New York, NY – Guard Cappie Pondexter became the third youngest player in WNBA history to reach the 3,000 point plateau, as she helped to lead the New York Liberty (14-11) to a huge 77-67 victory over the Connecticut Sun (13-12) in Sunday evening basketball at Madison Square Garden.
“I think we have been playing good basketball for a while,” head coach Anne Donovan said after the game. “In this game we fought hard and won the game with a couple of key stops. Overall it was a good win against a very good team.”
The two teams fought hard all game long as New York and the Sun are battling for a playoff spot this season. The Liberty was able to finally secure the victory in the final two quarters of the game. Pondexter lead the team in scoring with 24 points and five rebounds, and reached her milestone moment in the fourth quarter of play.
Pondexter had this to say when she was asked about her first bucket in the WNBA, “It was a TV game against Sacramento and it was the worst game of my career. I remember going home and crying. It was so terrible, stank the gym up. From that day on I’ve been playing at a higher level. It’s a great honor and I’m pleased to know that my hard work has paid off, but I still want to win. I still have more to go.”
Guard Leilani Mitchell followed with 15 points, while forwards Janelle McCarville and Plenette Pierson both had nine buckets each, while providing key buckets in the paint for New York in the final moments of the game.
“We are playing hard, we want to make it to the playoffs and we are not going to be denied.” Mitchell said of her team after the game. “As the season goes along we are going to keep getting better and better every game.” In terms of tonight’s game. “We knew they were going to come out fighting and that is exactly what they did. The big thing for us is that we were able to make the big stops when we needed it.”
To round out the Liberty scoring center Taj-McWilliams-Franklin continued her fine play by scoring six points and grabbed five boards for New York. Guard Essence Carson provided a positive spark for New York in the first half of play and finished up the night with five points.
“I was really looking to attack and be aggressive,” Carson said of her play of the bench. “You have got to make sure you are mentally ready at all times and when your number is called you need to make sure you go out to the floor and contribute. Carson who stepped in at the 7:20 mark in the second quarter had a jumper to go along with a strong driving lay-up. The guard also had a huge steal at the 2:46 mark and has provided the team with good energy all season long. Carson agrees saying, “I would like to think I bring positive energy to the team and that has been really evident in the past few games.”
Connecticut had four players in double digit scoring. The Sun tonight were led by forward Asjha Jones who had 18 points and eight rebounds. Guard Renee Montgomery followed with 14 points to go along with five assist, while rookie of the year candidate Tina Charles had a double-double netting 12 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.
In a game that featured 11 lead changes along with the two teams being tied a total of 10 times. The Liberty had the slight edge over the Sun as Plenette Pierson drained two good free throws with 24 seconds left to give New York the 34-31 lead. Asjha Jones would cut give Connecticut much needed momentum as she hit a jumper with two seconds left to make the score 34-33 going into half time.
Guard Kara Lawson hit a huge three-pointer at the 8:36 mark to give the Sun the 36-34 lead. Leilani Mitchell responded by draining two huge three-points shots for the 44-36 New York lead. The Sun would start to cut into that lead at the 4:11 mark, when Tina Charles took charge and drove in for a strong lay-up to cut the New York lead to 44-41.
Renee Montgomery would keep chipping away and give Connecticut the lead on a series which included two good free throws, along with a running hook shot at the 3:21 mark. The Sun would continue to build on that lead with a series that consisted of Asjha Jones hitting two good free throws along with a jumper at the 2:15 mark which made the score 50-44. Charles would continue to add to that lead with a lay-up with 1:58 left. The Liberty started to show life in the last minute of the third quarter as Cappie Pondexter made a strong move to the hoop for a lay-up. Leilani Mitchell hit two good free throws, and got a huge steal with 58 seconds left. Pondexter would work her final second magic and make a jumper with 23 seconds remaining to cut the Sun lead to 52-50.
Fans would start to get fired up as Liberty great Teresa Weatherspoon got the 9,341 on their feet. The energetic crowd started to rock the Garden and give New York the boost of energy it needed for a huge fourth quarter run. Taj McWilliams-Franklin had a huge rebound and a put-back lay-up at the 7:59 mark to cut the Sun lead to 56-54 in the start of the frame. Plenette Pierson would tie the two teams up with a lay-up with 7:12 to go. The milestone moment for Pondexter came at the 6:05 mark as the guard hit a jumper to make the score 60-56.
Pondexter would continue to have a hot shooters touch, as she hit a huge three-point shot, with 3:37 to go to give New York the 65-63 lead. Right after the officials time out at 2:59 the Sun had a huge steal by Sandrine Gruda, while Renee Montgomery was fouled and hit two good free throws. Those free throws would tie the two teams up 65-65 with 2:40 remaining. A steal with 30 seconds remaining by Taj-McWilliams Franklin led to a Connecticut foul on Cappie Pondexter. The guard would hit two good free throws to give New York the 70-67 lead. The Sun would continue to foul in the last couple of seconds to play as Janel McCarville hit a free throw and make a thunderous block to help secure the 71-67 victory.
“Everyone in the east this year is strong, Connecticut is no exception,” McCarville said after the game. “They were bound to make runs in this game and we knew it, it’s just a matter of how we responded to it.” The forward would continue saying, “They got in, they took the lead, but we were able to fight, keep our position and not give too much, and we were able to make the lat run in the game in order to get the win.”
Pondexter agrees with her teammate saying, “Any given night any team can win no matter what the record it. It’s weird because we’ve been saying that we’re a really good team, our record didn’t really show it and then we started to fall short in games in the fourth quarter. I am grateful though that we were able to learn those tough lessons because now they are starting to show off.”
New York now takes firm control of fourth place in the Eastern Conference. The playoff push continues for the Liberty, as the team now travels to take on the Indiana Fever for another vital game on Tuesday. The Liberty will return home for a 7:30 p.m. Friday night game against the third-seeded Washington Mystics.