Balanced scoring was the key to the game for both teams, but New York's five players in double figures and 50.7% shooting were the key as the Liberty defeated the Los Angeles Sparks, 88-79. Cappie Pondexter led all scorers with 20 points, while Janel McCarville had 15 and Taj McWilliams-Franklin had 14 to go with nine rebounds. For Los Angeles, Tina Thompson led the way with 18 points.
For copious amounts of basketball cards, Scotch tape, yelling, flubbed passes, and very special guest stars, join your intrepid and euphoric blogger after the jump.
I can't remember the last time I felt this happy and content after a Liberty game, or the last time I was in a state where the high lasted this long. It's disconcertingly good. It was also much needed, because this week... you don't care, I wish I didn't care, but it was rough and long. Let's just say I was resigned, not surprised, when the strap on my Bag of Holding broke.
I still got to the arena on time- well, on time for me, which is before the gates open- so that I could be the spotter for the Usual Suspects, because without names or numbers, a lot of people aren't sure who's who. I'm also in charge of spare cards, which is a big responsibility with LA. While we were standing around waiting for something to happen, my boyfriend pointed out that Mechelle Voepel was in the house, and, well. I've kinda wanted to be Mechelle since I was a young WNBA fan looking up to sportswriters (before her, I wanted to be Jayda Evans, and before her, I wanted to be Jason Butler from Newsday). I went into full-on fangirl mode the way most people do to athletes.
A momentary aside, not that you'd notice, given that the Game Notes of Doom are built on tangents: while I understand the admiration and adulation of athletes who do things that most fans can't even dream of being able to do, I am in more awe of people who things that are in my realm of interest, because I know what it takes to be good at them. So the level of respect and admiration I have for Mechelle is... through the roof. So I was as giddy as a schoolgirl after blushingly telling her how big of a fan of her work I was, and being able to talk to her about basketball, just like... well, does it sound weird to say "like an ordinary person?" After that, we could have lost by 40 and I wouldn't have cared, because OMG Mechelle shook my writing hand!
For the record, that couldn't possibly have been Kia Vaughn's music mix. Not a single Beyonce track? LIES.
The anthem was very nice until the end, when the singer got into her head that she was Mariah Carey or Whitney Houston or something. Please don't stretch that note that badly.
Chanel Mokango has dangerously beautiful dimples, but dimples are not a particularly useful weapon on the basketball court. She was a non-factor, but such a pretty one. Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton has a very odd build, almost hulking in a strange way. We matched up better against her than the Sun did, so she was less of a factor for LA than she was last week. Kristi Toliver got a lot of minutes at the point, and she's learning the flashy passes pretty well from Penicheiro, but she still has more confidence in her shot and less defensive acumen than I would want out of a point guard. Andrea Riley really only played when Toliver got into foul trouble. She wasn't impressive, but she is awfully cute in the "aww, lemme pinch your cheek!" sense.
Tina Thompson is really starting to rub me the wrong way. I guess being the last original player and not having to worry about Cooper, Swoopes, Leslie, or really Parker as the stars ahead of her has gone to her head. Her attitude has definitely gotten nastier. Her stroke's still beautiful and she can still put it down from deep, but I'm not as enamored of her as I used to be. Ticha Penicheiro also seems to have more of a chip on her shoulder than she used to. That shiner from the Connecticut game was pretty epic. She wasn't looking to score as much as she did against the Sun, because it certainly wasn't our defense. Noelle Quinn has a nasty habit of reaching in, the same habit that Toliver has, but she's got a sweet little outside jumper. Marie Ferdinand-Harris joined in the celebration of the good old days by shooting like the Marieee from Utah, before the kid and the knee and that sort of thing. Her defensive prowess was not what it used to be, but she knows her positioning.
In general, Los Angeles's defense was interestingly chaotic and disruptive. They did a nice job of rotating to double down on the ballhandler, and collapsed nicely into the paint.
Sidney Spencer wasn't completely awful tonight, I suppose. Donovan left her in too long, in my opinion- the time she went in was a time for a three-point shot, and I thought she was only being brought in as a specialist for that, but she got a longer shift than I felt comfortable with. At least she wasn't Kia Vaughn, who was a matchup we could have exploited if we had players who could throw post entry passes to big posts, and a post who could actually catch entry passes that are thrown to her. The block was nice, but given the lack of height on the Sparks, I'm not exactly impressed. Essence Carson made a couple of cameos, including a stint in a lineup that I really don't like, and didn't do much of anything. Kalana Greene didn't have the kind of games we've come to expect from her, but she was solid and didn't make any major mistakes, and in a game like this, sometimes that's all that matters. Plenette Pierson was about ready to murder DeLisha Milton-Jones out there, and possibly a couple of other people if they continued to look at her the wrong way, and between bouts of anger management issues, she sparkled on the boards and in the lane.
Leilani Mitchell ran a solid game and showed amazing vertical. Tiny. But fierce! Fluffy little bunny has her some hops! Her hands are pretty quick, too. Janel McCarville was, at times, unusually reticent to shoot, which says a lot, given the number of attempts. She needs to be a bigger part of the offense. Taj McWilliams-Franklin must sometimes be the same point guard's nightmare as Courtney Paris- there were at least two plays where she threw up an awful shot, got her own board, and cleaned up the mess. While one might have been to avoid a shot clock violation, I don't know that there's any explanation for a lot of her other misses other than her age. Again, given her line, that's saying something. I applaud Nicole Powell's continued dedication to rebounding, since a woman of her height and build should be able to pull down four boards a game, but given that that appears to be the only thing she remembers how to do on a basketball court- well, that and hit wide-open threes from the corner when she has more daylight than an Arizona summer- I don't think it's really worth lauding that highly. Cappie Pondexter was there when we needed her. Her ballhandling and decision-making left something to be desired, but she hit the big shots.
These refs. I'm not sure what game they were watching, but it probably wasn't this one. There were a lot of late calls, a lot of calls that seemed to be on the wrong player in a situation where there had been a foul, and Kristi Toliver was on the line when she hit that shot that was originally ruled a two and later turned into a three.
I would be remiss in not mentioning that the Holy Trinity of Liberty basketball was in the house. Of course, Kym Hampton works for the team in public relations, but Sue Wicks and Teresa Weatherspoon haven't come around as often anymore. I think it had to do with Spoon's rousing speech causing the team to choke away a 16-point lead in the fourth quarter. Well, she did it again, and things got dicey in the early part of the quarter, but the kids got it together and finished strong. Loved the celebration of the old school afterwards, when DMJ, TT, and Ticha went over for hugs and hellos from the Holy Trinity. (You think I'm exaggerating, and I'll bring out the icons from the Apostles of St. Sue.) I forgot how much fun they were to watch as people, especially when the dance moves made it pretty clear that they were at least a couple of sheets to the wind.
Were there a lot of stupid mistakes in this game? Yeah. But they got past them, and they played as a team, and it was good. The crowd was finally really into it, for the first time in years. There was a sense of urgency and camaraderie in the seats, and it was good. And, hey, I GOT TO MEET MECHELLE VOEPEL.