(Photo credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports)
Breanna Stewart scored 25 points as the visiting New York Liberty raced out to a big lead in the first half and never trailed in a 92-81 victory over the Connecticut Sun Friday night in Game 3 of the WNBA semifinals.
The Liberty lead the best-of-five series two games to one and can clinch their first trip to the WNBA finals on Sunday afternoon.
After shooting 26.3 percent in the games in Brooklyn, Stewart made 11 of 19 shots and scored 12 points in the opening quarter to help New York open a 37-16 lead. The MVP forward also grabbed 11 rebounds.
Betnijah Laney added 20 points as the Liberty shot 50 percent and led by as many as 22. Sabrina Ionescu contributed 11 of her 16 points in New York's big opening quarter while Courtney Vandersloot chipped in 12.
Former Connecticut forward Jonquel Jones contributed 12 rebounds for New York.
Alyssa Thomas paced the Sun with 23 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists. Tiffany Hayes contributed 16 as the Sun shot 47.1 percent.
After a basket by Hayes made it a 3-point game with 4:50 remaining, the Liberty ripped off 15 straight points in a span of 2:23 for a 28-10 lead.
New York held a 37-16 lead through the opening quarter when Stewart finished off a 3-point play with 16.3 seconds left. The Sun were within 41-26 on a 14-footer by Thomas with 6:13 left in the second but the Liberty scored the next seven points for a 48-36 lead on Laney's layup nearly two minutes later.
After the Liberty took a 52-32 lead on Vandersloot's layup, the Sun scored eight straight points and were within 54-40 by halftime.
Thomas converted a 3-point play to get the Sun within 57-47 with 6:48 remaining in the third quarter.
The Sun continued to stay within striking distance by getting within 70-61 on a basket by Olivia Nelson-Ododa with 44.5 seconds left in the third and trailed 72-61 entering the fourth before New York finished it off early in the final quarter.
--Field Level Media