Liberty Take Down Mystics
A late burst from Sugar Rodgers and missed free throws by Washington gave the Liberty (11-14) its fourth win in the last five games, besting the Mystics (13-14) 80-76 Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden.
Charles got off to a dominant start against the Mystics’ frontline. The Eastern Conferences’ leading scorer since the All-Star break, Charles scored 13 in the first quarter. The frantic pace of the quarter—the entire period lasted just 14 minutes—benefited New York, as Charles and the Liberty were able to open up a 21-15 lead.
With All-Stars Charles and Cappie Pondexter on the bench to start the second quarter, it was the supporting cast that thrilled the crowd. Avery Warley-Talbert and newest Liberty Natasha Lacy worked relentlessly for loose balls, racking up offensive rebounds and deflecting Washington passes. New York was able to feed off the energy provided by that duo, rattling off a 10-0 run to open up a 15-point lead. An Alex Montgomery halfcourt heave swished through the net to give New York a 43-28 lead into the half.
The ease with which New York was able to score vanished early in the third quarter. With the Liberty misfiring, Washington center Emma Meesseman went to work, hitting the Mystics’ first three hoops of the half to slice the deficit back to single-digits. Pondexter was able to provide an offensive spark with the lead dwindling, scoring nine points in the period, but Washington was still able to cut the lead to 10 by the end of the third.
The fourth quarter started much like the third quarter ended—with the Liberty out of sorts on offense. Washington continued to chip away, and with less than two minutes to play Stefanie Dolson converted from in close to draw Washington even. Seemingly in control with 21.9 seconds remaining in a one-point game and possession of the ball, bad luck struck New York, as Swin Cash threw an errant inbounds pass, giving the ball back to the Mystics. Rodgers came away with a steal on the other end, but could only make one of the two free throws. The miss allowed Bria Hartley to send the game into overtime with a clutch layup just before time expired.
In overtime, Rodgers was New York’s one and only star. The second-year guard put the Liberty on top with 1:50 left by calmly hitting a 3-pointer—her first of the night. After Rodgers and Hartley traded baskets, Plenette Pierson made two free throws and Rodgers led a defensive stand to secure the win for New York.
The Liberty were led by Charles’ 23 points and 12 rebounds. Cruz scored 13, Pondexter added 11 and Rodgers scored five of her 10 points in the overtime period. The Mystics had four different players in double-figures.
New York heads right back out on the road after one game at home, traveling to Chicago to play the Sky this Thursday at 8 p.m.