By Deitra P. Johnson (ADW Sports Editor)
If the Atlanta Dream’s first game of the 2011 WNBA season is any indication of what’s to come during the course of the schedule, fans are in for a thriller.
Despite playing without leading scorer Angel McCoughtry, and dropping to the New York Liberty in overtime, 94-88, a crowd of 8,038 at Philips Arena witnessed a game that included 13 lead changes and 15 ties.
McCoughtry, the WNBA’s top draft pick in 2009, and the Rookie of the Year that same season, is sidelined with a sprained left knee and is listed as day to day.
After trailing by six points with 5:19 remaining in regulation, the Liberty went on a 6-0 run that included Leilani Mitchell’s 3-pointer that tied the score 70-all at the 1:57 mark. Both teams then traded baskets for four additional lead changes and four additional ties before closing with a 79-79 game at the end of regulation.
Point guard Lindsey Harding, playing in her first game in a Dream uniform, seemed to have secured an Atlanta win when she hit an 11-foot jumper with 20 seconds remaining in regulation, but New York reserve Sidney Spencer, playing for only 12 minutes in the game, hit a 17-footer with 3.2 seconds left for yet another tie, and forcing the game into overtime.
Harding, who was acquired from the Washington Mystics on April 11 in a sign-and-trade deal, finished with nine points, nine assists and five rebounds.
“I feel responsibility on my shoulders as a point guard…period. …I want to control the pace offensively and defensively,” Harding said. “I take it to heart when we lose and thing about what I did wrong. It’s a game I can definitely learn from.”
The see-saw battle continued into the overtime period, with the Liberty taking a six-point advantage with 42.8 seconds remaining to play. Atlanta guard Coco Miller’s shot with at 22.7 seconds pulled her team to within four, but the Dream failed to get any closer.
The Dream was led by Iziane Castro Marques’ 19 points. Teammate Sancho Lyttle had a double-double 18 points and 11 rebounds, and Coco Miller and Armintie Price contributed 16 and 13 points respectively.
New York’s Plenette Pierson led all scorers with 25 points on 11-for-17 shooting from the field, while adding 10 rebounds. Four other Liberty players finished in double figures: Nicole Powell (17); Mitchell (13); Cappie Pondexter (12), and Essence Carson (11).