5th Straight for Sky

The Chicago Sky are fast becoming old foes with New York, having played the Liberty four times in less than a month, but no one’s complaining in the Windy City. The Sky dismantled New York, 80-69, Saturday night to claim their fourth straight victory over the Liberty – fifth straight, counting preseason.

Chicago improved its current win streak to five straight and its overall record to 12-4, strengthening its hold as the Eastern Conference’s leader over second-place Atlanta, who was idle.

The Sky and Liberty, though, should be speaking on a first-name basis, having seen each other just two days prior when Chicago romped to a 20-point win on New York’s home floor. Saturday’s contest was much grittier than Thursday’s – Liberty guard Cappie Pondexter made sure of that by scoring a game-high 22 points.

But Chicago’s arsenal proved much more diverse, despite relatively quiet nights from the Sky’s recently-named All-Star starters Elena Delle Donne (seven points) and Epiphanny Prince (11 points)

. This time, it was the Tamera Young Show. Typically known as Chicago’s defensive-stopping wing, Young lit up the scoreboard by dropping 15 points of her team-high 17 points in the first half, including 11 straight for the Sky spanning the first and second periods.

With Chicago trailing 21-15 after the opening period and in need of a spark, Young began the second quarter with a putback, then found herself open underneath the hoop for an easy lay-in. Moments later, Sky point guard Courtney Vandersloot’s cross-court pass hit Young for a fast-break layup, which was followed by a pump-fake and driving layup – all within a span of three minutes.

Later in the quarter, Young hit two baseline jumpers from the same spot to total 12 points for the quarter. But Pondexter’s late trey kept the Liberty on top with a 42-39 lead at halftime.

“I’ve just been patiently offensively and trying to get in the right spots. I know they’re trying to double-team Elena and Piph, so they’re not even thinking about me,” Young said. “So I’m getting open looks and driving to the basket.”

Chicago responded with a balanced attack that outscored the Liberty, 22-15, in the third quarter. Vandersloot hit two timely 3-pointers to help the Sky’s lead balloon to 59-48. However, New York showed life with a 6-0 run to close out the quarter at 61-57.

The Liberty would pull within two points on a jumper by Plenette Pierson, who scored 17 points to go with 11 rebounds.

Under mounting pressure, Chicago’s two reigning Olympians took over. Sylvia Fowles fought through a bone bruise on her injured right foot to score four of her 15 points in the final period, while Swin Cash scored five of her 13 in the same span. Fowles also added 13 rebounds as she played through the pain.

“It’s just something you’ve got to suck up and go out there and help your teammates as much as possible,” Fowles said after the game. “I think our team had good movement, they were getting me the ball, I was rebounding the ball – everything was working tonight. You’ve got 1 through 11 contributing.”

Vandersloot had the Sky’s offense humming smoothly as she dished a season-high nine assists to go with 11 points.

New York guard Leilani Mitchell added 10 points as the Liberty fell to 6-10. The two teams will face off one more time on August 23 in Chicago.