Liberty Block out the Sun to Take Game One, 72-63

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Post-game Notes and quotes
Liberty - Sun Series Recap

Playoff basketball came to The Garden for the second summer in a row on Thursday, and the New York Liberty once again rose to the occasion, winning 72-63 in an impressive performance, dominating the Connecticut Sun from start to finish.

Led by their own version of the big three, Shameka Christon, Janel McCarville and Cathrine Kraayeveld, the Liberty grabbed a 1-0 series advantage, putting them on the brink of advancing to the Conference Finals as the series shifts to Mohegan Sun Saturday night.

In the Liberty's two regular-season losses to the Sun, they fell behind big early, putting them in a huge hole they simply couldn't climb out from. Fittingly, New York came out of the gate on fire, going on a 12-4 run to start the game including a 10-0 spurt to put them ahead for the remainder of the game.

"Rebounding and offensive execution were two of the three goals that we actually accomplished tonight," said Liberty head coach Patty Coyle. "We have to take better care of the ball -- it makes our lives better. We played with a lot of energy tonight."

With the Sun clawing their way back, Christon and Kraayeveld each nailed a pair of three-pointers in the final 3:24 of the first quarter to spearhead New York to a 10-3 run that extended their to 24-11 after 10 minutes.

"The first quarter was a disaster," said Sun Head Coach Mike Thibault. "The confidence Christon and Kraayeveld had in the first quarter shooting in their building was great."

In the second quarter, the Sun put together a solid 9-2 run to close the gap to 26-18. However, Christon was fouled on a three-pointer with 2:43 left, making the trey while knocking down the free throw for the four-point play. The four-point swing gave New York momentum heading into the half with a 42-31 lead.

The early portions of the third quarter belonged to the Sun, who darted out with a 12-4 run to cut the deficit to three points at 46-43. New York responded with tremendous heart and resiliency, as Christon and Larkins scored on consecutive possessions to give the Liberty some breathing room. Ashley Battle followed up with a clutch knocked three-pointer from the corner to give New York a double-digit advantage on its way to a 56-45 lead heading into the final quarter.

"I thought when we got off to a great start in the third quarter, and got it to five we had a little momentum," said Thibault. "But then they made a big play, and we would have a couple of bad possessions and then it's back to nine or ten."

While the first three quarters saw the teams exchange a series of runs, neither team was able to string together multiple baskets in the fourth -- a welcome turn of events for New York since the Liberty enjoyed such a big lead entering the final quarter.

With Lindsay Whalen and Asjha Jones frustrated all night by New York's suffocating defense, Connecticut relied on their players to step up. However, their bench was not up to the task while six separate Liberty players scored in the final ten minutes to secure the 72-63 win to open the series.

In a win that was a total team effort, Kraayeveld's star shone bright, as she recorded her first post-season double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds, while adding a pair of assists and steals.

"They've got great players up front who play their game well," Kraayeveld said. "I just tried to take advantage of what they were giving me and was aggressive on the boards."

Her partner in crime up front, McCarville, also turned in a solid performance with 13 points, five rebounds and two steals.

McCarville, a two-time Eastern Conference Player of the Week during the 2008 regular season, was also pleased with her three rejections, especially up against talented front court players like Jones and Tamika Whitmore.

"I guess I've just got mad hops," she joked.

Christon also turned in an outstanding performance, matching her career playoff high with 19 points. She was on fire from downtown, going 4-for-5 from behind the arc while also pulling down four rebounds and playing solid, lockdown defense.

"Coming into this game we knew Whalen definitely is the engine to the Connecticut team," she said, "And then you have Whitmore as well as Jones who also does a great job. We knew they would score, but we wanted to frustrate them as well as contain them because I think they are definitely key."

Off the bench, Battle brought solid play and excitement that seemed to lift her club's spirits. The versatile veteran recorded seven points, three boards, three assists and two steals.

"I was just excited to get out there and play and do anything I could do possible to win," she said. "I'm just excited and happy for us to make the playoffs and then get this great victory -- I'm just happy. Our level of focus was extremely high, and I think it carried over. We were well prepared today, and it carried over."

She also validated the great admiration her teammates have for her.

"The thing with everyone on this team is that they know when they come in they have to do something, and AB (Battle) is the perfect example of that," said McCarville. "When she comes in she knows what she needs to do, and tonight she played her role to a tee."

Not to be overlooked was the fantastic performance of Loree Moore, who after suffering an injury early in the season has come on strong down the stretch. The team-oriented point guard put together a solid statistical line, recording seven points, seven assists, four rebounds and three steals.

"I've just stayed focused because I know I'd been having an up and down season," she said. "But I stuck with it, went in and did extras and remained confident in myself and it's paying off. I'm feeling good out there and so is the team. We are playing and executing our game plan and tonight it worked."

Last year the Liberty opened the playoffs with an impressive performance at home against the Detroit Shock, only to drop the next two games on the road and lose the series. This year, New York is determined to learn from its mistakes and refuse to let history repeat itself.

"We've just got to go out there and stay mentally tough and stay focused and try to finish games," said Battle. "Last year we had Detroit on their heels both games and we couldn't finish games. So hopefully we learned from our mistakes last year and hopefully we can get a victory."

Battle's teammates agreed with her.

"We're going to keep reminding ourselves of that feeling we had last year," said Moore. "We have to come out with the same mentality and focus we had this game and bring that over this with us with the memory of how last season ended. It was tough, and we can't let it happen again."

New York will get its chance at clinching the series Saturday night at 7:00pm. The game can be seen on MSG Plus, NBA TV or live online at nyliberty.com

Be sure to also get your fix of Liberty postseason fever daily with our special Playoff Central section, where you can find complete coverage of New York's chase for the championship.