Liberty top Sparks in OT to snap four-game losing skid

NEW YORK (AP) -- The New York Liberty were inspired by seeing some of the team's original players and came away with their first win of the season.

Becky Hammon scored 24 points and rookie Sherill Baker had 15 as the Liberty beat the Los Angeles Sparks 89-79 in overtime to win their home opener and end a four-game losing streak.

Before the game, New York honored Teresa Weatherspoon, Rebecca Lobo, Sue Wicks and Kym Hampton -- Liberty stars from the WNBA's inaugural season in 1997 -- to a rousing ovation from the crowd of 14,070.

"Coming home, we had a great crowd," Hammon said. "The whole day was kind of electric with the presentation, seeing my old teammates there. I know it got me really pumped up for the game and ready to go."

Cathrine Kraayeveld hit a 3-pointer for New York (1-4) with 4.6 seconds left in regulation to tie the score at 68, capping a five-point comeback in the final 28 seconds.

"That's one of my strengths, to shoot the 3, so I have to be confident with it and shoot it when I'm open," Kraayeveld said. "That one happened to fall and it was a big one."

Hammon and Kraayeveld had missed 3-point attempts in that final flurry, but New York kept getting the offensive rebounds for extra chances.

"It was an unbelievable effort," Liberty coach Pat Coyle said. "When they took the lead, we could have easily folded our tents. But it didn't happen."

Shameka Christon scored 10 points, including a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 4:07 remaining in OT to give the Liberty the lead for good at 71-68. New York then shot 12-for-13 on free throws to pull away for the win.

Christon said she didn't feel any extra pressure after the pregame festivities but wanted to win for the former Liberty players.

"We wanted to do good thanking them," Christon said. "It was a thank you for what they've done for this program. Just to see them in here, they brought energy just when they were announced."

Lisa Leslie had 26 points and 15 rebounds before fouling out 1½ minutes into the extra period for Los Angeles (3-3), which closed a season-opening six game road trip. Temeka Johnson had 17 points and Christi Thomas added 10.

"There were two or three times we actually the rebound in our hands," Sparks coach Joe Bryant said. "They came across and swiped our hands and got the ball."

The Liberty had a chance to win in regulation. After Kraayeveld's tying shot, Los Angeles turned the ball over on its ensuing possession and rookie Christelle N'Garsanet's half-court
heave hit the backboard to the right of the basket as time expired.

N'Garsanet, scoreless on the season coming in, finished with eight points -- including four in overtime.

Hammon was 11-for-11 from the line and has made all 21 attempts this season. Baker, who was 3-for-3 and has made all 10 of her free throws, is the only other player in the league to be perfect.

Leslie's layup with 4½ minutes left in the fourth quarter gave Los Angeles a 60-59 lead. The Sparks stretched it to 67-62 on Johnson's two free throws with 28 seconds left. Johnson was then called for a foul away from the ball, and Hammon made a free throw to pull New York within four. Baker then hit two free throws with 22 seconds left to make it 67-65.

Murriel Page made one free throw two seconds later to push Los Angeles' lead to 68-65.

Page and Thomas also fouled out in overtime. Barbara Farris fouled out for New York.

The Sparks trailed 34-30 at halftime, before Thomas' layup with 3:25 left in the third quarter capped a 9-0 run as they took a 42-38 lead. However, Thomas was called for a flagrant foul and Hammon made four free throws in the final minute of the period to give the Liberty a 50-42 lead after the third quarter.

The game marked a rematch of the first WNBA game on June 21, 1997. The Liberty won that matchup, 67-57 at Inglewood, Calif.