NEW YORK (AP) Epiphanny Prince was happy to be back home.
The Sky’s star guard scored 30 points to help Chicago beat the New York Liberty 73-69 on Friday night.
”I love playing at the Garden,” said Prince, who grew up in New York. ”All through high school I played here. At Rutgers once. It feels like home.
Prince matched her season high and helped offset the absence of star forward Elena Delle Donne, who is sidelined indefinitely with a recurrence of Lyme disease. The reigning rookie of the year went home to Delaware to recover. Delle Donne missed five games this month because of the disease before playing against Connecticut on Wednesday. She scored 13 points in the loss, but wasn’t feeling well after the game.
Even without Delle Donne, the Sky (7-8) were too much for the Liberty (4-11) because of Prince. She missed the Sky’s first trip to Madison Square Garden back in May as she was taking time to recover from playing overseas in Russia.
”She’s a phenomenal player,” Chicago coach Pokey Chatman said. ”She was in rhythm early and has been ever since she rejoined us.”
The loss was New York’s sixth in the past seven games.
Tina Charles led the Liberty with 16 points while Sugar Rodgers added 12. Cappie Pondexter was held scoreless, missing all seven of her shots.
”What’s frustrating is coming from behind all the time,” Pondexter said. ”I don’t know what button we need to be pushed going out there. We’re ready coming out of the locker room but I don’t know what happens.”
New York trailed by 13 at the half before pulling to 71-69 with 45 seconds left. Chicago couldn’t get a shot off on its next possession as Courtney Vandersloot traveled just as the shot clock ran out, giving the Liberty a chance to tie it.
Plenette Pierson’s driving layup was blocked with 18 seconds left. On the ensuing inbounds, Pondexter caught the ball on the wing and threw up an airball.
”We were in the position to win the game and I felt confident taking the shot,” Pondexter said. ”It didn’t go in.”
Prince hit two free throws to seal the win. With 6 seconds left, Vandersloot took a shot off a hard screen from Pierson and had to be helped off the court.
Chatman said that Vandersloot hurt her left knee and is going to have it checked out.
Prince got the Sky started, scoring 13 points in the first quarter as Chicago jumped out to a 25-16 lead. The Sky extended their advantage to 50-37 at the half as Tamera Young took over. She had seven points in the second quarter.
New York opening the third quarter on a 13-2 run to close to 52-50, but the Liberty couldn’t tie the game or take the lead. Prince and Young then scored the next nine points to restore the double-digit advantage.
New York closed to 67-65 midway in the fourth after Anna Cruz scored four straight points. Prince answered though, hitting a deep 3-pointer from the wing that made it 70-65 with 3:19 left.
Back-to-back layups by Pierson and Charles made it 71-69 with 45 seconds left.
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