NEW YORK (AP) Cappie Pondexter loves having the ball in her hands with the game on line.
Pondexter banked in a jumper from the foul line with four-tenths of a second left to lift the New York Liberty to a 77-75 win over the Atlanta Dream on Wednesday.
”I always want it at the end,” she said. ”It’s always been like that since I first came into the league.”
Pondexter had been struggling with her shot, missing 12 of her first 14 on Wednesday, including one with about 30 seconds left that would have given New York the lead.
She was happy to get another chance and this time she wouldn’t miss.
Pondexter took a handoff from Plenette Pierson at the top of the key and banked in the winning shot. Atlanta couldn’t get a shot off at the other end. Tina Charles had 18 points and 15 rebounds to lead the Liberty.
The win snapped a two-game losing streak for New York (8-13) and moved the Liberty closer to the final playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.
”It was vital,” Pondexter said. ”We had dropped the last two, we were on a great run and then took two steps back and changed our momentum. If it was five weeks ago we probably wouldn’t have won the game. It shows the maturity we’ve gained over the last month.”
While New York is in the mix for the final Eastern Conference spot, Atlanta (15-6) is sitting 5 1/2 games in front in the East. The Dream have never finished first in the conference.
New York held a 10-point lead heading into the fourth before the Dream scored the first 10 points of the final period to tie it at 65 with 5:54 left.
The teams traded baskets until Jasmine Thomas’ 3-pointer tied it at 75 with 1:03 left. Neither team could score until Pondexter’s winner.
”We need to play better for 40 minutes,” said Angel McCoughtry, who led Atlanta with 20 points. ”It’s a good sign that we battled back and didn’t roll over, but we need to be more consistent.”
The Liberty led 52-49 midway through the third quarter before Rodgers and Charles scored nine straight to give New York some breathing room. Sugar Rodgers started the burst with a 3-pointer before Charles, who was announced as an All-Star reserve on Tuesday, scored the next six points and New York led 65-55 at the end of the third quarter.
It was a back and forth first half that had 15 lead changes before New York closed the second quarter with an 8-2 run to take a 45-40 lead at the break.
The Dream announced before the game that recently acquired forward Delisha Milton-Jones will miss the rest of the season after rupturing her right Achilles tendon Sunday against Chicago.
”I heard it pop right away and knew my season was over,” said Milton-Jones, who was traded from New York on July 9.
McCoughtry and Shoni Schimmel will head to Phoenix for the All-Star game on Saturday. The league announced on Tuesday that Schimmel’s jersey is the top seller in the WNBA and the Dream are No. 1 in merchandise sales.
”It’s really humbling to know that my jersey is the top seller,” Schimmel said.
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