Liberty Fall to Shock

The New York Liberty closed out their regular season on Sunday with a narrow 61-59 loss at The Garden to the Detroit Shock – the top seed in the Eastern Conference heading into the postseason. With all seeds in place heading into the finale, both squads gave their bench extended minutes, while limiting the playing time for their starters.

Nonetheless, in what was a welcome sign for Head Coach Pat Coyle as well as all Liberty fans, Janel McCarville returned to the lineup after missing the previous three games with lower-back spasms.

Admittedly rusty, McCarville scored just four points and pulled down two boards in just over 16 minutes of action.

"(My back) was basically more sore than anything else," she said following the game. "I kind of wanted to test and see where I was... (I felt) about 60-percent. By Thursday I should be 100-percent."

McCarville actually put the Libs on top just 20 seconds into the match on a jumper from Loree Moore. However, Detroit went on a 9-0 run that put New York behind the eight-ball early, as the Shock built up a lead they never gave up.

Despite her limited playing time, the early scoring prowess of Deanna Nolan, combined with the clutch shooting of Plenette Pierson late, paced Detroit to victory. Each finished with 11 points in the contest.

Still, the Liberty came away with positive vibes following the loss. Once again, the team proved it is among the deepest in the league, to go along with the tremendous heart that New York has displayed on a nightly basis.

Erlana Larkins, who has taken advantage of extended minutes with McCarville's injury, tied a career-high with a game-high 13 points. The 6-foot-1, 210-pound rookie forward out of North Carolina also logged a game-high 26:33 minutes of playing time, shooting 5-for-8 from the field while adding a team-high six boards.

"She's been consistent inside ever since I went down," praised McCarville. "It's big for us. Obviously having a scorer is something we need, so her stepping up is great."

Lisa Willis also continued to be a valuable asset, pitching in with 12 points off the pine, all on three points. The sweet stroking sharpshooter knocked down four of seven shots from behind the arch while also pulling down two rebounds.

Finally, Loree Moore continued her late season resurgence with a solid all around performance. The savvy veteran point guard recorded seven points, five boards, five assists, five steals and one blocked shot.

Despite the loss to the rival Shock, the team's focus was completely on the Sun and their task at hand come Thursday night.

"(Connecticut) is a great team. They were the number one team in the league for quite some time, and towards the end they just looked out of it. But they are great competitors and a well coached team," said Coyle. "They are a solid team that doesn't make many mistakes... Obviously we have to limit Lindsay Whalen and Asjha (Jones) a lot, as well as their strengths like Whalen cutting across court and getting to the basket. We'll get to practice on Tuesday and get ready for them."

Even a team with three rookies such as the Liberty knows the importance of each game in a best of three series, and how the intensity level rises.

"The season was a lot of fun," said rookie Lelani Mitchell following the game. "We played really well, and as a rookie it was a great learning experience. But Patty keeps talking about how the playoffs are a whole other level. She kind of gave a warning to the young kids to be ready, and I think that applies to the whole team."

With the way Larkins and the other young players on the bench have stepped up, Coyle should be feeling confident in her team's ability to make a serious run for the franchise's first WNBA Title.

Fans can support New York in person when they open the WNBA Playoffs Thursday night when they host the Connecticut Sun.

To score tickets, click here to purchase online, visit The Garden Box Office or call 877-WNBA-TIX.