NEW YORK (AP) — Breanna Stewart scored 27 points and the New York Liberty beat the Washington Mystics 90-85 in overtime on Tuesday night to advance to the semifinals of the WNBA playoffs for the first time in eight years.
New York hadn’t won a playoff series since 2015.
“It means a lot. I don’t know if we’re thinking about it,” Stewart said. “Today there were highs and lows. We knew it was going to be emotional. D.C. was going to go out swinging. We stayed the course. We didn’t stop playing until the final buzzer.”
The Liberty will play either No. 3 Connecticut or sixth-seeded Minnesota. Those two teams will play the deciding game of their best-of-3 series on Wednesday night. The semifinals begin Sunday. The Liberty had to work to advance after blowing an 11-point halftime lead.
New York built an 84-79 lead in overtime before Washington got within 86-85 with 38 seconds left. The Liberty worked the shot clock down, but Jonquel Jones turned it over. Brittney Sykes drove down the other end before turning it over herself with 14 seconds remaining.
Stewart hit two free throws a few seconds later to give New York an 88-85 advantage. Washington had a chance to tie it, but Ariel Atkins missed a contested 3-pointer with 7 seconds remaining. Stewart hit two more free throws to seal the win to the delight of the sellout crowd that included Carmelo Anthony and Sue Bird.
Jones finished with 19 points and 14 rebounds for New York.
Natasha Cloud scored a career-high 33 points to lead Washington.
“One of the best games of her career,” Mystics coach Eric Thibault said. “Especially considering the way they were playing her and put the people on her. To do it on a stage like this was impressive.”
Both teams had chances in the final seconds of regulation after New York tied it at 76 on two free throws by Jones with 11 seconds left. Those came off an offensive rebound when Sabrina Ionescu missed two free throws.
“You all saw it, we felt it, Jonquel’s a phenomenal rebounder, she’s really hard to keep off the glass,” Mystics forward Elena Delle Donne said. “She’s going to go at that point. We couldn’t pinch her quite right. Those moments are certainly heartbreaking.”
After a timeout, Cloud threw the ball away on the inbounds and then Courtney Vandersloot gave it back to Washington when she tried to get the ball to Stewart at the top of the key with 3 seconds left. The Mystics couldn’t get a shot off before the clock expired, sending it to overtime.