79 - 88 Final
  for this game

Liberty beat Sparks 88-79 for 4th win in 5 games

Jul 31, 2010 - 2:48 AM By ZINA KUMOK AP Sports Writer

NEW YORK (AP) -- The New York Liberty are showing how far they've improved this season.

Cappie Pondexter scored 20 points and the Liberty beat the struggling Los Angeles Sparks 88-79 Friday night.

Janel McCarville had 15 points, Taj McWilliams-Franklin added 14 points and nine rebounds and Plenette Pierson also scored 14 to help New York (13-11) win for the fourth time in five games.

"I do feel like at the beginning of the season we would've lost this game," McWilliams-Franklin said. "But now we're pushing through."

The Liberty also moved into a tie with Connecticut for fourth place in the Eastern Conference, three games behind first-place Indiana.

Tina Thompson scored 18 points and Marie Ferdinand-Harris added 17 for Los Angeles (8-17), which snapped a two-game winning streak.

New York capitalized on the Sparks' mistakes and came up with key shots down the stretch. Nicole Powell's 3-pointer with less than 2 minutes left capped a 9-0 run and gave the Liberty an 82-72 lead, their biggest of the game.

"I thought my team played well until the last 2 minutes of the game," Sparks coach Jennifer Gillom said. "We made some crucial mistakes that caused us to lose this game."

The Liberty outscored the Sparks by 10 in the fourth quarter.

"We got the stops we needed to at the right time," Pondexter said.

Liberty coach Anne Donovan said her team let the Sparks "play with confidence through three quarters."

"I thought in the fourth quarter we stepped up defensively and contested more shots, so they didn't have quite as many open shots," Donovan said.

Pondexter made two free throws with about 6 minutes to go to give the Liberty a 71-70 lead and they didn't trail again.

Despite their win, McWilliams-Franklin said the Liberty did not play as well as they could have.

"Tonight wasn't a great game for us defensively," she said.

The score was close for most of the game with neither team leading by more than five points through the first three quarters. The Sparks led 63-62 heading to the fourth.

The Sparks, struggling without the injured Candace Parker this season, dropped into a fourth-place with Minnesota in the Western Conference - 1 1/2 games behind San Antonio and 3 1/2 behind second-place Phoenix. League-leading Seattle has already clinched the conference title with 11 games remaining.