New York, NY - Tuesday night's showdown between the Atlanta Dream and New York Liberty was physical from the start. New York may have the best record in the league, but that did not stop Atlanta from putting up a fight.
It was back and forth as both teams struggled to keep a substantial lead throughout the first half and were tied a total of 6 times. NY was able to pull away by 8 points, but went into the locker room with a 41-37 lead.
That lead was short-lived as Atlanta began to pull away early in the 2nd half. The shift in momentum gave the Dream a 51-43 lead with 5:51 left in the 3rd period. After a jumper from Tina Charles and a 3-point bucket from Prince, the Liberty was closing in, but still struggled to get back on top.
"Atlanta is a very solid basketball team, though their record doesn't show it," said Liberty head coach Bill Laimbeer. "We knew they were going to come and try to win tonight."
The second half was full of intensity. However, four 3-pointers from Sugar Rodgers, as well as critical buckets from Epiphanny Prince didn't stop this game from going into Overtime.
"Tiffany Hayes has emerged as an offensive threat for Atlanta," explained Charles. "She is one of their major weapons. That kept us on our toes tonight and was the difference from their last visit here."
OT included a stellar performance from rookie of the month Kiah Stokes, finishing with 10 points 7 rebounds four blocks, and four steals.
"That's who she is," said Coach Laimbeer. "She's just a glue player, and arguably defensive player of the year."
"That's great to hear. I just try to make sure that I play defense for this team. At the end of the day, we all have each others' back. It's not just me," Stokes added.
Rodgers didn't disappoint with 23 points, including five 3-pointers.
"She showed me that hard work pays off," Coach explained. "She has been in the gym night and day for the last 10 days. I sat her down and told her she wasn't working hard enough, and she goes to the gym three times a day and stay until 10 at night now. She is a much different player today then she's been almost all season. That was a great performance."
Tina Charles finished with a solid 17 points.
Both teams fought to the finish, but NY sealed the deal in overtime, defeating Atlanta 80-75.
New York plays Minnesota on Sunday, September 6th at 7 pm.