72 at Indiana
INDIANAPOLIS -- Greg and Julie Phillips spent 25 hours on airplanes last weekend as they flew from their native Australia to see their daughter, Erin, play for the Indiana Fever in the WNBA Playoffs.
Erin made the trip special for her parents on Thursday night, hitting the winning shot in Indiana's stirring 74-72 victory over the visiting New York Liberty in the opening game of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
“Fantastic,” said Greg Phillips, who was an Australian Rules Football star in his homeland and now coaches the sport. “I think (Erin) should be pretty proud.”
Indeed, the entire Indiana team was proud of Phillips.
With 18 seconds remaining, the Fever set up a play called “1-4 flat.” Phillips brought the ball across midcourt with Essence Carson guarding her closely. Phillips drove into the lane, saw that she had no teammates open and made a 14-footer with 1.5 seconds remaining over the outstretched arms of Carson.
“Erin jumped up there and made it over our best defensive player,” said New York Coach John Whisenant. “Give her credit.”
Phillips said it was the first game-winning shot of her career. Afterward, she stood on the court, smiling as she looked toward her parents in the Conseco Fieldhouse stands.
“I think I gave them quite the heart attack,” said Phillips, who finished with six points after missing two games with a sprained ankle. “It was really special for them to be here.”
On New York's final possession, Cappie Pondexter turned the ball over as she rushed down the court. Tamika Catchings' defensive pressure forced the play.
Indiana had plenty of stars. Katie Douglas led the Fever with 25 points and added six rebounds. Catchings scored 15 points with six rebounds and three steals. Tammy Sutton-Brown had 14 points, including 10-of-10 free throws, and grabbed a team-high seven rebounds.
“Tammy Sutton-Brown really stepped up tonight,” Fever Coach Lin Dunn said.
Indiana used a couple of big runs and 53.3 percent shooting to take a 23-9 lead in the first quarter. But when the Fever took an advantage of 15 in the second quarter, New York started chipping away. A 13-2 spurt in the third quarter brought the Liberty within 54-50, and every possession became precious thereafter.
“I'm disappointed but proud that our team came back from 15 down and had an opportunity to win at the end,” said Whisenant, whose team will host the Fever in Game 2 of the best-of-three series on Saturday.
The second game is expected to play out much like the first -- in physical fashion.
“When you get in the playoffs, the expectation and the level of intensity goes up,” Catchings said. “The toughness goes up. But I think we held our own.”
Added Douglas, who hit 4-of-7 3-point shots: “We have to be ready for the same kind of atmosphere at New York's place.”