Vets Pierson and Smith lead Liberty past Sun 76-66 in win by “any means necessary” game
UNCASVILLE, Conn. – Saturday night at the Mohegan Sun Arena, the rock bands Styx and REO Speedwagon played a double bill. The two bands popular in the eighties might have brought back a slew of memories to those in attendance, but Sunday at the same arena it was veterans Katie Smith and Plenette Pierson turning back the clock, leading the New York Liberty to a crucial 76-66 victory over the Connecticut Sun.”
Pierson led the Liberty with 18 points, five rebounds, and three assists.
“Tonight was a ‘by any means necessary’ game,” said Pierson, “and we were able to get it done, we needed the win.”
By winning tonight, the Liberty remain one game behind Indiana and one and a half games behind Washington in the race for the final two playoff spots. With seven games remaining on their schedule, the Liberty will play Indiana twice and Washington once.
With her pending retirmenet, Smith, scored 13 points in most likely her final appearance at Mohegan Sun Arena, said winning this game was huge and there is a positive to having such a difficult remaining schedule.
“A loss would have been deflating in a lot of senses,” explained Smith, “and would have hurt us very much. Look at everybody. There’s no easy game on the schedule any more, everyone’s so good. But, we could control our own destiny, we play Indiana a couple of times, we’ve got Washington one more time, so we’ll see what we’re made of and if we can get this thing done.”
With players like Cappie Pondexter and Tina Charles on the court, it was a bit of a surprise that the matchup of the night was the battle between Pierson and Connecticut’s Kelsey Griffin. Griffin had perhaps her best game as a pro, scoring 22 points and adding 10 rebounds, including 3-for-3 from three-point territory.
“Two players who work really hard and are able to be in the right spot at the right time, and our teammates were able to find us,” said Pierson.
While clearly disappointed in general with her team, Sun coach Anne Donovan had praise for Griffin’s performance.
“You see the fight all over Kelsey,” said Donovan. “It’s hard to take her out of the game because she impacts every play at both ends. She’s somebody who has worked hard every day and that’s why she’s still playing this well at the end of the season. She hasn’t given up, not one bit.”
While Donovan stopped short of saying the rest of the Sun has given up, she did say that if the Sun does not start giving a better defensive effort the team will “not win another game this season.”
“The last two games here in this building, defensively, we have been non-existent, not bothering anybody at all,” she said, the frustration apparent. “At this point, you approach every game, regardless of postseason or not and you have an element of pride to your game. Especially in this arena. People don’t just come in here and score at will. And tonight, we did a marginal job on Cappie – to walk out of here with 14 points, that’s pretty good when you can hold Cappie to 14, and to have their bench just have a field day against us? It’s about pride. I don’t even entertain talk of postseason or not postseason. This is about pride. Defensively, we’re better than that.”
The Liberty bench outscored the Sun bench 24-4. Charles had 18 points and nine rebounds for Connecticut. Renee Montgomery contributed 14 points and six assists for the Sun.
Overall, it was the aggressive attitude and performance from the Liberty that made the difference. They dominated the Sun on the boards (37-30) and points in the paint (34-22).
Pierson summed it up best.
“I’m not ready to go overseas yet,” she said, “I’m not ready for the WNBA season to be over. I want to fight for that championship, I want to make the playoffs. Tonight was a “by any means necessary” game, and we were able to get it done, we needed the win.”