NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — After missing New York’s last two wins with an eye injury, Essence Carson didn’t want to break the team’s momentum. Instead, she hit a big shot in the final minute and helped the surging Liberty get another win.
Carson and Cappie Pondexter scored 18 points each to rally New York to an 80-73 victory over the Chicago Sky on Sunday for the Liberty’s third straight win and fifth in six games.
Pondexter hit a 3-pointer to tie score at 73 with 1:15 to go and Carson hit one of her own with 31.7 seconds remaining to put New York ahead for good.
“I was open,” Carson said. “Cappie saw me. She’s a great combo guard. She saw me coming up out of the corner and I treated it just like any other shot, no pressure, just shoot it.”
Pondexter, who then hit four free throws to seal the win after the Liberty trailed by 17 in the second quarter, credited Carson’s poise on the tiebreaking play.
“A lot of times I draw a lot of defense,” Pondexter said. “Thank God I have great vision. I saw her shifting over once everybody collapsed on me and she was wide open. I’m glad she had the confidence in herself to take that shot.”
Carson missed the Liberty’s sweep of a home-and-home with San Antonio — here on July 1 and on the road Friday. She was told her vision was back to normal Friday and practiced yesterday for 1½ hours to get herself ready.
“I didn’t want to come in and just shoot the ball,” Carson said. “Especially with the team coming off back-to-back wins, they had been in rhythm. I didn’t want to come in and disrupt the rhythm.”
Plenette Pierson had 13 points, Quanitra Hollingsworth added 11, and Nicole Powell and Kia Vaughn 10 each for the Liberty (7-5).
“After being 12 games in,” Pondexter said, “we’re starting to get our flow and understanding of each other and what each other can contribute within the system. Overall, I think our defense has been pretty damn good the last few games.”
Sylvia Fowles and rookie Courtney Vandersloot had 14 points each for Chicago (6-7). Erin Thorn and Michelle Snow added 11 apiece for the Sky, who have lost six of nine.
“We blew good opportunities,” Fowles said. “New York came back in the second half and did some things that we didn’t stop. We can’t blow leads. You have to put your foot down and keep it going. Minor mistakes we can’t let happen, so learn from this and keep pushing forward and get ready for the next one.”
The Liberty scored the first six points of the fourth to tie the game at 60. Carson had a jumper in the opening minute of the quarter, Hollingsworth had a layup and Carson hit another jumper with 7:42 left to play.
However, Snow made a layup and a three-point play to give the Sky a five-point lead 40 seconds later.
Pondexter scored on a fastbreak and then hit a jumper with 3:51 remaining to pull New York within 67-66. Pondexter followed with two free throws 29 seconds later to give the Liberty their first lead.
Thorn had a jumper with 2:22 to go and Fowles made a layup 45 seconds later to give the Sky a 73-70 lead, but Chicago didn’t score again.
Liberty coach John Whisenant was pleased with the way his team picked up the defensive intensity in the second half.
“Our defense gave them 49 points in the first half and that same defense held them to 24 in the second half,” he said. “We were sleepwalking in the first part of the game and we gave a lot of easy baskets and they were coming out with energy, but fortunately we were able to turn it around.”
Trailing 49-38 at the break, New York scored the first eight points of the third quarter. Powell had a jumper and hit a 3-pointer in the opening minute, and Pierson had a three-point play with 7:20 left to get the Liberty within three.
“Halftime, they started picking it up and we started fouling,” Sky coach Pokey Chatman said. “We just did not come out of the locker room fresh. That was the difference. The momentum changed a couple of times and we got it back, but we can’t give it up against any team, especially against New York at home.”
Fowles made two from the line and Prince hit a jumper to push the Sky’s lead back up to seven with 6:42 to go in the third.
New York got within three again as Carson made a jumper and then hit 1 of 2 from the line with 51 seconds left in the quarter. However, Vandersloot hit her third 3 of the game to double Chicago’s lead to 60-54 heading to the fourth.
Thorn made a jumper and two free throws to push the Sky’s lead to 35-18, their biggest advantage of the game, with 6:50 left in the first half.
Carson’s jumper with 0.4 seconds remaining pulled New York within 11 at the break.
Vandersloot had 11 points, including two 3s, in the first 20 minutes. Pierson led the Liberty with 10 points.