Connect with us


Carson Returns, Leads Liberty Rally

Ladies and gentlemen: Essence is back.

Essence Carson returned to action after missing the Liberty’s previous two games because of an eye injury, and she did it in dramatic fashion. Her go-ahead 3-pointer from the top of the key gave the Liberty a 3-point lead over Chicago with 31.7 seconds remaining and paved the way to an 80-73 victory.

It was the kind of return that the Liberty faithful needed and wanted, particularly to prove that the team can duplicate its 5-1 record against West teams versus opponents in the Eastern Conference.

But there were storylines other than retaining the Beast of the East title that came out of the Prudential Center on Sunday afternoon. This was truly Carson’s day.

From the moment she entered the game midway through the first quarter until she nailed the late trifecta that broke a 73-73 tie, Carson was the star of the show. The former Rutgers standout and the Liberty’s second leading scorer sat out New York’s previous two games as she nursed an eye injury. Though the Liberty won both games sans Carson, the lineup was definitely missing her energy and presence.

It’s that reason why fans erupted with excitement when Carson emerged off of the bench and entered the game at the 6:32 mark against the Sky. It’s that reason why the 7,300 in attendance cheered each time Carson touched the ball and drove into the lane.

“I didn’t want to come in and just shoot the ball. Especially with the team coming off back-to-back wins, I didn’t want to come in and disrupt the rhythm,” Carson said.

With her hometown fans rooted her on, Carson, who was sporting a pair of Amare Stoudemire-like eyewear during the game, resumed the high-level intensity that made her one of the top players of the first half. She was charged with leading the offense when Cappie Pondexter rested and shared the task of shutting down flashy Sky guard Epiphanny Prince, another Rutgers great. Prince, who averages nearly 18 points a game, was held to a mere eight points in the game.

While continuing her mastery on defense, Carson’s offense once again came through in the clutch. Twelve of her team-high 18 points (tied for the Liberty lead with Pondexter) came in the second half, including a 14-foot, step-back jumper to tie the game at 60-60 in the fourth quarter. That shot by Carson erased a Chicago advantage that grew to as many as 17 points.

But the 3-pointer to break the 73-73 tie was the defining moment of the day for Carson. With the clock winding down below the 1-minute mark, Pondexter drove along the left baseline looking for an opening. Pondexter went airborne and spotted Carson open behind the arc.

“I was open. Cappie saw me coming up out of the corner and I treated it like any other shot. No pressure, just shoot it,” Carson said.

With The Rock in a frenzy, the Liberty kept their composure as a handful of Pondexter free throws sealed the victory. Pondexter showed her resiliency, shaking off a slow start to score 13 of her 18 points in the final quarter.

The Liberty, now 7-5, can count on double digit scoring from Pondexter and Carson from this point forward, and we know that Leilani Mitchell and Plenette Pierson play their roles well. So if the Liberty are going to return to dominance, Nicole Powell and Kia Vaughn must give consistent performances.

When she’s on, Powell can shoot the lights out with the league’s best. But again, she has to be on. She had a solid 10 points and eight rebounds against the Sky.

And it’s no secret that Vaughn is my leading Liberty lady. I’ve never seen anyone battle so hard in the blocks. What I’d like to see her do, however, is take the ball to the hole more often instead of rely on the 10- to 15-foot jumper.

But I digress. The Liberty are now two games over .500 and are better than ever. Pondexter and Carson are playing like All-Stars, and it seems that everyone is responding positively to Coach John Whisenant’s style.

The Libs will finish the first half with three out of four games against East Conference teams. Now’s the time for them to re-establish themselves as the top of the heap.

Click to comment

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply

More in Basketball