NEW YORK – Cappie Pondexter scored 30 points, including a tiebreaking jumper with 28 seconds remaining, to lead the New York Liberty to a 77-74 victory over the Indiana Fever on Wednesday night to advance to the Eastern Conference finals.
Kia Vaughn took advantage of some extended playing time and scored a season-high 13 points, and Essence Carson added 11 as the Liberty reached the conference finals for the second time in three years.
Katie Douglas scored 24 points, Tamika Catchings had 21 and Ebony Hoffman added 13 for the Fever, who fell to 0-7 in postseason series in which they didn't have home-court advantage.
The Liberty will face Atlanta in the East finals beginning Sunday night at Madison Square Garden.
After Pondexter made her go-ahead jumper from the right side of the basket while going out of bounds, Catchings missed a driving layup 4 seconds later and Taj McWilliams-Franklin grabbed the rebound off the side of the rim.
The Liberty called timeout, but were called for a 5-second violation on the ensuing inbounds play, turning the ball over to the Fever. Catchings missed another layup with 12.9 seconds to go, McWilliams-Franklin again corralled the rebound and passed to Vaughn, who was fouled by Douglas. Vaughn then made 1 of 2 free throws to extend the Liberty's lead to three points.
January missed a potential tying 3 with 3.9 seconds left.
New York was without starting center Janel McCarville, sidelined by a sprained left ankle. Plenette Pierson started in her place, and Vaughn played a season-high 26 minutes.
Trailing by five earlier in the fourth quarter, the Liberty rallied in the low-scoring period and took a 74-72 lead on Pondexter's three-point play with 1:14 remaining.
Hoffman rebounded her own missed layup and put it back to tie the score 24 seconds later.
Douglas scored nine points in the third quarter — on two 3s and three free throws — as the Fever, who led by one at halftime, increased their advantage to seven points on three occasions. The last time came when Catchings made 1 of 2 free throws to make it 66-59 with 1½ minutes left in the period.
Pondexter had a layup about 15 seconds later and McWilliams-Franklin had a basket with under 32 seconds left to pull the Liberty to 66-63 heading to the fourth quarter.
Pondexter had a four-point play to give the Liberty a 32-28 lead with about 7:48 remaining in the first half. She hit two free throws less than four minutes later to extend New York's advantage to 42-36.
The Fever scored the final six points of the second quarter, capped by Douglas' two free throws with 41 seconds left, to take a 47-46 lead at the break.
Douglas scored six points to help Indiana get off to a fast start and take a 19-11 lead over the first 6½ minutes.
Pondexter and Vaughn had two baskets each to pull the Liberty to 21-19 with about 1½ minutes to go in the opening period.
Trailing by seven points in the final minute of the first quarter, the Liberty scored nine consecutive points to take a 28-26 lead on Vaughn's jumper with 8:20 to go in the second period.