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Sam Bam clutch and prolific in key Liberty win

The New York Liberty rose above .500 behind 26 points from Sami Whitcomb. Isabelle Harrison’s 23 points were not enough for the Dallas Wings.

Dallas Wings v New York Liberty
Sami Whitcomb
Photo by Catalina Fragoso/NBAE via Getty Images

Sami Whitcomb continued her breakout season by making three clutch and crucial shots late as part of a 26-point effort that led the New York Liberty (10-9) past the Dallas Wings (9-10), 99-96, on Monday night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Her one-handed make from a couple feet behind the free throw line with 16.2 seconds to go was the most important, but not the most electrifying. It gave New York a 99-93 lead and rendered Dallas’ comeback chances extremely improbable. Allisha Gray made a three with 3.2 seconds left to cut it to three, but her team was unable to get a shot off after Jazmine Jones missed two free throws with 0.6 remaining.

Whitcomb had given the Liberty a six-point lead on a triple with 59.9 seconds to go and a four-point lead on a quick-release trey with 3:18 to play.

Betnijah Laney (one three-pointer) and Reshanda Gray (one layup) were the two other New York players to score in the final four minutes and their makes were key as well.

Whitcomb scored 20-plus for the second time this season. She notched a career-high 30 points on June 26. She’s averaging 12.6 points per game, 4.5 ahead of her previous career best set last year. She’s also averaging career bests with 5.7 rebounds (seven on Monday), 2.8 assists (four on Monday) and 1.3 steals (three on Monday).

Swish Appeal writer Eric Nemchock listed Whitcomb as an All-Star snub in Swish Appeal’s midseason roundtable and fellow writer Zack Ward had her as the next-most deserving player after his 12 picks.

The Liberty’s win made them 2-0 against their fellow lottery turnaround team and gave them sixth place in the standings. Dallas is in seventh.

In the first meeting between the two teams on May 24 Liberty star Natasha Howard scored 17 points. New York won without her on Monday against a complete Wings team.

Sabrina Ionescu, who is on a minutes restriction after struggling with ankle tendinitis, went four minutes over her limit with 29 minutes and 14 seconds of playing time and led a beautiful offensive display with a season-high-tying 12 assists. She added 13 points while Laney finished with 18 points and seven helpers. Jones posted 16 points and R. Gray was good for 11 and six boards.

Isabelle Harrison scored a season-high-tying 23 points in defeat and added seven rebounds. Marina Mabrey added 15 points, seven boards and five assists for the Wings while teammate Satou Sabally chipped in with 16 points and seven boards.

The Liberty led by as much as 10 twice in the third but Dallas took a one-point lead on a Mabrey layup with 4:52 to go in the fourth. Kylee Shook answered with a 3-point play before Wings All-Star Arike Ogunbowale tied it on a layup. A Jones 3-pointer then gave New York a three-point lead before Harrison responded with fadeaway shot in the lane that cut the Liberty’s lead to one. Whitcomb then made her triple with 3:18 remaining.

Harrison cut it to two with 3:03 to go, to three with 1:16 to go and to four with 40 seconds to go, but it was not enough.

Whitcomb was 6-of-11 from beyond the arc and New York was 15-of-31 (48.4 percent) as a team.