- Last Updated: 11:53 AM, September 13, 2012
- Posted: 3:53 AM, September 13, 2012
Trailing late in the third quarter of a game they needed to win, the Liberty picked up their defensive intensity and ran away from the Washington Mystics.
Cappie Pondexter scored 22 points to lead the Liberty to a 75-62 victory over the last-place Mystics Wednesday night in Newark. Nicole Powell had 15 points and Kia Vaughn added 10 points and 10 rebounds to help the Liberty (13-17) finish 4-2 on a six-game homestand — including two wins against Washington.
The Liberty also moved a half-game ahead of Chicago for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
“It was an ugly win, but I’m glad we pulled it out in the fourth quarter,” Pondexter said. “We focused a little more, we began to help each other. I thought we rebounded well, forced them to make tough jump shots.”
Pondexter praised Vaughn’s play in the final quarter, when the center and Plenette Pierson had eight points apiece to help the Libs outscore Washington 19-7 in the period. Vaughn had her first double-double of the season.
“I thought she played great down the stretch, she was confident,” Pondexter said. “The last two games we actually were talking about that baseline jumper, where she’s great at. She focused in on doing it ... especially in the fourth quarter. I’m happy she was finally able to display the kind of basketball she’s been trying.”
Monique Currie scored a season-high 24 points for Washington (5-25), which has lost nine straight. The Mystics dropped to 1-15 on the road this season, with their lone win against the Liberty on July 13 in the last game before the league’s month-long Olympic break.
“We played well throughout the game except for the fourth quarter,” Currie said. “We got cold and the Liberty were able to take advantage of that.”
The Liberty grabbed the lead with an 11-2 run that started at the end of the third and carried over into the fourth. Pondexter made a 3-pointer with about 28 seconds left in the third to put the Liberty in front 56-55, and Vaughn opened the fourth with back-to-back jumpers to extend the lead to five with 7:23 remaining.
Pondexter’s 3 gave the Liberty a 67-58 advantage with 4:43 to go, and Washington got no closer than seven the rest of the way. The Liberty scored the final six points of the game.
“We were struggling throughout the game,” Liberty coach John Whisenant said. “Washington has been a difficult team for us. ... The thing that I was most pleased with was the fourth quarter, we showed that determination.”
The Liberty are at Washington on Sunday, followed by stops in San Antonio and Tulsa before finishing the season at home against the Shock on Sept. 22. Chicago has five games remaining, including three on the road and three against playoff-bound teams Los Angeles, Seattle and Atlanta.
“Chicago’s playing really well right now,” Pondexter said. “The West Coast teams, everybody’s clinched a playoff spot, so there’s a big chance they could be resting their players. Chicago could actually have it easy going on their road trip.”Follow @NYPostsports