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Sugar Rodgers scores 23 points to lead Liberty to OT win over Atlanta

Liberty guard Sugar Rodgers shoots over the Atlanta

Liberty guard Sugar Rodgers shoots over the Atlanta Dream defender for a three-pointer, Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2015 at Madison Square Garden. Credit: George A. Faella

The Liberty was out there sweating on the Garden court against Atlanta Tuesday night, forced to work overtime in a first-versus-worst game in the East.

It was a struggle from the start. But the Liberty is plenty good enough to win games like this, and it showed in the extra session.

Sugar Rodgers hit a critical three-pointer in OT and finished with 23 points to pace the Liberty to an 80-75 victory, its third straight and ninth in the last 11 games.

That brought the Liberty to 21-8 overall and cut its magic number to two to clinch the East. There are five games to go, and the Liberty now owns a 11/2-game lead over Minnesota for the best overall record and home-court advantage throughout the playoffs after this win.

"I learned about our team overall in the whole game that we're fairly resilient," coach Bill Laimbeer said.

Tina Charles added 17 points and Epiphanny Prince scored 11 points.

The Liberty led 73-71 in overtime, and then Rodgers buried a three from the left wing for a five-point lead with 1:54 remaining.

"I've definitely been working on my shot," Rodgers said.

The Dream, probably better than its 12-18 bottom line, wasn't done.

Angel McCoughtry, who scored a game-high 25 points, hit two from the free-throw line.

Tina Charles missed two from the line, and then Matee Ajavon cut the edge to 76-75 with 24.4 on the clock. Atlanta fouled Tanisha Wright at 18.4, and she made both for a three-point Liberty lead.

Shoni Schimmel went for the tie but missed the three. Wright canned two more from the line with one second showing, and it was over.

"Down the stretch, when the game is on the line, as a professional athlete, you want to be in that position," Wright said.

"That's the competitive nature of the game, being able to finish a team off."

It was 67-67 heading to overtime after Schimmel and Prince exchanged misses.

"We knew it was going to be a hard game," Wright said. "They've been playing well as of late."

Sitting in a 55-45 hole, the Liberty closed the third quarter on a 9-1 run.

"We're definitely hungry," Rodgers said. "Hopefully, we win out so we get the home-court advantage."

Atlanta is in last in the conference with its streak of six straight playoff appearances in serious jeopardy.

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