Liberty Beat Sun, Latin-Style
Madison Square Garden was home sweet home again. It was “NocheLatina” night for the New York Liberty as they overcame a horrible first half of shooting to fight to a 71-66 win over the Connecticut Sun (11-20) and move into third place in the Eastern Conference.
The first half was amazing in the mutual horrid shooting. The Liberty (13-16) led 33-25 at the half shooting 27 percent, but Connecticut was worse and shot 23 percent. Even thouugh the Liberty were only 10-36 from the floor, they were moving the ball well on offense. Shots were not going down except for those from Tina Charles, who scored 15 points for her team and had 14 boards.
The Liberty totally controlled the defensive boards. Avery Warley-Talbert scored 11 points and 11 boards for her first double-double, on her way to the best game she has played for the Liberty; Laimbeer certainly thought so. “Avery Warley-Talbert stepped up and played a great game,” he said.
Sugar Rodgers, however, saw a lot of shots fail to go down. At the half, Bill Laimbeer strongly reminded Sugar why she was out there, and in the second half, she responded to be one of the three double-digit scorers with 12 off the bench. “At halftime I was really angry with Sugar,” Bill admitted. “I was in the back room by myself throwing a temper tantrum. I challenged her, in a game like this, if you want to be a WNBA player, you have to stand up and be counted.”
The one with a lot the pressure tonight was Anna Cruz, the lone Latina on this “noche,” and she struggled. But in the fourth, the Sun had a 20 point (24 total) explosion from Katie Douglas in the third that drove Connecticut up by two. “As professionals, we have to do a better job coming out the gates,” Douglas said. But Anna made Katie’s words prophetic.
With the score tied, Anna found a seam and penetrated to the basket and scored a layup after being tripped to the floor. She completed a three point play. She later stole a pass and, on the transition, threw a soft one to Swin Cash for a layup. “I thought that Cruz didn’t play very well, but she made all the good plays down the stretch and played good defense,” Laimbeer said.
Alex Bentley (14 points) was a thorn who hit threes and kept the Sun within a winning shot throughout the fourth. “As a competitor, I don’t feel good about tonight’s game at all.” She liked it even less when she had to witness the return of Cappie.
Pondexter, who had two points going into the fourth, hit two big jumpers without a sweat at key points. “I think. Down two, you had to look deep. Cappie didn’t have her shot going tonight,” Laimbeer said. “But all of a sudden, she makes two of the biggest shots of the game in the last couple minutes.” Sugar Rodgers agree with Laimbeer and said, “Big time players make big time shots in big time ball games; Cappie stepped up and did that.”
The Liberty will be hosting Indiana for the first of three games this month in the stretch run. “We knew how important this game was,” Laimbeer explained. “Its not a death game, but it was Game 5 or 6 in the world that I come from.”
Sugar, who has become a major addition, winning the confidence of a stars Cappie and Tina, gave her take on the Liberty’s playoff chances. “There is intensity; we have to treat every game down the stretch like it is a playoff game,” she said. “These are the games that you need to win to get in the postgames.”
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