UNCASVILLE. Conn. — New York is one win away from returning to the WNBA Finals for the first time in more than two decades.
Breanna Stewart had 25 points and 11 rebounds, and the Liberty beat the Connecticut Sun, 92-81, on Friday night to take a 2-1 lead in their best-of-five semifinal series.
Betnijah Laney scored 20 points, Sabrina Ionescu had 16, and Courtney Vandersloot added 12 for New York, which never trailed. The Liberty can close out the series Sunday.
Stewart, the league MVP, had struggled from the floor in the series, missing her first 11 3-point attempts in the first two games. She had 11 points in Game 2 and surpassed that total in the first quarter Friday with 12, helping the Liberty take a 37-16 lead after 10 minutes.
“She was at her very best tonight,” Liberty coach Sandy Brondello said.
It was New York’s highest-scoring quarter ever in the playoffs.
Alyssa Thomas fell a rebound short of a triple-double for Connecticut, finishing with 23 points and 14 assists. Tiffany Hayes scored 16 points and Olivia Nelson-Ododa added 14 for the Sun.
The Liberty dropped the opener 78-63 on their home court but bounced back to win Game 2, 84-77. They led Game 3 by as many as 22 points in the first half and by 14 at halftime.
The Sun got within 70-61 in the third on a layup from Nelson-Ododa and trailed 72-61 going into the fourth. But a 3-pointer from former Sun star Jonquel Jones put the Liberty ahead 80-63 and Connecticut could not catch up.
Jones finished with 10 points and 12 rebounds, giving her a double-double in all five of New York’s playoff games.
“Going into a deficit like that in the first half, you have to expend a lot of energy trying to fight our way back and claw back,” Nelson-Ododa said.
The Sun’s Rebecca Allen, who had 18 points in Game 1 and 6 in Game 2, missed the game with an illness.
“You certainly miss Bec’s length and versatility on the defensive end of the floor,” Connecticut coach Stephanie White said. “You miss her ability to knock down shots offensively.”
New York is looking for its first Finals appearance since 2002. Connecticut hopes to return there for a second consecutive season. Both teams are seeking their first championship.
“This one tonight put momentum back on our side,” Stewart said.
The defending champion Las Vegas Aces closed out a sweep of the other semifinal series Friday night with a 64-61 win over the Wings in Dallas.