WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — The Liberty needed to stop the Sun one more time in the frantic final seconds Thursday night at Westchester County Center, but Shekinna Stricklen nailed the go-ahead three as the buzzer sounded and got fouled. The free throw dropped through, too — a four-point play with 0:00 on the clock.
Now there’s something you don’t see every day.
The Sun won, 88-86, after the Liberty blew a 15-point first-half lead. It marked its second straight loss and fourth overall by six points or fewer in the first six games. But this was the hardest one to take.
“It’s heartbreaking,” said Marissa Coleman, who handed the Liberty an 85-84 edge with 29.7 seconds left after driving down the lane. “We did some good things towards the end to put us in a position to win that game.”
Tina Charles led the Liberty (2-4) with 24 points and nine rebounds. Jasmine Thomas topped the WNBA-best Sun (6-1) with 19 points and eight assists. Connecticut owned a 16-6 edge on the offensive glass and outscored the Liberty, 19-5, on second-chance points.
“We’ve got to take care of the offensive rebounds earlier in the game so we’re not even in that situation,” Bria Hartley said.
Out of a timeout, Thomas drove toward the basket before feeding Stricklen for the 24-footer that rattled in.
“This is my first game-winner,” Stricklen said. “My teammates have got a lot of confidence in me.”
Shavonte Zellous tried to help on Thomas, then tried to get back to Stricklen and committed the foul.
“We let them stick around a little bit too long,” Zellous said. “With a good team like Connecticut, it just bites you in the butt.”
Jonquel Jones converted a three-point play with 1:01 remaining, giving the Sun an 84-82 lead. Charles was fouled at 49.1 and went 1-for-2. Alyssa Thomas committed an offensive foul: Liberty ball, 36.5 seconds left. Then Coleman scored for the one-point lead.
After a Connecticut miss, a jump ball and another Connecticut miss, Hartley went 1-for-2 from the line with 5.8 to go. But the 86-84 advantage didn’t last, just like that 54-39 advantage late in the second quarter that the Sun melted to three heading for the fourth.
“It’s definitely tough,” Charles said. “They have a different kind of motor where they’re not going to give up regardless of what the score says if it’s not in their favor.”