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Sugar Brings Flavor Back In Liberty Overtime Thriller

Liberty hold WNBA’s best record.

Sugar Rodgers (Photo by Catalina Fragoso - Double G Media)

Sugar Rodgers (Photo by Catalina Fragoso – Double G Media)

 

This is the type of New York Liberty game we should expect from here on out; a series of dogfights against division rivals will dot the balance of the schedule starting with the home match against Atlanta last night. The Liberty are no longer a secret. Its hard to hide when you have the best record in the WNBA at 21-8.

But, there has been one player who has shrunk into the shadows the past month. Last night, Sugar Rodgers re-emerged with a focus in her play and had one of those explosive shows she is capable of at anytime. Her shot was scorching and after a lackluster first quarter, Rodgers was inserted and the night was hers.

“It feels good, something good had to come out of this,” Rodgers said.

Sugar matched her personal best with 23 points, four assists, and three rebounds. She hit five three pointers and more than a few rattled the hoop, denying her an even greater night. She drove with authority and smarts and was the force that drove New York to a 41-37 halftime lead. She also brought the Liberty from defeats door on a couple of occasions and allowed New York to see overtime.

“My defense creates my offense, that’s how I gotta be,” Sugar explained. “We just taking it one game at a time, thinking about tomorrow and getting into the gym.”

Liberty Head Coach Bill Laimbeer agreed, “That was a great performance and everyone in the locker was happy for her.”

Atlanta focused their defense on Epiphanny Prince, holding her to eleven points. They were effective in making sure that the Liberty would have to look elsewhere for big baskets, yet at the end of regulation, Prince grabbed a defensive rebound and a New York timeout attempt was missed. Epiphanny had eight seconds to made her way for a nice twenty footer but it missed and overtime would be needed.

The Liberty has found a gem in rookie Kiah Stokes. Her personality is a winner, her court sense, way before her years, and her impact is undeniable. The current WNBA Rookie of the Month had another of those defensive nights blocking four shots, including an important one late on Angel McCoughtry, who had a 25 point night, in overtime with the game tied.

But its her total game that is emerging. She added ten points and seven boards even working in a not seen before Bob Lanier like left hook shot.

“I got Tina and Herbie getting on me to be more aggressive and give another option,” Stokes laughed.

“She’s just a glue player,” Laimbeer added.

Her work with Tina Charles (17 points) in the paint reminds one of what Patrick Ewing and Charles Oakley once did. The interior passing between them has often opened up games when first and second options failed.

“We didn’t play our best basketball,” Stokes explained. “But we pulled it out in the end because we work so well with each other on and off the court.”

But in the end, Tina Charles was strafed by a defender in a steal attempt which appeared to hurt her shoulder and missed two foul shots with a precarious three point lead. But in such instances is where Tanisha Wright makes a difference. After Matee Ajavon was allowed to lay one up cutting the Liberty lead to 76-75 and 18 ticks in the extra period, Wright was fouled and calmly hit both. A moment later she was fouled again in transition and buried two more for the final scores. Of her nine points tonight, these were the crucial ones.

“From a team perspective so proud of what we did,” Candice Wiggins shared. “Everyone wants to spoil our party, we’re having fun, and teams are looking to end that. It’s our home court and we have to defend it.”

Laimbeer is in an interesting situation. He is ahead in the standings but refuses to look any further than the goals of winning the conference for home court advantage. Laimbeer equates that with championship necessities.

“We know the opportunity that’s in front of us,” Laimbeer said. “We win every home game, we get home court, you win the championship.”

Carolyn Swords, the lighthouse at center, who came from the Chicago Sky, feels that being in New York is the place to be now. “I love being here, its great, its exciting, I’m very happy.” On Thursday night, her former team comes to Madison Square Garden next with Cappie Pondexter leading the way in another duel for Conference honors.

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