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Pondexter, Carson propel Liberty to victory over Sparks

The stars were out this weekend, something not unfamiliar with basketball games in New York and Los Angeles. But the brightest to shine in Newark on Sunday afternoon was none other than Liberty super star Cappie Pondexter, whose game-high 22 points propelled New York to a 77-67 win over the Sparks.

Pondexter pulled off a Reggie Miller-esque performance, even wowing New York’s newest stars Iman Shumpert and Josh Harrellson, the Knicks’ 2011 draft picks, who joined Liberty legends Kym Hampton and Teresa Weatherspoon in the front row for the action. And, boy, did they catch a lot of good action.

This was a much-needed victory for the Liberty, who extend their winning streak to two games and exact revenge on the team that beat them by five points last week in L.A. Not only did New York’s star power come through, the Libs played a complete game for four quarters – something that could not be said for any of their previous seven contests.

The much-maligned New York defense finally played up to its preseason billing, limiting the high-scoring Sparks to their lowest point total this season. A combination of individual and team effort kept Los Angeles’ lethal shooters at bay, and a third quarter knee injury sustained by all-world forward Candace Parker put the serious kibosh on the Sparks’ offense.

Though she had registered 16 points and 11 boards before exiting because of injury, Parker was forced to work extra hard for her points.The Liberty frontcourt players, particularly Kia Vaughn and Quanitra Hollingsworth, played physically in the paint and forced Parker outside of her usual comfort zone.

While the defense did its part, the Liberty offense was hitting on all cylinders as well. Pondexter capped off a dominant first half by scoring eight points in the final 38 ticks of the second quarter, setting the tone for the rest of the game. New York went on an 18-0 run to bridge halftime and build a 47-33 lead.

New York finally overcame its usual third quarter woes and extended their lead to as much as 14 points. Though the Sparks chipped away at the Liberty lead, Plenette Pierson and Essence Carson made certain that this game didn’t slip away.

Once again, Pierson was a force in the lane, scoring 14 points in the paint while grabbing six rebounds. Carson came off the bench, playing 27 hard minutes and scoring 18 points.

But it was Pondexter who took center stage this night. In addition to her team-leading 22 points, she also led the team with five assists. Showing off her all-around game, she also grabbed seven rebounds, had three steals and shot 75 percent from the 3-point line. It sounds like there might be a new name on top of the list of MVP candidates.

Despite extraordinary individual performances, chalk this win up for the team. This was by far the most complete game that the Liberty have played this season, and it comes at such an important juncture of the season.

Now at 4-4 (and their first win ever at the Prudential Center), New York will take on Atlanta this Thursday before a pivotal home-and-home against powerhouse San Antonio.

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