New York City - Momentum is fleeting.
Teams aspire to gain it, yet there is no guarantee it will be sustained. The New York Liberty found that to be the case on Sunday, as the Phoenix Mercury exited Madison Square Garden with a 104-97 victory that required an extra session.
The Liberty fell behind by double digits early. They gradually battled back, built a lead and appeared headed to a seventh consecutive victory before the extra five minutes was needed to settle the outcome.
The Liberty had the home crowd, the excitement of the WNBA 20th anniversary and the members of the first Liberty team on hand. On the court, Tina Charles was her assertive self and Sugar Rodgers was finding the range. In the end, all the feel-good positives could not add up to victory. Phoenix had Diana Taurasi. Ever the competitor, Taurasi hit several big threes and calmly canned three from the charity stripe with seconds left, necessitating overtime.
In a cruel turn of events, Phoenix opened the overtime period going on a 6-2 run, seizing that momentum. They closed out the victory without another serious challenge.
The stat sheet showed Candace Dupree pacing the Mercury with 26 points. In all due respect to the former Temple standout, this win was courtesy of Taurasi. One player cannot do it all, Taurasi would be first to admit that. Still, her presence was the proverbial difference maker at crunch time. The former UConn and Olympic great scored 24 points, a number of which went a long way toward changing the course of momentum and the game itself.
The news of Pat Summitt’s grave condition had a profound effect on all in attendance Sunday. Taurasi, a prominent figure in some of those UConn-Tennessee battles, remembered the 2002 Final Four. “We defeated Tennessee in the semifinals, and afterwards, coach Summitt came to our locker room to congratulate and wish us well in the finals. It really showed me as much a competitor she was, it was evident she was even a better person.”
The original New York Liberty team from 1997 meets at center court. At the far left is former general manager Carol Blazejowski:
A baseline view of Madison Square Garden:
Carolyn Swords of the Liberty, defending Brittney Griner in the low post:
One more of Griner, in deep thought during the game:
UConn head coach Geno Auriemma chats with "The Guru," Mel Greenberg:
Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer meets the media:
With the Liberty game in the books, the train station at Secaucus Junction is inundated with Argentina fans heading to the Copa America final at MetLife Stadium: