The Liberty (11-15) ran out of steam in the fourth quarter, falling to the Sky (11-16) 87-74 Thursday night at Allstate Arena.
Chicago has had New Yorks number all season, and the first quarter started no differently. The Sky jumped out to an early six-point lead, but Tina Charles and the Liberty bench were able to close the gap and tie the game at 22 before the end of the period.
In the second quarter New York got an unexpected lift from center Shanece McKinney. The rookie out of LSU hasnt seen very much game action of late, but rose to the occasion Thursday. McKinney made a difference on both sides of the ball, scoring five points while grabbing three rebounds and collecting a steal and a block all in the second quarter. Despite McKinneys best efforts, the Sky were able to go into halftime with a 39-36 lead thanks to the inspired play of backup guard Allie Quigley, who scored 11 in the half.
The Liberty came out of the locker room with a renewed desire, making a concerted effort to come up with loose balls. After two offensive boards in the first half, New York collected four offensive rebounds in the first 2:13 of the second half to capture its first lead since early in the second quarter. That lead would ultimately be short-lived. Making her return from complications due to Lymes Disease, Elena Delle Donne torched the Liberty for 10 points in the third quarter, quickly seizing control of the game for Chicago. The quickened pace of play benefited the Sky, but two late hoops for Plenette Pierson and Swin Cash cut Chicagos lead back to four points by the end of the quarter.
Sloppy play to start the fourth doomed the Liberty early in the quarter. Turnovers on the teams first two possessions followed by questionable shot selection allowed the Sky to immediately open an 11-point that New York could not overcome. The Liberty would be no closer than nine points for the rest of the evening.
New York was led by Charles, who scored 15 points and added 14 rebounds in the losing effort. Cappie Pondexter reached double-figures with 14 points and Pierson and Avery Warley-Talbert each added 10. Sylvia Fowles and Quigly each scored 16 points, helping bring the Sky within half a game of the Liberty in the race for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
New York returns to action this Sunday, taking on the Dream at 3 p.m. at the Philips Center in Atlanta.