Pondexter helps Liberty rally past FeverBy CLIFF BRUNT, Associated Press Tuesday, Jul 23, 2013
INDIANAPOLIS (AP)—A reminder of Cappie Pondexter’s impressive shot in the final minute against Indiana didn’t even draw a shrug from coach Bill Laimbeer.
He’s seen similar shots from New York’s All-Star guard many times.
Pondexter’s contested fadeaway 3-pointer with time running out on the shot clock gave the Liberty control late and helped New York cap a thrilling comeback in a 77-72 win over the Fever on Tuesday night.
“She’s always made big shots throughout her career,” Laimbeer said. “She’s not afraid of taking it. I wish we’d got a little bit better shot, but overall, I’ll take the ball in her hands every day of the week.”
Pondexter scored 15 of her 24 points in the second half to help the Liberty overcome a 16-point deficit. Plenette Pierson had 14 points and 11 rebounds, Kelsey Bone scored 12 points and Alex Montgomery added 11 for the Liberty (7-10), who snapped a three-game losing streak.
Briann January scored a season-high 21 points and had four assists for the Fever (7-9). Tamika Catchings scored 16 points but made just 5 of 17 field goals. She did pass the 6,000-point milestone for her career late in the fourth quarter. She’s the fifth player in league history to reach that mark.
“We didn’t have the same desperateness that they did,” Fever coach Lin Dunn said.
The Fever had won six of seven and were on their way to another win before their shooting failed them. Indiana made just 12 of 39 shots in the second half.
“I think our defense was solid,” Laimbeer said. “We’re a pretty sound defensive ballclub. We started to get the rebounds, which helped us. I think overall, we kept their team perimeter in the second half especially, and they didn’t make the shots.”
Indiana led for the entire second half until Pondexter’s 3-pointer from the corner with 2 minutes to play gave New York a 65-64 lead.
Pondexter struck again with the spectacular shot that gave the Liberty a 70-65 lead with 40 seconds left.
Catchings made two 3-pointers in four seconds to cut New York’s lead to 74-71 with 21 seconds remaining, but Katie Smith’s free throws with 8.4 seconds left sealed the win for the Liberty.
Indiana trailed for most of the first half, but a mid-range jumper by first-time All-Star Shavonte Zellous gave the Fever a 35-33 lead. The Fever held the Liberty scoreless for the final 3:39 of the second quarter to lead 42-33 at halftime. January scored 11 points in the first half, and Indiana led despite Catchings and Zellous shooting a combined 2-for-13 from the field in the first 20 minutes.
Indiana continued its run in the second half. January made a jumper, then Catchings made a field layup to give the Fever a 46-33 lead. January found a cutting Larkins for a basket and a foul. Larkins made the free throw to give Indiana its biggest lead. The Liberty didn’t score until 6:23 remained in the third quarter—a total scoring drought of 7:16.
New York quickly rallied, and a bucket by Bone cut Indiana’s lead to 53-46. The Liberty finished the third quarter on a 10-0 run and trimmed Indiana’s advantage to 53-48 by the end of the period.
The Fever shot 22 percent in the third quarter and went scoreless for the final 5:14. Pondexter scored seven points in the period to lead New York’s charge.
January hit a 3-pointer in the opening minute of the fourth quarter and Karima Christmas followed with a layup to bump Indiana’s lead back to eight points.
New York continued to build momentum, and a jumper by Pierson chopped Indiana’s advantage to 62-61 and set up the hectic final minutes.
Laimbeer said it was important to build some momentum as the season approaches its midpoint.
“Right now, in the bottom half of the Eastern Conference, two teams have to make the playoffs, and we’re right there,” he said. “We just have to figure out how to move forward on a more consistent basis.”