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Hammon, Jackson cap off return to New York with Stars' win

NEW YORK -- Becky Hammon had a winning return to Madison Square Garden.

Hammon, traded to San Antonio in a draft-day deal, scored 19 points in her first game back in New York to lead the Silver Stars to a 70-63 victory over the Liberty on Friday night.

"It was a little awkward coming out of the tunnel, which way to turn, right or left. Sitting on the other bench was a little different," Hammon said. "It was nice to come back and a get a win. It was emotional at the same time. I just wanted to play basketball."

Hammon scored seven points in the fourth quarter, including four free throws in the final 2 1/2 minutes, to help San Antonio (7-4) win its third straight. Vickie Johnson, who spent nine seasons in New York before signing with the Silver Stars before last season, added 14 points and Camille Little had 11.

"It was a little different. Last year when I came here, my nerves were up here," Johnson said, holding her hand by her forehead. "This year, I came in and was just focused on winning."

During the lineup introductions, the crowd gave Johnson a strong ovation -- and it got even louder when Hammon's name was announced.

"I guess they feel like they watched me grow up," Hammon said. "I showed up here when I was 22 and I left when I was 30."

Ashley Battle scored 17 points to lead New York (7-5), which has lost five of seven after opening the season with five wins. Jessica Davenport had 11 points and Cathrine Kraayeveld added 10.

"Defensively, we lost track of the shooters," Liberty coach Pat Coyle said. "There are adjustments we can make. I feel good about where we are. I don't like losing the game, but it's something we've got to learn from."

New York, which rallied from a 17-0 deficit to win at Connecticut on Wednesday night, led by 16 midway through the second quarter.

San Antonio used a 14-5 run to pull to 49-48 on Shanna Crossley's 3-pointer in the opening minute of the fourth, and Little's 3 gave the Silver Stars their first lead of the game, 59-57 with just over 5 minutes left.

"We got off to a sluggish start and they hit some big shots coming out of the gates," Hammon said. "Shanna Crossley stepped up, Camille Little stepped up and hit some big shots. It was a great team effort on our part."

Lisa Willis, acquired from Los Angeles earlier in the week, hit a 3 to regain the lead. But San Antonio used an 8-1 run, capped by two free throws from Hammon, to make it 67-61 with 28 seconds left.

"I'm just happy for Becky and Vickie coming in here and playing well, because they were really excited to be back," Silver Stars assistant coach Brian Agler said.

New York shot 39 percent from the field, including 8-for-22 on 3s. The Liberty opened the season shooting 52 percent from beyond the arc over their first five games, but are 33 percent since.

The Liberty scored the first six points of the game and Battle had five points during an 8-0 run that gave New York a 33-17 advantage in the second quarter.

San Antonio used a 15-4 run spanning halftime to pull within five points with 7:36 left in the third quarter, before Davenport hit two free throws and Battle converted a 3-point play to push New York's lead back to 10.

The Liberty were without Erin Thorn, who is expected to miss at least a week due to a sprained right ankle.