Liberty hold off Sky to grab last playoff spot in East

NEW YORK -- The New York Liberty knew they needed to win to get in the playoffs.

Shameka Christon scored eight of her 15 points in the final 6 minutes to lead the Liberty to a 58-52 victory over the Chicago Sky on Sunday, giving New York the last postseason berth in the Eastern Conference.

The Liberty began the day tied with Washington for fourth place in the East, with New York holding the tiebreaker. The Mystics beat Connecticut on a last-second shot about 45 minutes before the start of the Liberty's game, making it necessary for New York to win to reach the playoffs.

"We knew they won," Christon said. "We knew we had to get it done for ourselves."

Janel McCarville had 10 of her 14 points in the fourth quarter, and Cathrine Kraayeveld added 12 points for the Liberty (16-18), who closed the season with six wins in their last nine games.

"We didn't worry about [the Washington win]," McCarville said. "We looked forward to it, that we were going to be able to clinch on our home court. It didn't matter what they did, we were going to come out and do work on our own court."

New York won four of its last five, including three straight in the final four days.

"This shows how much heart, how much character we have," McCarville said. "We were able to [win] three games in four days, fight back from a seven-point deficit in the fourth quarter [against Chicago] to get the win. We really came together at the right time."

The Liberty return to the postseason for the eighth time in the league's 11-year history. They reached the finals four times, losing to Houston in 1997, 1999 and 2000, and to Los Angeles in 2002. New York missed the playoffs last season after finishing a franchise-worst 11-23.

Dominique Canty scored 14 points for Chicago (14-20), which had a nine-win improvement from its inaugural season last year. The Sky lost for the sixth time in eight games and fell short of matching a season-high three-game winning streak.

"We wanted to finish out strong," first-year coach Bo Overton said. "We wanted to win three or four in a row to help us feel good as we head into our offseason."

Canty had a free throw and a driving layup -- Chicago's first field goal of the fourth quarter and its first after missing seven straight -- to take a 50-49 lead with 3:09 left.

McCarville regained the lead for the Liberty with a layup 18 seconds later, and Christon had a turnaround jumper with 1:49 left. McCarville then stole the ball from Brooke Wyckoff on the other end made a jumper to push the lead to 55-50.

Canty had a layup with 43 seconds to go to pull Chicago within three, but Christon hit a 3 19 seconds later to seal the win.

"We needed to settle down," the Liberty's Loree Moore said. "We finally answered their run and Shameka made some good baskets when we really needed it."

After starting 5-0 this season, New York lost eight of its next 11 and then a season-high seven straight before the final nine-game stretch.

"Whenever we were losing, we would go back and watch film," Christon said. "There were a lot of things that we didn't do. So we really had to refocus our whole mind-set on us instead of other teams."

The Sky opened the third quarter with a 10-0 run, taking a 31-28 lead on Candice Dupree's layup with 7:08 left. Jia Perkins and Armintie Price had consecutive layups to push the Sky's advantage to 45-36 with 36 seconds to go in the third.

After shooting just 20 percent (8-for-40) in the first half, Chicago shot 10-for-17 in the third quarter. The Sky were then just 2-for-12 in the fourth while getting outscored 20-7.

Ashley Battle's driving layup with 20 seconds left in the third started an 8-0 run for New York, which pulled within one on McCarville's basket with 7:41 to go in the game. Dupree missed two free throws with 6:13 left, and Christon hit a 3 on the other end 14 seconds later to give the Liberty a 49-47 lead.

Kraayeveld's layup with 19.5 seconds remaining in the second quarter gave the Liberty a 28-21 advantage at the break.