Candice Wiggins dribbled out the final seconds, the horn echoed through Madison Square Garden and nearly 8,000 people echoed their approval. The home team had won, and this had officially become the greatest regular season in the 19-year history of Liberty basketball.
Epiphanny Prince stood out all over the court with 25 points, seven rebounds, five assists and four steals, and Bill Laimbeer's Liberty defeated the Connecticut Sun 74-64 Wednesday night. That clinched the top overall seed throughout the WNBA playoffs, a first for a franchise that has never claimed the title and has failed to make the finals since 2002.
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"That's important for us," Prince said. "We play pretty good at home. We have this concept where Bill's telling us, 'If we win all our home games, then we'll be the champions.' "
The Liberty is now 12-4 at home. The record is up to 23-9 overall, and that made this the winningest regular season in franchise history. And there are still two games to go.
"It means a lot," Prince said. "It's special to me, just coming from New York. I used to go to some Liberty games."
This team surpassed the 2010 team that went 22-12.
"It's great," Tina Charles said after adding 16 points and 13 rebounds. "It definitely puts us in a good position."
Kelsey Bone, who paced the Sun with 19 points and 10 rebounds, made a layup to get Connecticut's deficit down to 67-61 with 3:48 left. But Tanisha Wright countered with a three from the left side.
Bone scored inside again. Then Prince, who was 10-of-15 from the floor, hit a short bank shot, and it was 72-63 with 2:18 to go.
"That's why we have her," Laimbeer said of Prince's large game. "She's one of the best two-guards in the league."
Connecticut had shrunk a 17-point deficit early in the third quarter down to five by the end of it. The injury-ravaged Sun (14-19) knocked it down to 53-50 23 seconds into the fourth.
"We battle," said coach Anne Donovan. "I'm sure [Laimbeeer] thought we were done. Most of the fans thought we were done. Probably the Liberty thought we were done."
But the Liberty has been good at closing, now 19-0 when holding the lead after three. And now it has home-sweet-home advantage. "That's really, really good," Charles said. "We just have to take care of business, having home-court advantage and go from there."