Sugar Rodgers strong play in overtime led the New York Liberty (11-14) to an 80-76 victory over the Washington Mystics, on Breast Cancer Awarness Night at Madison Square Garden.
Head Coach Bill Laimbeer had Rodgers in the game because of her ability to defend, and she showed her skills on the defensive end having a steal in the final minute of the fourth quarter and forcing two jump balls in over time.
“We know Sugar can play defense there is no question about that. She is a very solid defender and I had her in down the stretch because she is a solid defender. I have been working on her to be more aggressive offensively, big three ball but overall I thought she played a solid game,” he said.
Rodgers, who missed a foul shot in the final minute of regulation, said the miss motivated her and helped in overtime, where she scored a team high five points. “Anytime I miss a shot I am extra motivated. Going back on defense I am picking it up,” Rodgers said.
New York held a 21-15 lead at the end of the first quarter and started to break the game open in the second, going on a 10-0 run, led by four points by Tina Charles, who had 19 points and eight rebounds in the first half, and valuable contributions from Natasha Lacy, to go up 33-18.
Washington cut the Liberty lead to 12 right before the end of the half, before Alex Montgomery hit a shot from just behind half court as time expired to put New York back up 15, 43-28, at the half.
The Liberty were able to maintain a 15 point advantage until the 1:23 mark of the third quarter when Washington was able to score five straight points and cut the New York lead to 56-46. In the fourth, Kia Vaugh capped the Mystics 12-3 run with a basket to cut the Liberty lead to 59-53.
Later in the frame, Anna Cruz, who finished with 13 points, hit a three pointer to put New York up 64-55.
Following the three, Washington went on an 11-2 rally to knot the game at 66. Charles and Cruz made back to back baskets to put the Liberty a head 70-66, but the four point led wasn’t enough as Bria Hartley made a lay-up with .6 seconds left to tie the game at 71.
It was in overtime that Rodgers started to make an impact, as Sugar made a huge a three at the 1:50 mark to put the Liberty ahead 76-73, while also making plays on the defensive end.
Coach Laimbeer saw this as a big win for his squad, who with the win tied the second place Mystics in the loss column.
“It’s a very big win for our franchise. We are trying to catch anybody and everybody in front of us Washington being the top dog beside Atlanta. Every win we can get, especially home wins are so important,” he said.
New York returns to action on Thursday when they travel to Chicago to play the Sky. The Liberty will be back at Madison Square Garden on August 8.
1495 Sports is proud to bring the following postgame video featuring Head Coach Bill Laimbeer, Guard Sugar Rodgers and Center Tina Charles:
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