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Capstone: Pondexter Comes Up Big To Start and Finish

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Cappie Pondexter's 30 points- 12 in the first quarter and 15 in the last fourteen minutes- led the New York Liberty to a 57-54 win over the Chicago Sky. Jia Perkins had 26 in the losing cause, while Sylvia Fowles added 12 points and a game-high 19 rebounds.

For bad hair looks, courtside seats, and random Monarchs, join your intrepid blogger after the jump.

That may have been the most emotionally satisfying game that ended without either team breaking 60 that I've ever been at, though I could be wrong.

First of all, thanks have to go out to colleague Helen at the Women's Hoops Blog, who gifted us with a pair of tickets in the section behind the Liberty bench. Of course, this did rather ruin my plans to root for the Sky, since I'm not tacky enough to root for the opposing team from behind the home bench. I've yelled at people for doing that before. I'm not going to turn around and do it.

I'd love to know what Janel McCarville and Erin Thorn were talking about before the game. Given Erin's peculiar sense of humor and Janel's sense of fun, it could be just about anything, and it would certainly be worth the hearing. In semi-related news, blonde is not Christi Thomas's color, sorry to say. Talk about things you didn't want to see up close.

The anthem was absolutely beautiful, and I'm glad we were down low enough to hear it when the sound went out- they only found the switch for the microphones halfway through so everyone could hear the sweet harmonies, but we were low enough that we could hear them a capella.

I never got to see Kalana Greene dancing along to the music from the intro video before. Somehow, I'm not surprised that she does, though.

We kept yelling at everyone we could not to let Erin Thorn get the ball whenever the clock started to run down. A combination of good Liberty defense and lousy execution by the Sky made sure that it didn't happen. I thought it was unusual, and strangely amusing, that when she went to foul Leilani Mitchell, there were overtones of the BYU-Utah rivalry in the intensity of the foul. I get the feeling that Erin is frustrated by her teammates sometimes, and sometimes frustrated at herself, for not being able to do the things she knows should be done. Cathrine Kraayeveld showed why she's been relegated to the bench. A lot of the little things got done, but the little things don't mean so much when you can't rebound, can't score, can't defend, and your best on-court quality is your "WTF just happened here?" face. Sorry, Cat. I've got your shirt and I believe in spelling your name correctly, but there's only so much I can do to defend your play. I'm not liking Epiphanny Prince's hair all that much, and her game didn't impress me, either. She seemed more in tune with her team on defense than on offense, which seems strange, but strange is par for the course with Chicago.

Tamera Young has one of the funkiest effective- or maybe one of the most effectively funky- shots I've ever seen. The angles are all wrong and her footwork would make most coaches weep, but the shots go in. There's a definite disconnect between what she wants to do and what she ends up doing. If today was any indication of her usual play, she might go down as one of the great might-have-beens of our generation- what could she have become with a coach who could force her into a more fundamental game, while still allowing her athleticism to shine through? Dominique Canty has fallen off the cliff, hit the wall, come to the end of her rope- whatever turn of phrase you think best describes a player who has completely lost any and all of the skills she once possessed, that would be her. She has no clock management ability left, her handle is suspect, her shot is gone, and she doesn't seem to know her teammates from a hole in the ground. Given that one of her teammates is the center for the national team, this is not a good sign. I'm sorry, but if you see a point guard fumble the ball off her thigh and almost cause her team an eight-second violation, it's time to let her go. It's been a good run, 'Nique, but enough is enough. Mistie Bass didn't play great, though I still love her toughness on the boards, but she played better than Cathrine, which would be a logical explanation for the change in the starting lineup. (Yes, sometimes things in Chicagoland make sense.) Sylvia Fowles was a force inside, though she really does need to work on what happens when the ball is a bit low. Everyone's shorter than you, Sylvia, they're used to getting the ball that low. If her teammates had gotten her the ball a bit more often, Chicago might have pulled that game out of its... hat. Jia Perkins was nothing shot of amazing. All the shots that weren't going in when they played us the first time? This time they went in, for the most part- there were a couple of misses that seemed like answered prayers for New York. She also had a spectacular steal where she read the passing lane like a champ. Amazing.

Sidney Spencer got a rebound! And that's the only positive thing I can remember her doing! And yet she was almost better than the starter! Kia Vaughn came in when Taj got into early foul trouble, but pretty much stunk up the joint. I wonder if she wished she were in Connecticut with the national team, getting a look from USA Basketball, instead of contending with Fowles. Plenette Pierson brought some of the edge and fire that we needed, and she definitely made life a little harder for the Chicago posts- there was one play where I thought she and Cathrine were going to throw down right then and there. Kalana Greene looked like seeing her old teammates again had re-energized her. She was back to being in the right place in the right time and playing solid defense. I like this version of Kalana much better than the one we had right before the break. That, of course, means that Essence Carson saw less playing time, and again, I think I'm okay with that. As long as Anne can adjust her lineups, I can live with the choices she makes.

Dear WNBA: I feel cheated. My team's All-Star small forward is clearly defective. No points and no rebounds in a game, resulting in our coach needing to use a rookie two-guard at the three to spell her? I'm sorry, I want a refund. Come on, Nicole Powell, I know you're better than this. Leilani Mitchell was her fierce little self- nothing says cojones like trying to body up Sylvia Fowles when you're a foot shorter and much more slightly built than she is. She took advantage of being low to the floor a lot. Janel McCarville played like she was still working off partying at the casino last night. Still trying to be too fancy with her shots and still not working on her fundamentals. Of course, I am somewhat more frustrated with that than usual because I had Janel in Pick One, figuring that Big Syl would be a bit tired from the game on the 10th. Taj McWilliams-Franklin looked a little out of sorts, but asking her to guard Fowles was asking a lot, no matter how much old age and treachery can do against youth and skill. A lot of her shots started going short, especially when she decided to try and take Chicago outside. Bad plan. We don't win this game without Cappie Pondexter starting off red-hot while the rest of the team was colder than ice, and we don't win this game without Pondexter suddenly getting her groove back near the end of the third quarter and into the fourth.

The weird thing about that? I can appreciate it as a virtuoso performance- but I didn't enjoy it, even though it propelled my team to a win. I just can't shake the feeling that she's proving Blaze right, proving that it's totally okay to hand someone the keys to the castle just because they say they want to live near the castle, proving that trying to rely on one star and one star alone is a valid strategy. I don't know if I don't like my sensibilities being offended or if I just dislike being wrong too much to handle. But this is a bias that I felt my readers should be aware of.

Story time! A few years ago, the Liberty did a timeout contest based on tic-tac-toe- you had ot hit a lay-up before you could put another letter on the board. This contestant was exceptionally skilled at shooting. No wonder- she was Amber Flynn, who was a rotation player for Bowling Green. Today's contest, however, really took the cake in that regard. Just because there aren't that many people who would hear the name Brittany Wilkins and go "Hey, didn't she play at Iowa State? And in the WNBL? And the NWBL? And, oh, yeah, for the Sacramento Monarchs? With Nicole Powell?" that does not mean that putting a ringer in the contest is a good idea. I couldn't see whether Powell was laughing during the timeout or not.

Checking the rule book- when is it not acceptable to inbound into the backcourt? The Liberty got called for an over-and-back when they inbounded from the endline into the backcourt, and it didn't look like anyone had touched it in the frontcourt. That was the worst of the calls, though there were a few head-scratchers.

It was an exciting comeback, and it was sparked by defense and hitting the right shot at the right time. (Okay, and Dominique Canty. Thanks, 'Nique! We wouldn't have won this game without you!)