New York, NY- Point guard Leilani Mitchell scored 19 points to lead the New York Liberty (20-11) to a 78-57 victory over the first-place Indiana Fever (21-11). The Liberty are still a half of game behind the Fever, but have now extended a franchise record by winning nine straight games.
Mitchell who was 7-for-12 from the field, was 4-for-5 from the three-point range, had two of the sweetest shots in the game hitting a back to the basket lay-up to go along with an aggressive lay-up with four Indiana Fever players surrounding her. The point-guard also dished out five assist in the game.
“We just brought a lot of energy, especially defensively because we knew they are a great team. They have a lot of great players so our good defense was able to translate our offense,” Mitchell said of her team’s performance. “Our whole team played great today; the whole team was able to contribute with an assist, a steal or a rebound so it was great for the confidence of each and every one of our players.”
Along with Mitchell three other players were in double-digit scoring including Center Taj McWilliams-Franklin who had double-double with 14 points and 10 boards. Guard Cappie Pondexter who was named to the WNBA Eastern Conference Player of the Week for two weeks in a row, scored 13 points to go along with six assists. Forward Nicole Powell had 10 points for New York to go along with two very big three-point buckets. Rounding out the scoring for the Liberty was Guard Essence Carson who had eight points, while Janel McCarville and Plenette Pierson both had six points each.
“We are just going one game at a time and that is the beauty of this team,” head coach Anne Donovan said after the game. “They understand that you have to go one game at a time. I was really pleased with the mentality of our group. Playing a great team like Indiana and playing well….that’s the most important thing for us.”
Leading the way for the Fever was Forward Tamika Catchings who was on fire the first half of play. Catchings, who is making her bid for MVP, scored 15 points from behind 5-for-5 shooting from the field while also shooting 3-for-3 from the three-point arc. The forward was then kept off the board due to great defense by New York.
“The third quarter was our biggest difference,” Catchings said after the game. “The Liberty was able to come out with more intensity after halftime and we just weren’t able to match that. We have to regroup. We still have two more games. Go to San Antonio from here then we have Minnesota at home. It’s a tight race.”
Essence Carson who again provided a positive spark including a fourth quarter steal and lay-up around the two minute mark, had this to say of the game. “We really defended well tonight they shot just under 40 percent, and we really cleaned up on the rebounds. So that was the main key to our victory tonight.”
Center Taj McWilliams-Franklin who provided New York with some of the biggest rebounds of the game, also with hit a thrilling last second shot in the fourth quarter of play. The center had this to say of the victory, “It was a great team victory we had some goals that we set out to do against the Fever, as well as the playoffs. Right now teams are jockeying for a spot in the playoffs. Today was a game for us as a team that everything fell together.” McWilliams-Franklin would continue to say, “As our mental focus strengthens we just keep getting better and better.”
Also having a strong game for New York was forward Janel McCarville, giving the Liberty a strong inside post presence to go along with some nice passing and key jumpers throughout. McCarville had this to say of the win, “It was huge to have been able to get the win tonight. To have been able to keep them to six points in the second quarter was great and shows what our team is all about.” She continued by saying, “Everyone stepped up and so many people on the team are unselfish enough to give up any shot for one that is open and it has paid off for us.”
New York has two more regular season games at Madison Square Garden before the start of post season play. The team will wrap up their three-game home-stand at the Mecca on Thursday as they take on the Tulsa Shock with tip-off at 7:30 p.m. The schedule includes one last road game on Friday against Washington before the home finale against Connecticut at 4:00 p.m. on Sunday.