NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — It was quite a homecoming for Epiphanny Prince.
The former Rutgers star scored 30 points to lead Chicago to a 92-83 win over New York on Friday night, helping the Sky move one-half game ahead of New York for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
“We have to do it as a team, not just me,” Prince said. “We put ourselves in this situation and we got to be able to just play one game at a time. This was a big win for us because now we can be on top of New York if we end up in a tie with them.”
Prince, who missed eight games earlier this season due to a broken bone in her right foot, scored 30 points for the fourth time in 19 games. She shot 8 for 18 from the field, 9 for 9 on free throws and also had five rebounds.
“She was in rhythm from the beginning,” Chicago coach Pokey Chatman said. “She had a fine balance between attacking and getting the ball in movement. She’s a special player.”
Tamera Young added 19 points for Chicago (11-16). Courtney Vandersloot had 12 points and Swin Cash added 10 points and seven rebounds. The Sky shot 32 for 63 (51 percent) from the field and made 20 of 21 free throws.
“We took care of the basketball tonight, but we also protected the basket, got to the free throw line, shot 50 percent, which is really big for us,” Chatman said. “I can remember a year ago, scoring one point in a quarter here. I remember struggling here so it’s nice to see the players gain self-confidence. To put up 92 here can give us some momentum moving forward.”
Cappie Pondexter scored 24 points on 7-for-19 shooting to lead the Liberty (11-17). Plenette Pierson had 15 points, Kara Braxton added 13 and Essence Carson finished with 12.
The Sky led throughout. New York twice cut the deficit to three points, the last occurring with 4:04 remaining in the third after Pondexter’s 3-pointer. However, Ruth Riley’s layup with 3:21 left in the third quarter pushed the Sky’s advantage to 60-55. From that point, Chicago outscored New York 32-28.
“Defensively, we never got it going,” New York coach John Whisenant said. “They attacked us and we didn’t defend it very well. We just didn’t’ play well. … We’re not offensively gifted enough to get in a scoring battle.”
New York appeared passive offensively, stymied by Chicago’s half-court defense. The Liberty shot 43 percent from the field and committed seven of their 16 turnovers in the first half. Pierson committed four turnovers while Braxton had three and Pondexter and Leilani Mitchell each had two.
“I think Tamera (Young) did a good job not letting Cappie get on a roll,” Chatman said.
The Liberty trailed 42-29 with about 3 1/2 minutes left in the second quarter before using a 12-2 run to pull within three on Pierson’s turnaround hook shot with less than 10 seconds remaining in the half.
Prince’s driving layup with 1.4 seconds to go gave the Sky a 46-41 lead at the break.
“We just talked to each other,” Prince said. “Basketball is a game of runs and we understand that other teams are going to go on their runs. We just can’t back down. We got to beable to sustain their runs and continue and not drop our heads. We just have to pick up at the next play.”
The teams split the four-game season series.
“That was a two-game swing. It was big for us and big for them,” Whisenant said. “They just came out with more resolve.”
Chicago was without guard Ticha Penicheiro (hamstring injury) and U.S. Olympic center Sylvia Fowles sat out the second half with a lower leg injury.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.