Pondexter lifts Liberty past Sun 88-87 in OTAug 23, 2010 - 1:02 AM By VIN A. CHERWOO AP Sports Writer
NEW YORK (AP) -- Before the game, New York Liberty players taped pictures of themselves playing in road games all around the locker room.
In a three-way tie for first place in the Eastern Conference, they needed a win to secure home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
Cappie Pondexter scored six of her 31 points in overtime, lifting the Liberty to an 88-87 win over the Connecticut Sun on Sunday to earn the No. 2 seed in the East.
"That was either away or home and what we wanted to play," Pondexter said, pointing to the picture above her locker and then her home jersey hanging below it. "That was kind of motivation."
Nicole Powell had 14 points, Leilani Mitchell added 13 and Janel McCarville 12 for New York (22-12), which set a franchise record for victories. The Liberty, who had a 10-game winning streak end at Washington on Friday night, finished 15-3 after the All-Star break.
"Home-court advantage was important to us," Mitchell said. "We wanted to end on a good note and have some momentum going into the playoffs."
Pondexter made two jumpers in the final minute of overtime, extending the Liberty's lead to three points each time - with the last coming with 13.8 seconds to go.
On the Sun's ensuing possession, they ran down the clock and, with the Liberty defending the perimeter against a potential tying 3-pointer, Tan White hit a short jumper with 1.2 seconds remaining for the final margin.
"What we drew up was to take the first good shot in the first 5 seconds on the clock," Connecticut coach Mike Thibault said. "If you have to take a layup in the first 5 seconds, take it so we turn around and foul. After 5 seconds, we would have taken a 3. What we did encapsulates what we did for the entire season."
Tina Charles led the Sun (17-17) with 21 points and 13 rebounds to extend her WNBA record for double-doubles to 22. Sandrine Gruda scored 18 points, Renee Montgomery had 17 and Kara Lawson added 15 points.
Washington, New York and Indiana started in a three-way tie for first. The Mystics secured the conference's No. 1 seed with a win at Atlanta. The Fever lost at Minnesota later, but were already locked in the third spot because the Liberty held the tiebreaker.
New York will host Indiana in Game 1 of their first-round series on Thursday.
McCarville made two free throws to give the Liberty an 85-82 lead with 2:53 left in the extra period. After Charles made 1 of 2 free throws 12 seconds later, Pondexter's jumper gave New York a three-point advantage with 56 seconds to go.
Asjha Jones hit two free throws for the Sun 21 seconds later, but Pondexter then hit another jumper in the paint.
"It was much more of a grind than we would have preferred," Liberty coach Anne Donovan said. "It came down to the end, and in overtime Cappie was Cappie and we rode her coattails to the win."
After trailing by 12 early in the third quarter, the Sun cut the deficit to three several times and then pulled to 65-64 on Montgomery's layup with 8:19 left in the fourth.
Essence Carson hit a jumper for New York 13 seconds later, and Gruda made four free throws about 1 1/2 minutes apart to give the Sun a 68-67 lead with 6:22 to go in regulation. It was Connecticut's first advantage since it was up 3-2.
"They're a good team," Powell said. They're going to make a run, they're going to hit shots. They were getting a lot of good looks in the first half, they just weren't knocking them down."
Pondexter followed with a three-point play to put New York back on top, 70-68, with 5:50 remaining, but Gruda's jumper tied the score 11 seconds later.
Powell made a layup and Pondexter converted a three-point play to give New York a 79-75 lead with 1:53 remaining. Powell added a free throw 9 seconds later to push the advantage to five.
Lawson's 3 pulled Connecticut within two, and Charles' layup tied the score with 41.8 seconds left in the fourth.
Pondexter's potential winning shot at the end of regulation went off the backboard.
The Liberty had their biggest lead at 46-34 after Mitchell's third 3 of the game early in the third quarter. The Sun then scored the next nine points to pull within three on Charles' shot with 6:46 left in the period.
New York answered with a 10-2 run, but the Sun scored the final seven points of the third quarter to make it 62-59 on Anete Jekabsone-Zogota's 3 with 44.6 seconds left.
Pierson made a rare 3-pointer to give the Liberty a 43-34 lead at halftime. Her shot with 23.4 seconds before the break was her fourth of the season and first in 25 games with New York.
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