NEW YORK — Sugar Rodgers had been in a rut offensively. So last week she gave director of player development Teresa Weathersoon a call for a late night shooting session.
The work paid off when Rodgers matched her career high with 23 points in New York's 80-75 overtime win over the Atlanta Dream on Tuesday night.
"It's great to know she's there whenever I need her," said Rodgers, who was averaging just five points over her last nine games. "To be able to work out with one of the legends of this game at any time is such a great thing. She showed me a few pointers."
Rodgers said her confidence never wavered during the cold stretch and that her teammates helped keep her spirits up.
"I knew something was coming, I just had to be patient," she said.
Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer has seen how hard his young guard has been working to try to get back to where she was when she was starting early on this season while Epiphanny Prince was fulfilling an overseas commitment.
"I told her after the game in front of everybody that the work she has done in the gym for the last 10 days has paid off," Laimbeer said. "She is at the gym at 10:30 at night now working on her game. That was a great performance and everyone the room was happy for her."
New York (21-8) increased its lead in the East to 3 1/2 games over Chicago and Indiana. The Liberty, who are one victory short of matching the franchise record for wins, can clinch the best record in the conference with two more victories.
"It's definitely in our minds that we want to get the No. 1 seed," said Tina Charles, who added 17 points for New York.
Atlanta (12-18) now must win the remainder of its games and get a lot of help to make the playoffs this season.
"Season's not over, we'll see what happens in the end," said Angel McCoughtry, who led Atlanta with 25 points. "Keep playing hard, give it all we got to the end."
McCoughtry came off the bench for the second straight game and coach Michael Cooper was non-committal on whether she'll resume her starting role in the team's next game.
"I may go back to her starting pretty soon. We got off to a good start today and also in Indiana," Cooper said.
Trailing 43-40, Atlanta went on a 15-2 run that was started by Shoni Schimmel. She scored the first nine points of the spurt and McCoughtry's layup midway through the third quarter made it 55-45.
The teams traded the lead in the fourth until Prince's 3-pointer tied it at 67 with 2:35 left. Those were the final points of the period.
Rookie Kiah Stokes had four points, three rebounds and a block in overtime to help New York take a 76-73 lead. Matee Ajavon made a layup with 24 seconds remaining to get Atlanta within one. But Tanisha Wright answered with two free throws and, after Schimmel's missed 3-pointer, made two more with one second left.