New York, NY – The stage was set, do or die packed Mecca and two great WNBA Eastern Conference teams. The New York Liberty needed a win to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals, but they were facing a very hungry Indiana Fever team that was so close to winning the WNBA Championship last season.
The Liberty was able to pull off a win in a true thriller of a game. A game that featured seven lead changes and the two teams being tied a total of seven times. The Liberty was able to prevail over a very tough Indiana team by the score of 77-74 on Wednesday Night basketball at Madison Square Garden.
“It was a typical Indiana-New York matchup, where it’s just grueling and physical and no one is giving up anything easy.” Head Coach Anne Donovan said after the game. “It’s a battle…it’s a great team we just beat and they could be there down the road so I give them a lot of credit.”
New York now advances to the Eastern Conference Finals, as they will take on a very hungry Atlanta Dream team in Round One on Sunday night. Leading the way for New York was MVP candidate Cappie Pondexter who had 30 points to go along with four assist.
“This team is really amazing, especially to have a player out of the game. It’s unbelievable and I am really happy right now.” Pondexter would say after the game. “I have been on two championship teams and one common thing that they had was togetherness. No matter if you are the most talented on the team or what. And that is the one special thing that we have this season.”
Pierson would have this to say on the win tonight” It was a huge win for us tonight.” She would continue by saying. “We had our backs against the wall, we knew we didn’t have a great showing in Game Two; and we really wanted to come out and show our fans that we are here-yeah we messed up but we are ready to play and go on to the next round. We had to defeat a tough team. It went down to the wire but we are just happy that we have that opportunity to play in the next round.”
Indiana had three players finish the night in double figures as they were led by guard Katie Douglas, who found her shot after being shutdown in Game One. Douglas finished with 24 points, four rebounds and four assists. Catchings ended the night with 21 points, six boards and three steals. Forward Ebony Hoffman, who yet again provided some big shots and rebounds for the Fever finished with 13 points and four boards.
“I just thought it was a battle that both teams were playing to win,” Douglas said of the game. “It was overall an incredible game for women’s basketball. You could see that neither team wanted to lose and go home. I’m just proud of the way we fought.”
For New York they were missing a key player in center Janel McCarville, who is day-to-day with a sprained ankle. Stepping up big time in the game on Wednesday was the play of Plenette Pierson and Bronx native Kia Vaughn, as they had 13 points and eight points respectively. The Mecca crowd of16, 882, including C. Vivian Stringer and Sue Wicks, were on their feet from the start of the game until the end. As the enthusiastic crowd rocked the Garden with their thunder sticks, sang and danced; along with giving this reporter Goose bumps with their energy and support for the Liberty.
“I love the Garden,” Vaughn would say after the game. “It is amazing the fan support you get day in and day out is amazing.” On her play she would have this to say, “I knew that Indiana would be aggressive so I just knew that I had out come out and be aggressive as well. I’m a strong girl…I knew I had to be aggressive and push them around and be the one to get the big rebounds and buckets tonight.”
“The fan support meant a lot,” guard Essence Carson said of the Madison Square Garden crowd support. “They really rallied behind us and were a huge part of us coming back and we really thank all of our fans for their support.”
Pierson also enjoyed the crazy crowd saying, “It meant a lot having that kind of support in the game tonight. When you have that kind of support you can’t help but to will yourself to win.” She would continue to say, “We need our crowd and we are looking forward to seeing them on Sunday.”
Pondexter who was showered with chants of ‘MVP’ from the Garden faithful also enjoyed the support saying, “It means a lot to me, to know that your city is behind you. They want great basketball; they believe in it, they believe in you. And to see their support and to hear it is overwhelming.” She would continue to say, “This city deserves a lot and I want to be the one that brings it to them.”
Pierson also wants to bring home a title to the Mecca, the forward who celebrated her 29th birthday on Tuesday had this to say, “We are greedy we don’t want to stop here, it was a nice belated birthday present. I am greedy and I want the big trophy then you can say that is my birthday present.”
Carson was another key part to the Liberty success. The guard had 11 points in the night, did a stellar job in defending forward Tamika Catchings who is easily the MVP for the Fever. She also had one of the sweetest shots of the night timing a leaping tip-shot at the 4:35 mark of the second quarter to give New York the 40-34 advantage.
“We are just being aggressive on all ends both offensively and defensively,” Carson said of the victory tonight, “We are just attacking what is there and playing the game of basketball, we playing together and playing New York basketball.”
On her defensive performance against Catchings she had this to say, “I tried to make her take all jump shots today. In the first half she hit a lot, and in the later part of the game she hit a few. I knew when it got down to it in the fourth quarter she was going to be pretty tired, she was carrying a lot offensively for that team and it was going to wear her down. It was my job to stand there and make her shoot over me.”
This three game set was truly the definition of Playoff basketball as it brought physical play and thrilling moments throughout the short time the two teams played each other. Considering that these two teams throughout the 2010 season had battled it out it was only appropriate that it would come down to a thrilling Game Three.
“It is a great feeling to know that we are creating a new part of history for the New York Liberty,” Pierson said. “We got a tough battle a head of us in Atlanta. Indiana really pushed us to our limits and we really learned a lot about ourselves. We learned that as long as long as we play together and confidentially there is no one that can stop us. And we will carry that over until we are able to hopefully carry that championship over our head.”