Mohegan - And on "Women of Inspiration Night" Saturday at Mohegan Sun Arena, the enduring image was more "Women of Perspiration," especially Tina Charles, Allison Hightower and Kara Lawson, who were most responsible for the Connecticut Sun's satisfying victory.
Charles played all but two minutes. Hightower made the biggest plays at the end. And Lawson was flawless throughout (no turnovers), leading the Sun to an 85-74 victory over the New York Liberty before 8,232 fans.
"A great game. Like a playoff game atmosphere," Sun coach Mike Thibault said. "Our crowd was great and so was the energy from both teams. It was played physically like a playoff game. We needed a game like that."
The Sun (16-5) maintained their three-game lead over Indiana atop the Eastern Conference. New York (7-13) which dusted the Sun two nights earlier in Newark, N.J., fell three back of Chicago in the loss column for the final playoff spot.
The Sun led by as many as 15 points in the fourth period before New York got within six, 80-74 with 2:35 left. But the Sun forced a turnover before Mistie Mims' second blocked shot of the game on New York's next two possessions, all but ending it.
Hightower scored a career-high 20 points, including four straight points in the final four minutes. She also drew the night's toughest defensive assignment, New York guard Cappie Pondexter.
But it was nothing compared to the hosannas she drew after the game.
From Thibault: "You can count on her to do it at both ends. She took over the game offensively when things bogged down. She's just grown up so much. I made a prediction that she could become maybe a top 20 player (in the WNBA) in a couple of years. Every week she gets better. And her teammates trust her. That's a big factor. It helps when everyone else is going, 'give it to Allie.'"
From Lawson: "I haven't seen every WNBA game this year, but I've seen quite a few. That's one of the better two-way performances of the season by a perimeter player. ? Now coach draws up a play for Allie and everyone has more confidence that the ball is in the right person's hands."
Charles, meanwhile, led the Sun with 23 points, 19 in the first half, and nine rebounds. She eclipsed 1,000 career rebounds in her 89th game, the fastest player in league history. Her first rest Saturday came with 37.5 seconds left in the third period.
"I've never not taken her out in the first half," Thibault said. "I said, 'you let me know when you need a sub.' She said, 'Coach, I'm staying out there.' Yes ma'am."
Charles said, "We had the momentum going and I was feeling fine running up and down. My team and coach needed me out there."
The Sun, who forced 26 turnovers, trailed by as many as eight in the second period but rallied to take a 47-43 lead at halftime. Connecticut outscored New York 19-7 in the third period.
Lawson finished with 21 points, five rebounds, five assists and zero turnovers in 30 minutes.
"We've talked about enjoying the difficulty of the schedule in the second half because it would put us in positions we hadn't been in," Lawson said. "That's a team that has a lot to play for. Every time you're in these types of situations together and able to find different ways to score and get stops, that's where the growth comes. Where the confidence comes. When you're in that situation again, you have the belief someone will make a play."