New York Knocked Down
Leading by six with less than three minutes to play, Shock forward Cheryl Ford pulled down a New York Liberty miss and made sure no one - from either team - came near it. She was oblivious to the blow she nearly landed on the face of teammate Plenette Pierson until she ran down the floor.
“The referee was like, ‘Cheryl, easy on the elbows you almost took Plenette out,” and I was like, ‘Oh, I’m sorry P,’ but (I was) just trying to hold onto the rebound and clear my way,” Ford said.
Ford’s aggression also cleared the way for 19 points and 18 rebounds, and it rubbed off on her teammates. Playing their most assertive basketball of the afternoon, the Shock scored 17 points on 5-of-6 from the field in the extra session to defeat the Liberty, 87-82, at The Palace.
It was contrast to the Shock’s only other overtime game this season, also against NewYork. The Shock faded fast down the stretch in a 71-68 defeat July 6. On Wednesday, however, the Shock continued to attack the basket and led by as many as 10 points in the closing minutes.
“That’s our game,” Shock head coach Bill Laimbeer said. “We talked about (it) out of the (All-Star) break, to be aggressive rebounding, to attack the basket more, to run more, and to play a little bit more physical defense and I think we accomplished some of those goals today.”
The goal left unaccomplished was a balanced effort. With center Kara Braxton inactive due to a right ankle sprain in Tuesday’s practice and foul trouble for the usually reliable Pierson, the Shock starters bore a heavy burden Wednesday, especially the backcourt.
Deanna Nolan led all scorers with 21 points in more than 44 minutes. Katie Smith scored 10 points in 43 minutes. Ford played 42 minutes and Swin Cash, who also scored 19, played nearly 38 minutes for Detroit.
“I thought our starters showed a lot heart,” Laimbeer said. “I played them way too many minutes today and that’s going to catch up to us sooner or later. I’ve got to stop that. But coming out of the break it’s really important to get a win, especially the home team has to get the win. It’s so hard to come out of the All-Star break and play at home.”
Nolan knocked down 3-pointers on the Shock’s first two possessions for an early 6-2 lead, but the offense soon fizzled. The Shock had twice as many turnovers (seven) as field goals (three) the rest of the quarter, yet only trailed 17-14. The Shock committed only seven turnovers the rest of the game. “Turnovers were bothersome, we didn’t shoot very well, timing and sluggishness (were off) but that’s to be expected in the first game back,” Laimbeer said.
New York, which shot 51.7 percent and had 12 assists on 15 field goals in the first half, built its biggest lead just before halftime, nine points, on consecutive buckets by guard Ashley Battle. Battle came off the bench to score a team-high 17 points, including seven in overtime.
“They played well, they’re a small team, they shoot the ball well, they’ve shot it really well against us. People who may not necessarily be their go-to players or 3-point shooters, they’re knocking down shots,” said Smith, whose 3-pointer at the end of the second quarter cut Detroit’s halftime deficit to 39-33. “They play hard, they rebound the ball well and they’re kind of relentless, with no fear. They’ve had some good games against us here in Detroit, but I’m glad we were able to get past that and get a win.”
Battle outscored the entire Shock bench, 17-9. Pierson was called for three fouls while playing only 2:32 in the first half, but managed to knock key baskets late and finish with seven points. Center Katie Feenstra’s turnaround bank shot was the only other bench contribution. Guard Pee Wee Johnson started for Braxton and scored nine points.
“Right now I’m struggling to find the confidence in the reserves,” Laimbeer said. “I know they are capable of doing some things. I have to find some ways to utilize some of their strengths and that’s our task as coaches.”
Liberty forward Janell McCarville also scored 17 points and grabbed a team-high nine rebounds. McCarville, who recorded career bests of 18 points and 12 rebounds in the July 6 meeting, scored six points early in the fourth quarter Wednesday but made less of an impact after being called for two hard fouls.
“She’s a good player, she’s an all-around player, she’s got range up to 15-feet, 17-feet,” Ford said. “She likes to bang and I do too, so we just go out and play hard against each other.”
A three-point play by Liberty forward Shameka Christon tied the game at 70 with 1:28 to play. Both teams failed to convert the remainder of regulation before Detroit seized control. “I think we just made some shots in the overtime period. We played hard enough defense down the stretch,” Laimbeer said. “I’ll give New York credit, that’s as good New York can play. They played very well today and we’re fortunate to get out of here with the win.”
Braxton’s status is day-to-day and her availability for Friday’s meeting with conference-leading Indiana is unclear, Laimbeer said.