Pondexter scores 30 to rally Liberty past SkyJul 11, 2010 - 11:48 PM By VIN A. CHERWOO AP Sports Writer
NEW YORK(AP) -- After spending the All-Star break training with the U.S. national team, Cappie Pondexter remembered some encouraging words from coach Geno Auriemma.
Pondexter scored 30 points to rally New York to a 57-54 victory over the Chicago Sky on Sunday. She scored 14 points in the final 12:15 as the Liberty came back from 13 points down late in the third quarter.
"Geno challenged me to take this team to a higher level," Pondexter said of the UConn coach who's leading the national team. "Coach challenged everybody with a losing record in that locker room on the USA team to help make their teammates better and that's what I was thinking about."
Plenette Pierson added 10 points for New York (8-9), which snapped a two-game skid and won for the fourth time in six games. The Liberty moved one game ahead of last-place Chicago in the Eastern Conference and trail fourth-place Connecticut by 1 1/2 games.
"That jelling stuff or when are we going to get together, for me that's over with," said Pondexter, one of six newcomers on the Liberty this season. "I don't want to hear it anymore. It's about winning. That's the only thing that's important."
Jia Perkins had 26 points and Sylvia Fowles added 12 points and a career-high 19 rebounds for the Sky (8-11), who have lost two straight after winning four of five.
The Liberty focused on defending Fowles, who was the All-Star game MVP after scoring 23 points on 9 for 11 shooting in the U.S.'s 99-72 win over the WNBA All-Stars on Saturday. Against New York, she shot 4 for 9 and had five turnovers.
"We were trying to trap Sylvia the entire game," Liberty coach Anne Donovan said. "Taj (McWilliams-Franklin) wasn't on the floor much of the first half because of foul trouble. She clearly defends her better than anyone else and has the strength and size to defend. So having her on the floor most of the second half was a big part of that and not letting Sylvia get deep in under the basket."
Fowles, who scored just four points in the second half, made a running jumper to give the Sky a 45-32 lead, matching their biggest of the game, with about 3 minutes left in the third quarter. Chicago made just four field goals and scored nine points the rest of the way.
"If you stop doing what got you in the lead in the first place then you can't expect to hold onto the lead," Sky coach Steven Key said. "If we continue to lose momentum it doesn't really help us."
Pierson had a layup and Pondexter made a jumper and a 3-pointer from the left corner to pull the Liberty within six. Kalana Greene opened the fourth quarter with a jumper and Pondexter made a layup to get New York to 45-43 with 8:07 left.
Pierson's layup with 4:38 to go tied the score at 47, and Pondexter hit a 3 - her fourth of the game - to give the Liberty their first lead since midway through the first quarter.
"Whatever the team needed I was trying to get done," said Pondexter, who was 10 for 17 from the field. "Leilani (Mitchell) got me for a nice 3. There were a lot of good plays that happened to allow me to put the ball in the net."
After Perkins hit a 3 to tie the score again, Pondexter's fadeaway jumper with 2:23 left gave the Liberty the lead for good.
Mistie Bass made a layup with 7.2 seconds left to pull the Sky to 56-54. McWilliams-Franklin made a free throw less than a second later to push New York's lead to three, and former Liberty star Erin Thorn missed a potential tying 3 in the final second.
Both teams shot poorly in the second quarter as New York was 3 for 13 (23 percent) and Chicago 5 for 18 (28 percent). The Liberty picked it up in the second half, going 11 for 30 (37 percent), but the Sky were 7 for 26 (27 percent).
Perkins and Fowles scored five points each as Chicago went on a 14-0 run to take a 20-10 lead with about 2 1/2 minutes left in the first quarter.
Pondexter's pull-up jumper on the ensuing possession ended the Liberty's scoring drought of nearly 3 minutes during which they missed three shots and had two turnovers, including a shot-clock violation.
Perkins scored 15 points in the first half, including the Sky's final eight points of the second quarter, to help Chicago take a 35-26 lead at halftime.
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