The Liberty (8-13) saw an 18-point second half lead trimmed to six early in the fourth quarter, then rebuilt a double-digit advantage and maintained it the rest of the way. New York pulled one-half game behind Chicago for fourth place in the Eastern Conference.
“The team we were competing for the playoff spot is Chicago,” Liberty coach John Whisenant said. “So getting a win here was very important to us, trying to claw our way back into the playoff race.”
Prince, playing in her third game since returning from a foot injury, was carried off the court with 4:51 to play after rolling her right ankle. She didn’t return, but was seen standing courtside through the final minutes.
Fowles and Cash had six points apiece as Chicago led for all but the opening seconds on the way to a 21-16 after one quarter. Pierson paced New York with eight points.
Pondexter scored back-to-back buckets over a 21-second span late in the second quarter to give the Liberty their first lead since the opening minute. It was part of an 13-0 run that helped New York to a 40-32 halftime lead. Pondexter, who grew up in Chicago, had eight points in the period.
“Obviously it’s important because you have a buildup of excitement from being home, but more importantly we needed this win to inch closer to the playoffs,” she said.
The Liberty more than doubled the lead in the third quarter behind 12 points from Pondexter. New York led 61-43 with 1:23 remaining before Chicago pulled within 12 entering the final period.
“We have to put together longer stretches of defense,” Sky coach Pokey Chatman said. “You know what New York is going to bring. It starts with Cappie (Pondexter). She is the head of the snake and we didn’t do a very good job of cutting that off. Plenette (Pierson) is back and healthy. They made plays.”
New York had lost four of five entering the game, the third meeting of the season with Chicago. The Liberty have now won two of three meetings.
Fowles shot 8 for 14 to become the franchise leader with 811 field goals. Candice Dupree (808) had the previous mark.
“A lot of credit is due to my teammates,” Fowles said. “I just have to continue to work hard and push forward.”