add on to their lead as Pondexter cashed in on a fade away jump shot making it 71-68 at the 2:25 mark. A Pondexter jump shot at the 1:05 mark made the score 73-70, but Catchings would respond with a huge three-pointer with 50 seconds left to tie the two teams up. In the game tonight the Fever and the Liberty combined for 13 ties as the crowd of 9,508 tried to will the Liberty to the victory.
Both Pondexter and Catchings had last minute shots in that quarter to seal the deal and get the victory, but neither player was able to cash in as the two teams went into overtime. Catchings would however start overtime with the first five points for Indiana to give them the 78-75 lead. Katie Douglas would drain a jump shot at the 3:34 mark to give the Fever the 80-75 lead. Free-throws and a rebound for Catchings would eventually seal the deal and get the Fever the hard earned victory along with first place in the East Coast conference.
“The east is so tough and we have two teams like New York and Chicago to move up the ladder and you can see why it is so tough to move up the ladder,” Fever head coach Lin Dunn said after the game. “It was a hard fought game against a very good team today.”
The Liberty will try to claw their way back up the standings will have a very tough road game on Tuesday. They do so against the fourth-seeded Connecticut Sun, the game which will be televised on the ESPN 2 channel is slated to tip-off at 8:00 p.m.
“We definitely need to fight harder and try to close out the game against Connecticut.” Pondexter said. “There is still room for us to make the playoffs we just have to close-out games when we have the opportunity.”