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Pondexter wins Liberty debut, 85-82 over Sky

May 17, 2010 - 1:20 AM By VIN A. CHERWOO AP Sports Writer

NEW YORK(AP) -- Cappie Pondexter and Taj McWilliams-Franklin got the new-look Liberty off to winning start in their New York debuts.

Pondexter scored 22 points, McWilliams-Franklin had 20 and the Liberty beat the Chicago Sky 85-82 on Sunday to win their season opener.

New York used an 18-0 run in the third quarter to take a 16-point lead, before allowing the Sky to tie the score late in the fourth quarter.

Pondexter put the Liberty ahead for good, and McWilliams-Franklin had a block on Sylvia Fowles' potential tying layup with 1:07 to go and then made three free throws in the final 19.4 seconds to seal the win.

"We did some great things in the third quarter when we made that big run," Pondexter said. "We let up and made it a close game when we could have just put it away.

"Our intensity dropped a lot. We have to keep that intensity. When we have a 16-point lead, you gotta push your foot on their throat, and we didn't do it. I think we'll be all right. ... It's our first game."

The Liberty revamped their roster after finishing 13-21 last season, the second-worst mark in franchise history. New York selected Nicole Powell in the Sacramento Monarchs dispersal draft and Pondexter was acquired in a three-team trade with Phoenix last month after helping the Mercury win two championships in the last three years. McWilliams-Franklin, who won a title with the Detroit Shock in 2008, signed as a free agent.

Powell, who missed all but the last two days of training camp while finishing play in the Turkish League finals, had 11 points. Essence Carson also scored 11 and Leilani Mitchel had nine assists for New York.

Fowles scored 23 points to lead the Sky (0-2). Dominique Canty had 12 points and nine rebounds.

Cathrine Kraayeveld had 11 points and Shameka Christon added 10 in their first game at Madison Square Garden since being traded to Chicago in the deal that brought Pondexter to New York. Christon and Kraayeveld received a strong ovation from the crowd during pregame lineup introductions, and again after a video tribute during a timeout midway through the first quarter.

"I loved it," Christon said. "I love new York fans and I do miss them. So to come back and feel that energy and have such a warm welcome, it speaks volumes. But that's just the way it is here in New York."

Erin Thorn, another former Liberty player, also had 11 points. Epiphanny Prince, who once scored a record 113 points in a game as a senior in high school in New York and then skipped her senior season at Rutgers to play professionally in Europe, finished with three points and three assists in her second WNBA game.

After trailing by 16 late in the third quarter, Fowles' layup with 3:05 left in regulation tied the score at 76. Pondexter followed with a jumper and Carson made two free throws to give New York a four-point lead. However, Fowles had a three-point play to pull Chicago to 80-79 with 1:43 to go.

Pondexter then hit one free throw and McWilliams-Franklin made two to put the Liberty back ahead by four. After Canty's 3 got the Sky within one with 2.4 seconds to go, McWilliams-Franklin closed it out at the line with 1.8 seconds left.

"I want to be the go-to person because everyone knows Cappie is going to get the ball at the end and get fouled, so they're going to double-team her," McWilliams-Franklin said. "I want to be the one that's left, me and Nicole who shoots 92 percent, to get the ball at the end and make the free throws."

Carson started the Liberty's big third-quarter run with a jumper that tied the score at 52 with 6:14 left, and Pondexter had consecutive three-point plays to push New York's lead to 68-52 with 1:06 remaining.

Sandora Irvin made a jumper with 36.9 seconds for Chicago's first score since Christon's 3 with 6:30 left.

After Pondexter's jumper restored the Liberty's 16-point lead in the opening minute of the fourth quarter, the Sky scored 12 consecutive points to pull to 70-66 with 7:24 to go. Thorn started the run with a 3 and capped it with a jumper, and then made a free throw to cut Chicago's lead to 74-71 with 5:34 remaining.

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