Liberty 58, Storm 56
NEWARK, N.J. (AP)
With their offense faltering again, the New York Liberty used another strong defensive effort to grind out a win.
Cappie Pondexter scored 19 points, including the go-ahead layup with 41 seconds remaining, and the Liberty held off the Seattle Storm 58-56 Tuesday night. Plenette Pierson had nine points and eight rebounds to help New York (13-9) win for the third time in four games.
Seattle got three shots off in the final 20 seconds, and Essence Carson got a key block on Sue Bird's final attempt as time expired.
''Any time the game goes down to the wire like that, the final 3 seconds, it shows you the intensity and level of play that game was,'' Pondexter said.
After Pondexter put New York ahead in the final minute, Bird missed a 3-pointer from the right corner with 20 seconds to go. A lengthy timeout followed while the officials reviewed the play for possession, and eventually ruled the ball went off the Liberty's Nicole Powell with 17 seconds on the clock.
New York coach John Whisenant said Pondexter implored her teammates during the final timeout to keep up their intensity, repeatedly telling them, ''This is why we practice defense.''
''It's what we do,'' Pondexter said. ''It's not going to change. ... We know that at the end, if anything prevails, its going to be our defense. I just wanted to continue to remind us that's what we're about. When the game's on the line like that, if we get stops, we can basically win the game.''
Bird then missed a short jumper inside the free throw line with about 10 seconds left. The ball was knocked out of bounds by New York and Seattle's Swin Cash missed a layup on a play Pondexter anticipated and defended.
''I had just told Plenette that was capable of happening,'' Pondexter said. ''They knew we were defending Sue pretty tough ... Swin, she was open, i saw it ... and i was able to get to it and contest it.''
Pierson made 1 of 2 free thows with 3 seconds to go, and Carson secured the win with her third block of the game.
Bird finished with 17 points, including five 3-pointers, and Tanisha Wright and Katie Smith had 11 apiece for Seattle (12-10), which had won five of their previous seven. The Storm, who dropped to 4-9 on the road, were 31 percent from the field (21 for 68), including 8 for 21 on 3s.
''It shouldn't have come to that last play,'' Bird said. ''We got a lot of good looks, not just at the end, but throughout.''
The Liberty were held below 60 points for the fourth time this season, and won for the second time in less than a week under those circumstances. New York beat Chicago 59-49 last Thursday when they outscored the Sky 16-1 in the fourth quarter.
''It seems like we were playing defense the whole time,'' Whisenant said of the final 20 seconds. ''That's what I've been preaching to this team since I got here. ... If you can't play defense you can't win these kinds of battles.''
Wright made a technical free throw to start an 8-1 run that gave the Storm a 56-55 lead with 1:37 remaining. Smith's 3 pulled the Storm within one and Robinson's layup put them ahead.
Pondexter started a 6-0 run by making 1 of 2 from the line - New York's first attempts of the second half - with 6:42 left in regulation. Quanitra Hollingsworth made a hook shot, Carson had a layup and Hollingsworth made a free throw with 4 1/2 minutes to go for a 54-48 lead.
The Storm scored the first six points of the fourth quarter to take a 46-44 lead on Wright's jumper with 8 1/2 minutes left in the game. It was Seattle's first advantage since 7-4.
Former Liberty star Rebecca Lobo was inducted into the team's ''Ring of Honor'' during a halftime ceremony. Lobo, currently an analyst for ESPN, was one of the first players - along with Teresa Weatherspoon - assigned to the franchise and averaged 9.5 points and 5.7 rebounds in 75 games over four seasons with New York.
Lobo, selected in fan balloting, is the fourth player inducted into the Ring, joining former teammates Vickie Johnson, Weatherspoon and Sue Wicks, who were honored earlier this summer. Johnson, Weatherspoon, Wicks and Kym Hampton - who will be inducted on Aug. 30 - were selected by a special committee.
Seattle trailed by eight points late in the first half, before tying the score in the third quarter. Le'Coe Willingham made 1 of 2 from the line with 4:42 to go in the period - Seattle's first free-throw attempts of the game - and Smith hit a 3 nearly a minute later to tie the score at 38-all.
Pondexter hit consecutive jumpers and Kia Vaughn made 1 of 2 from the line to give the Liberty an eight point lead with under 3 minutes let in the second quarter. But Wright made a jumper and Bird's fourth 3 pulled the Storm to 32-29 at the break.