WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (AP) Shekinna Stricklen was all smiles after hitting her first career winning shot.
She had a four-point play at the buzzer to give the Connecticut Sun an 88-86 victory over the New York Liberty on Thursday night.
”I’ve never hit a game-winner, that was my first time,” she said.
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Stricklen didn’t start for the first time this season as Sun coach Curt Miller decided to go with a bigger lineup. She didn’t pout and was ready when her number was called at the end of the game.
She caught the ball on the wing off a pass from Jasmine Thomas and hit the shot and was fouled as time expired. After a brief review by the officials, the basket was ruled good. Stricklen shot the free throw with no time on the clock.
”I know I’m a good shooter, my mindset was mentally always stay ready,” Stricklen said. ”That last play, Jas is a great driver. I kind of saw the look in her face. I read her face. She found me and I knocked it down. ”
Coach Miller said that before he could even finish telling Stricklen that she wasn’t starting a few days ago, the seventh-year player said it was OK.
”I totally understand everything. I’m a team player,” Stricklen said. ”If this team stays together we can go a long way.”
This was the Sun’s fourth game in seven days and capped off a four-game road trip.
The Sun (6-1) trailed by 13 at the half and took their first lead since early in the game on Thomas’ layup midway through the fourth quarter. Thomas had left the game a few minutes earlier when she went down hard after committing a foul and grabbed her knee. She was on the sideline for a few minutes being looked at by the Sun’s training staff before returning.
The teams traded the lead over the final few minutes before Marissa Coleman’s driving layup with 29.7 seconds left gave New York the lead an 85-84 advantage. After a few misses by Connecticut, Bria Hartley was fouled and she made one of two free throws with 5.8 seconds left setting up the exciting finish.
Thomas led the Sun with 19 points.
Tina Charles had 24 points and nine rebounds for the Liberty (2-4).
”We’re right there if we keep holding each other accountable and encouraging each other and motivating each other,” Charles said. ”We’re right there we just have to put it together.
New York was off and running early, leading 29-18 after the first quarter. The Liberty extended the advantage to 54-41 at the half as Charles had 12 points and Nurse 11 in the opening 20 minutes.
Sun: Chiney Ogwumike attempted and made her first career 3-pointer in the first quarter.
Liberty: Coach Katie Smith is headed to Knoxville this weekend to be enshrined in the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame as part of the 2018 class.
The Liberty were still without guard Epiphanny Prince (concussion) and forward Kiah Stokes (sore left foot).
Sun: Head home to face defending champion Minnesota on Saturday.
Liberty: Continue a four-game homestand Sunday against the Indiana Fever.