Spirited Comeback Falls Short for Liberty

The New York Liberty fell 72-62 to the defending Eastern Conference champions on Sunday in Detroit. The dramatic game was sparked by memorable runs by both teams.

Detroit used separate spurts of 10-0, 13-0 and 12-0 over the course of the game to build a 54-29 lead heading into the final quarter.

Down 25 points, the Liberty went on a stunning 23-4 run to start the fourth quarter, pulling within six points. However, Plenette Pierson refused to allow her team to squander such a big lead, leading the Shock on an 8-2 run in response that New York ultimately could not overcome.

Head Coach Pat Coyle's squad got off to a rough start, scoring only six points in the first quarter on 2-for-16 shooting. After draining the first bucket of the game, the Liberty saw the Shock go on a 10-0 run that put them behind the eight ball for the remainder game. Noted Liberty nemesis Deanna Nolan was the catalyst for the Shock, scoring 14 of her team's 29 first half points on 6-for-9 shooting.

The Liberty did not hit another field goal until Janel McCarville knocked down a layup with 4:01 remaining in the first quarter. The Liberty failed to record a single second-quarter point until there was 5:45 remaining, as Ashley Battle made a free throw. Lisa Willis drained a long three-pointer to give the Liberty their first field goal of the second quarter with 5:16 remaining in the quarter, which seemingly sparked her club.

After back and forth action, New York hit a string of shots that got them right back into the game, trailing 29-19 at the half.

Again, the Liberty could not get their offense going to start the second half, missing their first twelve shots before Willis hit a three-pointer with just 2:15 remaining in the quarter.

When they entered the fourth quarter down 54-29, New York was shooting just 21 percent from the field on 10-for-47 shooting. With their starting backcourt of Loree Moore and Erin Thorn struggling to find their range, the Liberty needed a spark and got it from an unusual line-up of Leilani Mitchell, Essence Carson, Erlana Larkins, Cathrine Kraayeveld and Willis.

Larkins and Willis combined for five straight free throws before Kraayeveld hit a three-pointer to bring the Liberty within striking range just 2:45 into the final frame. After Mitchell hit a layup, Kraayeveld knocked the ball to Mitchell who fed it back to her teammate down low for a lay-up, causing an irate Shock head coach Bill Laimbeer to call a timeout.

That timeout could not stop New York's momentum, as Kraayeveld hit a 25-foot three-pointer, followed by another three from Willis, and after a turnover, a third three in a row by Carson. After stealing the inbounds pass, Carson got the ball down low for a layup, shrinking the lead to 58-52 and forcing a second timeout by the Shock.

This time, Detroit's players got the message, and behind Pierson's game-high 25 points, pulled away from New York for the victory.

Despite the loss, there were many positives for the Liberty.

One was Willis, who has seen spot duty thus far this season. Getting a chance to shine, she shot 3-for-4 from the field, all from behind the arc. She finished the game tied with Tiffany Jackson at a team-high 12 points.

Another positive was the play of the rookies. Mitchell led the team with four assists in just over 13 minutes of play, while Larkins and Carson chipped in with eight and five points respectively.

Perhaps the most impressive thing for the Liberty on Sunday was the defiant, never-say-die attitude that they showed in fighting back from a 25-point deficit heading into the final quarter. Showing a ton of heart, New York put a scare into Detroit and undoubtedly did wonders for their own confidence just three games into the season.