Rebecca Allen’s season-high effort leads New York Liberty in celebratory game vs. Los Angeles, 76-73
In a close game that marked the anniversary of the WNBA’s first-ever matchup in 1997, the New York Liberty defeated the Los Angeles Sparks 76-73 at the Los Angeles Convention Center in front of a sold-out limited capacity crowd. The game came down to the last few minutes and included 14 lead changes and nine ties.
The contest was reminiscent of the Liberty’s win 25 years ago in Los Angeles against the Sparks at The Forum in Inglewood. New York took that game 67-57 after a battle that included superstars like Lisa Leslie, current Dallas Wings head coach Vickie Johnson, Teresa Weatherspoon, Rebecca Lobo, Penny Toler, Kym Hampton, and others.
While the New York Liberty had the upper hand for the first two quarters of the game, outscoring the Sparks in both periods for a 44-36 halftime lead, the tables turned in the third quarter.
Veteran guard Kristi Toliver ramped up the offensive firepower to score 11 points in the third period, the only player to finish with double digits in those ten minutes. Her efforts helped Los Angeles outscore the Liberty 22-14 in the third quarter.
As a result, the teams went into the last frame, tied at 58 all. With a balanced scoring effort from starters Kylee Shook, Betnijah Laney, and Sami Whitcomb, along with clutch defense from Rebecca Allen, New York held off the Sparks down the stretch. The visitors outscored the home team 18-15 in the last period. Allen was instrumental in keeping Los Angeles at bay with three blocked shots, including two in the final eight seconds.
When asked what changed in the fourth quarter to stymy Toliver and kept the Sparks behind them after regaining the lead with less than three minutes left, Liberty head coach Walt Hopkins said it “was really sticking to our principles and executing our principles defensively.”
He also admitted that a few of Toliver’s shots happened because she’s just “a phenomenal player.”
One of Allen’s blocks in the waning moments of the game was against Toliver, and the last one came at the expense of Sparks guard Erica Wheeler who attempted a three-pointer.
Hopkins praised the vital play of Allen and how “hyperconscious” she is to be an ideal teammate. with her “ability to get through screens, contest shots…and her versatility.”
Allen finished with a team-high and a season-high of 19 points plus six rebounds and three blocks. Whitcomb contributed 17 points plus nine rebounds. Laney put up 14 points, grabbed five rebounds, and dished out five assists. She recorded her 1,000th career point at the 8:02 minute mark in the third quarter.
Shook was also in double figures with 11 points plus seven rebounds.
Wheeler paced the Sparks with 20 points plus six rebounds and 10 assists. Toliver and Nia Coffey finished with 15 points each.
Even in the loss, the Sparks had 30 points in the paint compared to 22 by the Liberty. However, New York had 19 second-chance points compared to absolute zero by Los Angeles.
New York returns home to face the Chicago Sky on Tuesday. Los Angeles hosts the Washington Mystics on Thursday.
In the league standings, New York is in fourth place with a 7-6 record, while the Sparks are tenth at 5-7.