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How sweep it is! Liberty edge Sparks

Vandersloot leads late charge to victory in Los Angeles

August 2, 2023 John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Courtney Vandersloot saved her best for last, and so did the New York Liberty.

The future Hall of Fame point guard scored 20 of her season-high 23 points in the second half Tuesday night as the Eastern Conference-leading Liberty completed a two-game sweep in Los Angeles with a 76-69 victory over the Sparks in front of 6,498 fans at Arena.

Vandersloot, the WNBA’s all-time leader in assists, also had seven rebounds, six helpers, a steal and a blocked shot in 31 scintillating minutes. The 5-foot-8 dynamo drilled 9-of-14 shots, including a season-high four 3-pointers.

“My teammates were finding me. I was open for catch-and-shoot 3s. I was just knocking them down tonight,” said Vandersloot, who had eight points and nine assists in Sunday’s 87-79 win over L.A.

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Trailing 67-66 with just under three minutes left in this one following a pair of free throws by Los Angeles’ Nneka Ogwumike, the Liberty (20-6) went to work.

Betnijah Laney tied the contest on a free throw before her basket with 1:51 remaining put New York in front to stay, 69-67.

Vandersloot came through with a finger roll off an offensive rebound by reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week Breanna Stewart and Sabrina Ionescu drained a pair of free throws.

“It only took one stop or one score for us to go ahead and go ahead for good,” said Stewart, who put up her 13th double-double of the year with 16 points and 12 boards.

Ogwumike’s ensuing layup shaved the deficit to four before Vandersloot sank one from the line and Ionescu hit another pair from the charity stripe to complete a game-ending 10-2 run for the Liberty, who have won six of their last seven contests.

Breanna Stewart was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week for the fourth time this season Tuesday. Photo by Brandon Todd/New York Liberty

“We don’t win this game without (Vandersloot) tonight,” New York head coach Sandy Brondello said. “We’re just trying to put the ball in her hand. But that’s just what she does.”

Ionescu finished with 11 points for New York, which will look to complete a 3-0 road trip Friday night in Minnesota.

Ogwumike poured in 20 points and Jordin Canada had 13 for Los Angeles (9-17), which has lost 10 of its last 12, but remains 1 1/2 games behind Chicago for the league’s final playoff berth.

Laney and Jonquel Jones put up nine points apiece for the Liberty, who improved to 10-2 on the road this year and remained one game ahead of second-place Connecticut in the East.

The Sun (19-7) beat Minnesota (13-14), 79-69, on Tuesday to keep pace.

New York held Los Angeles to one field goal over the final three minutes and only 15 points during the final quarter. The Sparks went 4-of-20 from the floor over the final 10 minutes.

“I think we just continued to talk through things,” Stewart said of her team’s clam-down defense in crunch time.

“Doing what needed to be done. We needed to get a few extra stops,” she added. “I think we started the fourth quarter down four.”

The Liberty have played seven games in 10 days, and will get a chance to avenge their only loss during that stretch Friday against the Lynx, who handed them an 88-83 defeat in Downtown Brooklyn last Friday night.

New York’s Sandy Brondello reached 200 career wins when the Liberty rallied past the Sparks Tuesday in Los Angeles. Photo by Brandon Todd/New York Liberty

GIVE ME LIBERTY: Brondello became the ninth coach in WNBA history with 200 career wins. “I’ve loved every minute of it and it’s because of these players that we have on this team,” she said. “They’ve just bought in. I love what I do. I’m grateful to be in this opportunity and in this league for so long.” … Stewart was named Player of the Week for the fourth time earlier Tuesday after averaging 25.8 points, 8.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 1.8 blocks during New York’s busy four-game slate last week. … After visiting the Lynx Friday, the Liberty will be back at Barclays Center to host league-leading Las Vegas (24-2) Sunday at 3 p.m. That game will be televised on ABC. The Aces and Liberty will also meet for the Commissioner’s Cup title in Las Vegas on Aug. 15. … Liberty center Stefanie Dolson, who has been out with an ankle injury since June 23, is beginning on-court activities this week and could rejoin her teammates this month.

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