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Catchings leads Fever past Liberty, 73-67

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - Despite giving up a big early lead, the Indiana Fever kept their composure and got a big win.

Tamika Catchings had 22 points and 10 rebounds, Shavonte Zellous scored 21 points and the Fever recovered after giving up a 17-point lead to beat the New York Liberty 73-67 on Friday night.

Indiana (13-15) pulled one-half game behind Washington for third place in the Eastern Conference. The Fever also increased their lead over fifth-place New York to 2 1/2 games for the conference's final playoff position.

``We knew this was going to be a game,'' Zellous said. ``New York is fighting for a playoff spot, we're fighting for a playoff spot. We knew this game was going to be a game of runs. Towards the end we just locked in defensively and got stops when we needed it and scored when we needed to.''

Kelsey Bone scored 11 of her 13 points in the third quarter for the Liberty (11-18), who came back from their big first-quarter deficit to take a 54-52 lead heading to the fourth.

``We keep digging ourselves these weird holes,'' Bone said. ``Same result in a loss, but we're fighting, we didn't just lay down. Now we've got to figure out a way to come out strong. First quarter, third quarter, we've got to get in a rhythm, start these games off right because when we make our run we give the other team time to make another run. And basketball is a game of runs.''

Catchings had two 3s during a 10-0 run over the first 3 minutes of the final quarter to help Indiana regain the lead for good. New York made another push, pulling within one three times - the last on Katie Smith's jumper with 2 1/2 minutes remaining.

The Fever then scored the last five points for the final margin.

``Definitely a game of highs and lows,'' Catchings said. ``We started off really well and then going into the second quarter we kind of hit a lull. Third quarter was a battle back and forth ... they ended up taking the lead for a little bit. Then the fourth quarter we did a really good job of continuing to just execute, doing down the stretch what we needed to get done.''

Liberty leading scorer Cappie Pondexter finished with seven points on 1-for-13 shooting. She had a chance to tie it with about 45 seconds left but her long jumper from the left corner rimmed in and out of the basket.

Zellous then made a layup with 27.5 seconds left to push the lead to 71-67 and Karima Christmas closed the scoring with a layup at the buzzer.

``We're fighting not only to get in the playoffs, but for positioning,'' Indiana coach Lin Dunn said. ``We don't want to just get in, we want to get the high seed that we can get, so we're fighting for everything.''

Indiana got off to a fast start while New York struggled with sloppy play. Zellous had eight points as the Fever opened a 14-0 lead before the Liberty finally got on the scoreboard. Pondexter's jumper with 5:30 left in the first quarter ended New York's opening stretch in which it missed its first five shots and had eight turnovers.

Christmas' 3-pointer with just under 4 minutes left in the period extended Indiana's lead to 21-4 - the Fever's largest advantage of the game.

The Fever then went cold in the second quarter. DeLisha Milton-Jones made two free throws with 3.7 seconds left in the first quarter that started the Liberty on a 14-2 run to pull to 29-26 on Pierson's layup with 6:25 to go in the period.

The Fever pushed their lead to 38-32 on Catchings' 3 with 1:24 to go in the second quarter.

January's 3 in the opening minute of the third quarter extended the advantage to eight points.

New York tightened it again when Bone scored five consecutive points over a 54-second stretch to make it 47-46 with 3:09 remaining in the third. Pierson made two baskets 35 seconds apart to cut the deficit to 43-41 with about 5 1/2 minutes remaining in the third.

``Coach (Bill Laimbeer) thought I had an advantage (in the matchups in the third quarter),'' Bone said. ``He just said, `Wear her out, give it to her every time.' So my teammates did a very good job of finding me and I hit some buckets.''

After Zellous' 3 put Indiana ahead 52-46 with 2:25 left in the third, the Liberty scored the next eight points to take their first lead of the game. Bone's three-point play tied the score with 1:31 remaining and her layup with 46 seconds left put New York ahead.

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