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Breanna Stewart’s 40 points pushes Liberty past Wings

The Liberty stayed perfect on their road trip after barely defeating the Dallas Wings, 94-93, at College Park Center on Tuesday.

Dallas had a chance for a go-ahead shot with 23 seconds remaining, but Wings star Satou Sabally missed a game-winner that would’ve clinched her team the No. 4 overall seed on Tuesday night. Sabally’s shot, with three seconds remaining, drew iron but wasn’t good enough to close the deal. The ball eventually fell to the ground as time expired. The Libs celebrated after the final buzzer rang, knowing they had just escaped with a narrow victory.

The Wings fought with the Liberty all night but couldn’t get past them, mainly because of MVP candidate Breanna Stewart’s 40-point effort.

Stewart’s latest case for the award began right from tip-off, when she hit four of her first five shots in the first quarter. She then spearheaded a third-quarter run that ended with her team up five to begin the fourth. Stewart scored 14 points in that period, connecting on shots from all over the floor. The Wings endured pull-up jumpers, open shots created from flare screens and mismatches that ended in points.

Stewart added in nine points in the fourth as she kept the team’s chances for the No. 1 seed alive. With the win, the Libs currently trail the Las Vegas Aces by 1.5 games with two games remaining in the regular season. However, the Aces are likely to stay atop the standing due to their final two games being against the lowly Phoenix Mercury.

Stewart shot 14-for-25 from the field and set a new single-season WNBA scoring mark. The star also recorded 10 rebounds and two assists on the night.

Sandy Brondello’s team survived stellar offensive performances from Dallas stars Sabally (27 points), Arike Ogunbowale (19 points) and Natasha Howard (14 points), who all combined for 60 points on 52% shooting from the field.

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Tuesday’s game was the rubber match between the two postseason-bound teams.

The Wings gave the Liberty a wake-up call in Barclays Center on July 19. The Libs couldn’t slow down Ogunbowale and the Wings in that 10-point loss. That game also took place right before Jonquel Jones increased her effectiveness on the court, but not before Dallas’ bigs dominated in the paint.

Teaira McCowan started and enjoyed a double-double in that matchup and did the same off the bench on Tuesday.

Since then, the Libs have played 19 games and only twice. They’ve legitimized themselves as title contenders while getting a roster filled with new players accustomed to each other under second-year coach Brondello.

In Tuesday’s tightly-contested matchup — which featured 19 ties and 16 lead changes — the Libs were able to get clutch performances down the stretch, unlike the previous matchup months ago.

Stewart was the main catalyst, but free throws by Betnijah Laney with two minutes remaining were enough to regain the lead. Laney contributed 22 points, but committed five turnovers.

Courtney Vandersloot also contributed a bucket down the stretch while running the offense. The point guard finished with 16 points and 10 assists on the night.

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