New York- The New York Liberty (3-3) bounced back from Tuesday’s loss with an important home win against the Dallas Wings (3-3) to even their record. This was the second of a five-game home stand, splitting the first two.
It does not get any easier with Phoenix, Atlanta and Seattle coming up. Add to that, they are missing two key pieces. Guard Brittany Boyd is out with an injured achilles tendon and guard Epiphanny Prince has a contractual obligation overseas in a EuroBasket Tournament.
The first quarter was back and forth with the teams trading baskets. The scored was tied 10-10 after the Liberty’s Shavonte Zellous jump shot with 6:23 left in the quarter. The Liberty made a concerted effort to get the ball in the post as Tina Charles scored six of the first eight points.
After another exchange, the game was tied again at 15 on a Wings basket by Kaela Davis. With Center Kiah Stokes controlling the boards (eight first quarter rebounds), New York took control from the 4:14 mark, finishing the quarter on a 8-3 run. Guard Bria Hartley started the run with a 3-pointer and Forward Tina Charles finished it with a short fade away jump shot.
Sloppy play and turnovers by New York fueled Dallas’ 10-2 run to start the second quarter. Wings guards Kayla Thornton and Alisha Gray accounted for eight of the 10 giving them a 28-25 lead. The Liberty responded with a 7-2 run of their own. Zellous accounted for five of the seven to give New York a 32-30 lead.
The Wings took the lead back with 5:25 left in the quarter. Dallas outscored New York 32-22 in the quarter to take a 50-45 halftime lead.
Guards Allisha Gray (12 points on 3/8 FG and 6/6 FT) and Skylar Diggins-Smith (11 points on 3/5 FG, 5/5 FT) were the catalyst in the first half for Dallas. The Wings shot 45.7% (16-35) from the field, 50% (3-6) from 3-point range and 78.9% (15-19) from the free throw line.
The Liberty were led by Charles (14 points on 5/9 FG, 3/3 FT) and Zellous (13 points on 4/6 FG, 5/6 FT). The Liberty shot 48.5% (16-33) from the field, 33.3% (3-9) from 3-point range and 76.9% (10-13) from the free throw line.
After trading baskets in the third quarter, Dallas lead 64-57 with 5:10 left in the quarter. The Liberty’s front court made a big impact.
Zellous starts it off with a 3 point-play and Charles ends it with back-to-back buckets. They combined for 10 points to go on a 12-2 run to take the lead for the first time since 6:15 (34-32) in the 2nd quarter.
New York outscored Dallas 26-16 to take a 71-66 at the end of the 3rd quarter.
Stokes lead the defensive charge by blocking shots and altering others, making it hard for Dallas to score in the paint. Charles scores 11 points in the quarter along with Shavonte Davis’ seven points and Stokes’ six points.
The 4th quarter was a see saw battle with both teams unwilling to yield any ground. At the 7:34 mark, Zellous picks up her fourth foul.
Coach Bill Laimbeer leaves her in which ended up paying off with Zellous hitting a big 3-pointer to give the Liberty an 80-72 lead with 6:33 left. Charles also cashed in a 3-pointer at the 2:35 that gave New York their largest lead of the game by nine (87-79) and seemingly control of the game.
Dallas would not go away though. Timely 3-pointers by center Theresa Plaisance and Skylar Diggins-Smith cuts the lead down to three points with a little over a minute left. With a minute left, a scramble for a loose ball along the sideline near the Liberty bench was initially ruled a jump ball.
After a quick review, New York was awarded the ball. On the ensuing possession with the Liberty up 87-84, Zellous was fouled driving to the basket. She calmly sank both free throws for a 89-84 lead with 30 seconds left. New York made their free throws to seal the victory, 93-89.
Charles scored a career high 36 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Zellous pitched in 27 points with eight rebounds and Stokes added 13 points and a team high 15 rebounds.
Bria Hartley scored 10 points but more importantly controlled the pace of the game.
“We felt we were bigger up front and wanted to take advantage of that,” stated Laimbeer. They controlled the paint by a 52-28 edge in points in the paint and outrebounding Dallas 44-28. When asked about her rebounding tonight, Stokes stated, “Coach Laimbeer has been on me about rebounding, so I just went out there and tried to get every rebound”.