Liberty Score Emotional Win Over Sparks

The New York Liberty and Los Angeles Sparks put on a show Friday night at Madison Square Garden, and the Liberty came out on the winning side of the nail-biter, beating the Sparks 69-68, thanks to Janel McCarville's lay-up with 6.4 seconds remaining in the game.

Down by a point, McCarville took the ball from the left side of the hoop and went strong to the basket, overpowering Olympians Lisa Leslie and Candace Parker, arguably the two most talented players to ever play in the WNBA, along the way.

"I had gotten the ball stolen on my last two possessions prior to that," said McCarville, who led the Liberty with 15 points. "But in the huddle, (Head Coach) Patty (Coyle) was confident in me, said she was going to come back to me, and we did, and I made the shot."

With the victory, New York improved to 14-10, as the Liberty have now won six in a row at Madison Square Garden.

"The thing about playing at home, is that while every team wants to defend their home court, its different calling Madison Square Garden your home," said Christon, who chipped in 13 points in the contest. "The fans are so special that you want to win for them, and they help you rise to the occasion. When they get behind you it is unbelievable. The place is magical. They were a big help tonight."

Up 56-50 to start the fourth quarter, New York shot out of the gate. The Liberty put on a passing clinic with great ball movement, finally finding a wide open Leilani Mitchell who calmly buried a trey. On their next possession, Ashley Battle skied for a rebound off a Lisa Willis miss for an easy bucket, and like that, they led 61-50 with 8:33 left in the game

However, New York went ice cold after that, and did not hit a bucket until Battle spun in the lane for a two-pointer with 2:55 remaining that gave the Liberty a 64-59 lead. That basket did not ignite the home team, however, as the Sparks scored six in a row to take a one-point lead with 43 seconds remaining.

Then the drama kicked into high gear.

Cathrine Kraayeveld, played by foul trouble all night, collected a feed from Battle, took one dribble to her left and heaved a 23-foot three pointer that hit nothing but net, creating a frenzy on the Liberty bench.

"I knew we were going to have to make a big stop after that shot," said Kraayeveld. "They are a good team and can score, so I knew we had to concentrate on the next possession and that the game was far from over."

Her teammates, however, thought the game was in the bag.

"To be honest, I thought that was it," said McCarville. "I thought we had enough in us to get that last stop on their next position, but obviously that wasn't the case."

Guarding to make sure Leslie and Parker wouldn't beat them, the Liberty switched to a zone on the ensuing possession. However, Kiesha Brown snuck out to the corner and drained a three-pointer from just behind the arc to put Los Angeles up by one, silencing the Garden crowd with just 15 seconds to go.

Liberty fans weren't quiet for long, with all 12,918 in attendance rising to their feet and applauding on their heroes as they went for the victory.

After McCarville overpowered the Sparks' defense to make her driving lay-up, the fans went into a frenzy as Los Angeles frantically called a time out.

Determined not to let the lead slip away, New York buckled down on defense. Leslie took the inbound pass and immediately took a jumper, only to have Kraayeveld come up and block it out of bounds with two seconds remaining.

Having to get a stop yet again with just two ticks of the clock remaining, the Liberty seemed to seal off every passing lane before Leslie again found a spot of daylight about five feet from the hoop. Catching the ball, she rose and seemed to have a good look at the basket before Battle, the unsung hero on the night, came out of nowhere to get a hand in her face, forcing Leslie to clang the ball off the rim, securing the victory.

As the players screamed, hugged and threw their fists in the air, Coyle high-fived the fans behind the bench, a clear sign that this was a big, emotional win for her up-and-coming club.

"They are a great team" Coyle said of Los Angeles. "They have three Olympians three best of the players in the league. They are going to make a run and we understand that. You try to withstand the run and manage to do things on the other end. I'm proud of our players."

McCarville agreed with her coach.

"They are some of the greats. They are going to the Olympics to represent our country, and they deserve it. To get a sweep over them this season, it's a great feeling. They are a great team and have got a lot of talent."

New York has one more game to go before a lengthy Olympic break, as the Liberty head to Atlanta to take on the expansion Dream (3-22) on Sunday at 3 p.m. New York will look to hit the break five games over the .500 mark in a game that will air on MSG.