Liberty Hand Sparks Their Pink Slip

By Luis Vazquez

It happened in the second quarter. The defending WNBA Champion Los Angeles Sparks (18-9) had had their way with New York. Their championship pedigree was on display and they were enjoying an eleven point lead in Madison Square Garden, where they have no trouble winning.

You can call it poise, pride or a team that was fed-up about their fortunes against the elite. Whatever it was, the Liberty big three veterans carried the day Sunday on Breast Awareness Day by winning their third consecutive game while shocking the WNBA second place team overall with a 83-69 beating.

The New York Liberty (15-12) knew that this last stretch of the season was going to test them to their limits. Though they will host five of their next seven games, they started it off with the first of three straight games against the three best records in the WNBA at this point in time. This would be the last chances to make a real statement on whether they are a championship contender or an also-ran.

It means a lot. L.A. is one of the top two teams in the league and the defending champions,” said Epiphanny Prince, “We’re showing that we can play with the best of the best. I feel like if we can keep it close, we’ll have a chance to be able to pull it through and getting the win was big for us.”  

The Liberty knew that their perennial all-star Tina Charles would perform well and she did. She led the way with 21 points and seven rebounds even hitting a three at one point. But it would be the resurgence of Epiphanny Prince (18 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists) hitting three of five treys while playing a worthy partner to the Liberty big gun. Shavonte Zellous (19 points, 6 rebounds) joined the duo hitting three of her five three point attempts.

Together the three musketeers had a remarkable quarter that reversed the game fully into their favor igniting a 20-0 run and finishing the second quarter 28-8 to take a nine point lead into the intermission.

“We just had to be aggressive. Los Angeles has been dominant against us for some time and it’s one of those things where you’re tired of losing to the same team,” said Zellous.

The Liberty maintained the edge throughout the second half as the Liberty Big Three scored 58 points. The Liberty won the battle of the boards 37-26 and ran Los Angeles off the court with excellent ball movement all night and prevailing even though the Sparks had four players in double digits.

When we move the ball, we’re at our best,” said Liberty Head Coach Bill Laimbeer, “When we’re running it and moving it or at half court and moving the ball, that’s when we’re successful.”

The Liberty threesome was just that much better and Sugar Rodgers in the fourth added six points with two threes of her own to keep any comeback thoughts at bay. The Liberty broke a five-game losing streak to the champs.

“The game plan was to keep them perimeter,” Laimbeer said, “Once we figured that out we stuck to it and they didn’t make the shots anymore, then we rammed the ball down their throats.”

The next step in this unlikely of journey’s takes New York to Connecticut this Friday night and a return to Madison Square Garden Sunday afternoon against the Minnesota Lynx, the team with the best record currently.


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