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McWilliams-Franklin, Pondexter power Liberty past Sky

ROSEMONT, Ill. -- Taj McWilliams-Franklin scored 18 points, Cappie Pondexter had 16 and the New York Liberty beat the Chicago Sky 79-71 on Friday night.

Nicole Powell added 11 points to help the Liberty (12-11) win for the seventh time in 10 games and complete a sweep of the four-game season series. McWilliams-Franklin shot 8-for-11 from the field.

"This comes at a great time," Pondexter said. "We trying to make a run for it and get a playoff spot in the second half. It feels good and hard work pays off."

New York moved above .500 for the first time since beating Chicago in the Liberty's season opener and took over sole possession of fifth place in the Eastern Conference -- one game behind fourth-place Connecticut and three behind first-place Indiana.

"We knew this was going to be tough," Liberty coach Anne Donovan said. "We've beaten Chicago three times [coming in]. Any time you're playing a team four times in a season it's difficult to win especially on their floor. We are also fighting with them for one of those playoff spots so every win at this point is important."

Epiphanny Prince scored 14 points to lead last-place Chicago (11-12). Dominique Canty had 13 points, Sylvia Fowles added 12 points and 16 rebounds and Jia Perkins also scored 12.

Pondexter hit a tiebreaking 3-pointer to start a 10-0 run that gave the Liberty a 71-61 lead with 6:46 left.

"Coach challenged us to be aggressive and that was my mindset coming in the second half," Pondexter said. "I set up for a lot of jumpers that weren't necessarily falling in the first half.

"Nicole found me in the corner wide open and I knocked that shot down," she said.

The Sky got no closer than eight points the rest of the way.

Fowles finished 4-for-11 from the field, including 1-for-7 in the second half.

"I just rushed a lot of shots," Fowles said. "I never got into my own rhythm, and I think I tried to catch up all at once instead of chipping away at the score when we needed to, and I just didn't do it the right way."

Chicago coach Steven Key believes the Liberty's defense also contributed to Fowles' struggles.

"They were double-teaming on the pass right from the beginning," he said. "She did find some wide-open people early, but once they picked up the pressure in the second half we were on our heels."

The Liberty were 9-for-19 on 3-pointers, with Powell and Leilani Mitchell making three apiece. Mitchell is 11-for-19 (58 percent) on 3s over the last three games, making at least three each time. The Sky managed just 3-of-17 from beyond the arc.

Trailing by nine points early in the third quarter, the Liberty used a 14-2 run to take a 55-52 with about 3½ minutes left in the period. Plenette Pierson hit two free throws to give New York the lead and then her layup put them up three.

Mistie Bass and Prince had consecutive layups to put the Sky ahead 57-56 with 1½ minutes left in the third, but Powell hit a 3 and McWilliams-Franklin made a jumper to give the Liberty a four-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Prince had two layups in the opening minute of the final quarter to tie the score at 61-all.

The Liberty then had their decisive run.

New York opened the game with three consecutive 3s for an early 9-3 lead on the way to a 21-19 advantage after one quarter.

Chicago scored the first eight points of the second quarter and briefly gave up the lead as Prince scored six points to help the Sky take a 44-37 advantage at halftime.

Chicago now hopes to bounce back as it starts a five-game road trip at San Antonio on Saturday.

"We've been successful on the road and we're going to have to find a way to quickly regroup on the road here," Key said. "When we get on the court in San Antonio we're going to try to get a road win and equalize this loss."