UNCASVILLE, Conn., Sept. 22 (AP) - Despite being the youngest team in the WNBA, the New York Liberty showed some veteran poise when they gave up the lead late in the fourth quarter.
Shameka Christon hit a 3-pointer to regain the lead, rookie Essence Carson had a driving layup to stretch New York's advantage to three points, and the Liberty beat the Connecticut Sun 66-62 Monday night to advance to the Eastern Conference finals.
"It was an unbelievable team effort,'' New York coach Pat Coyle said. "With such a young team, it could have been easy to fold out tents. We played really well for three quarters and then when they came back and got the lead it would have been easy for us to fold but we didn't.
Carson finished scored 15 points, Christon had 13, and Janel McCarville added 12 points and seven rebounds to help the Liberty win a postseason series for the first time since 2004. New York beat Detroit in the first round that year before getting swept by Connecticut.
"It's very big for us,'' said Christon, who was a rookie in 2004. "To me ... we just beat the fantastic four - Lindsay Whalen, Tamika Whitmore, Asjha Jones and Mike Thibault. They are great, I have so much respect for them, but for my team to come in here and execute and play the way we did and get the win, I can't even explain the emotions right now.''
Carson, selected by the Liberty with the seventh overall pick in this year's draft, shot 7-for-9 from the field
"That kid has ice water in her veins,'' Coyle said. "She has the whole package.''
The Liberty will play either Detroit or Indiana in the the conference finals. That series is tied with Game 3 on Tuesday night.
Whalen scored 19 points and Jones added 18 points and 11 rebounds for the Sun.
The Liberty shot 51 percent in the first half and finished at 47 percent (27-for-57) for the game. The Sun finished at 34 percent (25-for-74), including 3-for-20 on 3-pointers.
"New York may be the youngest team in the league, but their key players know how to play together very well," said Thibault, the WNBA Coach of the Year.
Whalen gave Connecticut its only lead of the second half, 60-58, with 1:38 left.
Christon responded with a 3 from the top of the key with 1:22 left to give the Liberty the lead for good. After a miss by the Sun, Carson drove to the basket and made a layup to stretch the lead to 63-60.
"They made some big plays down the stretch and we didn't make enough,'' Whalen said. "Maybe we rushed a few shots, settled for some outside jumpers. We just let it get away from us a little.''
Connecticut went scoreless for a span of 7:40 in the first half, turning a seven-point lead into a seven-point deficit. The Sun missed 16 straight shots during the stretch and made just five of their last 27 shots in the half.
Whalen made a 3 and two free throws in the final minute to cut Connecticut's deficit to 37-33 at halftime.