NEWARK - Minutes before Friday night's game, Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer was unsure if Cappie Pondexter, the league's third-leading scorer, would be able to play in what he called a "crucial contest" against the Washington Mystics.

Pondexter, who injured a foot in the previous game, didn't practice this week, Laimbeer said.

To Laimbeer's delight, Pondexter played 33 minutes. But to his dismay, the Liberty lost to the Mystics, 66-57, at Prudential Center.

Pondexter, who lacked her usual quickness, had 10 points, four assists and five turnovers. She shot 4-for-13. Katie Smith led the Liberty (10-14) with 14 points.

Matee Ajavon had 16 points for the Mystics.

Pondexter said it was her decision to play after speaking with trainers. "This loss was very disappointing,'' she said. "But I tried to give it a go, obviously, and I tried to make a run for a good game.''

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The Liberty trailed 20-12 after the first quarter, scoring only two points in the final five minutes of the quarter.

With Pondexter on the bench, the Liberty opened the second quarter with a 12-0 run and moved ahead 24-20. Pondexter scored eight points in the quarter and the Liberty led 34-33 at the half.

"If you know me, I'm a competitor, and I'm not going to give up and not go out there," Pondexter said. "And I'm not going to let my team give up."

Helped by Ivory Latta's three-pointer with 3:44 left in the third quarter, as Washington brought a 45-44 lead into the fourth and built a 12-point lead with five minutes remaining.

"It was extremely important for us to win because it would have given us a tiebreaker over Washington and put us in fourth place," Laimbeer said. "We were home and this was one we had to win."

Said Pondexter, "With 10 games left, we're definitely going to get better from this.''