NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - After falling behind by 14 points early in the fourth quarter, the New York Liberty made another big defensive stand down the stretch.
Cappie Pondexter scored 19 points, Plenette Pierson had 17 and the Liberty rallied to beat the Sky 71-67 on Tuesday night. Kia Vaughn added 15 points and Essence Carson 14 for New York (17-13), which had lost five of its previous nine.
``Our energy created a lot of things for us,' Pondexter said. ``Even though everything was kind of going bad, we let it go and just moved on. Once we channeled that positive energy into other things, a lot of stuff opened up. We weren't making shots but we got after it defensively. We made shots harder for them, which allowed us to get out and kind of get going.'
Carson had 12 points and Pondexter 10 in the final period as the Liberty used a 22-2 run over a late 6 1/2-minute stretch in the fourth. In Chicago's last visit to Prudential Center on Aug. 4, New York had a 16-1 scoring edge in the fourth quarter and won 59-49.
``It's a testament to our defense and everything that we work on in practice,' Pondexter said. ``I just continue to remind us that no matter what, it's all we got, it's all we work on. ... If we really play and focus in on it, then we can shut anybody down.'
New York won for the fourth time in six games. Both losses were by one point - including a 74-73 defeat at Chicago on Sunday
The Liberty took three of five in the season series with the Sky, and the home team won each matchup. New York, third in the Eastern Conference, pulled to 2 1/2 games behind first-place Indiana and remained one-half game ahead of Atlanta. Chicago dropped 2 1/2 behind the Dream for the fourth and final playoff spot in the East.
Sylvia Fowles scored 22 points and Epiphanny Prince had 15 for the Sky (14-16), who had won four of their previous five. Chicago finished with 22 turnovers, including six in the fourth quarter that New York turned into 10 points.
The Liberty finished 36 percent from the field but made 27 of 35 from the line. Chicago was 43 percent on field goals (27 for 51) and 18 of 19 from the line.
``It's extremely disappointing,' Sky coach Pokey Chatman said. ``Thirty-five free throws is tough. We don't normally foul that much but when you're not playing well, I can't get on the officials when you turn it over 20 times. But we had a 14 point lead with 7 minutes left.
After Fowles' three-point play with 7:49 remaining gave Chicago its biggest lead of the game at 60-46, the Liberty went on their big run and limited her to just two points the rest of the way.
Pondexter scored seven points during the run, including a pair of free throws with 2:27 left that gave New York its first lead since just before halftime.
Carson made a free throw to start it, Pondexter hit a 3 and then capped a 10-0 run with two free throws to pull New York to 60-56 with 5:13 to go.
Prince made two from the line with under 4 1/2 minutes remaining to end the Sky's drought, but Powell made two free throws, and Carson and Pierson had consecutive layups to tie the score at 62 with 3:08 remaining. After Pondexter put New York up, Carson added a jumper just before the 1-minute mark for a 68-62 lead.
Prince later hit a 3 with about 17 seconds remaining to pull the Sky within three, but the Liberty made 3 of 4 from the line to seal the win.
``You got to finish things out,' Chatman said. ``We're not good enough to not close out games or not stay true to the scheme or not play with poise or not scrap and be blue-collar. That's what it takes for us and it takes for 40 minutes, not 32.'
In the third quarter, Prince started an 11-0 run with a 3-pointer with 3:45 remaining. Fouled by the Liberty's Quanitra Hollingsworth on the shot, Prince made the ensuing free throw to complete the four-point play. Tamera Young capped the spurt with two free throws with 48 seconds to go in the period to give Chicago a 52-39 lead.
``It is a game of runs and they made their run early and we knew when it came down to it we have a lot of players on this team who can come in and settle down,' Pierson said. ``We like playing with our backs against the wall. It is kind of bad, but we know when to go out and grind it out.'
New York coach John Whisenant was honored before the game for recording his 100th career regular season victory in the Liberty's last home contest, against Connecticut on Aug. 18, and former Liberty star Kym Hampton was inducted into the team's ``Ring of Honor' during a halftime ceremony.
Hampton, who works for the team as a fan development leader, was New York's first-round draft pick in 1997 and participated in the ceremonial tipoff against Los Angeles' Lisa Leslie in the league's first game that year. Hampton averaged 9.3 points and 5.8 rebounds in 90 games over three seasons for the Liberty, and helped lead the team to the WNBA finals in 1997 and 1999.
She became the fifth player inducted into the Ring, joining former teammates Vickie Johnson, Teresa Weatherspoon, Sue Wicks and Rebecca Lobo, who were honored earlier this summer. Johnson, Weatherspoon, Wicks and Hampton were selected by a special committee, while Lobo was voted in fan balloting.
The Associated Press News Service
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