Sky braced for stand against Liberty

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The 4th of July festivities are in the rearview mirror, but that won’t stop the Sky from attempting to spark a few more fireworks when the New York Liberty visit Chicago. Friday night’s showdown at Allstate Arena pits two squads looking to finish the first half of the season strong before the league takes a month-long hiatus for the 2012 Olympics. The Sky halted a four-game losing streak with Sunday’s win over Atlanta. New York, meanwhile, returned to the same issues that plagued the team during its 0-5 start, losing four of their last six following a three-game win streak early in June.

In the first matchup between these two teams on June 10 in New York, Epiphanny Prince scored a game-high 26 points to put the Sky on top, 73-64, in Prince’s return to her roots where she played at nearby Rutgers University. Prince outdueled her New York counterpart, Cappie Pondexter, who scored 22 points in the loss. This time, however, the Sky will have to find other sources to match Pondexter’s prodigious scoring. Prince, who ranks as the second-leading scorer in the WNBA, is still recovering from a broken foot sustained in a game against Indiana on June 16 and will not return until August.

Tamera Young had a strong performance off the bench against New York, scoring 12 points to go with seven rebounds, three assists and three steals. Young was inserted into the starting lineup when Prince went down and has performed admirably, averaging better than eight points and four rebounds in five games. The Sky will likely use a committee, including Young, to slow down Pondexter and sparkplug point guard Leilani Mitchell.

Sky center Sylvia Fowles was held to 10 points against New York, barely keeping her league-best streak of double-digit scoring games alive. After a solid outing of 21 points and 12 rebounds Sunday against Atlanta, she’ll look to make it 82 straight against the Liberty on Friday. She’ll have to do so while holding off New York center Kia Vaughn, who had her best game of the season against the Sky with 16 points and six boards.

The Liberty will certainly be out for revenge, as their loss to Chicago ended their win streak and triggered their latest slump. With just four games remaining until the break, the Sky hope to finish on a high note before sending Fowles and fellow Olympian Swin Cash to London to represent Team USA. Catch the Sky on Comcast CN100 or WNBA LiveAccess at 7:30 p.m.