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Pondexter leads Liberty to rout of Mystics

NEW YORK (AP) — After losing a third straight game, the New York Liberty had a meeting to discuss what was wrong.

The team responded with one of its best efforts of the season with a 81-64 victory over the Washington Mystics on Sunday.

“I think after the last game we realized the energy level has to be better,” coach Bill Laimbeer said. “We also had to open our offense more, which we did. We put a lot of stuff in the last couple of days. And I think they appreciated that and started to perform, accordingly.”

The chief beneficiary was veteran Cappie Pondexter, who had a season-high 21 points, making 10 of her 11 shots. Tina Charles added 14 points.

Pondexter said that while strategy was a focal point of Friday’s team meeting, there were some heart-to-heart discussions also.

“We started shaking up some things and it worked better. We did actually talk it out. Everybody spoke of what was in their hearts,” she said. “Everyone wants to get better. We talked about what we needed to improve on, individually, and tonight it made us a better team.”

The Liberty (3-5) jumped to a 10-0 lead, shot nearly 66 percent in the first half, and were not seriously threatened except for a brief moment at the end of the first quarter when Kara Lawson, who was the only Mystics player in double figures with 17 points, grabbed a steal and nailed a 3-pointer from deep outside to beat the clock and cut the lead 22-17.

But it didn’t stay close for long and New York used an 18-4 run in the next quarter to make the score 50-28 late in the half. The lead grew as large as 28 points early in the second half.

Washington (4-4) played its third game in four days and lost its second straight.

“The story of the game was how well they played offensively,” Lawson said. “We couldn’t find an answer on how to guard them. We changed up coverages, we went to a zone for a little bit; they kept hitting shots. We just never found a way to slow them down on the offensive end. That was the difference.”

Alex Montgomery had 13 points, 11 in the first half.

“I keep bringing up a Wayne Gretzky quote to Alex,” Laimbeer said referring to the NHL great. “‘I miss 100 percent of the shots I don’t take.’

“We’ve been hammering that on Alex in the last week. She turns down so many shots and she has one of the best looking shots on the basketball team, she just has to get the confidence to take them.”

New York has been struggling for most of the season despite the addition of Charles, a former league MVP who was acquired on draft day in April as part of a mega-deal with the Connecticut Sun. We just want to hold each other accountable as to what each other’s role is to this team,” Charles said. “Everyone is different. Things take time. When I got here I didn’t expect we would go 8-0. My expectation is it’s going to take work and dedication and we have individuals here willing to do that and do all the little things to be successful.”

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