Despite a 102-78 loss to the Seattle Storm on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden, the Liberty clinched the No. 3 seed for the WNBA Playoffs with four regular season games remaining.
After its game, New York paid tribute to the career and legacy of retiring forward Swin Cash with a special ceremony at center court.
The stars were out to pay tribute to one of the most influential women in WNBA history as WNBA President Lisa Borders, Liberty President Isiah Thomas, WNBA All-Time leading scorer Tina Thompson, Sue Bird, Tina Charles, and coach Bill Laimbeer all spoke about Cash’s career before Cash took the stage.
“I thought it was a great ceremony,” Laimbeer said. ” I’m very proud of the Liberty management, especially Isiah, pushing this to make sure that great players are honored.”
The crowd at Madison Square Garden was able to hear from Cash’s closest friends and biggest influences about what she has meant to the game of basketball and off the court. A group from her Cash for Kids Charity from her hometown of McKeesport, Pa., was in attendance at The Garden as well.
Cash thanked everyone that has had an influence on her from her mother, to her high school coach, teammates, and everyone she has encountered through nearly two decades on the hardwood in college and the pro ranks.
Cash ranks in the top-15 in WNBA history in points, rebounds, assists, and games played, and is a two-time NCAA Champion, three-time WNBA Champion, and two-time Olympic Gold Medalist. She is one of just two players in WNBA history to amass 5,000 points, 2,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists, the other being Tamika Catchings.
On the court Wednesday night, Charles led the way for the Liberty, working on a triple-double as she finished with 22 points, nine rebounds, and seven assists. She was one of three Liberty players to finish in double figures.
“I think they played their game because we let them,” Charles said. “We dictate how things go out on and off the court, and we did not do that tonight. With many teams we can say our defense is our strong suit but we did not do that tonight. Seattle players got comfortable and they gained momentum.”
One of the others, Sugar Rodgers, scored 15 points and nailed four 3-pointers, and in the process became the Liberty franchise single-season leader in made threes with 82, passing Shameka Christon’s 2011 effort of 78. Rodgers leads the WNBA in 3-pointers, moving in front of Diana Taurasi (79).
New York trailed by as many as eight points in the 2nd quarter, but came back to tie the game, 36-36, on a Rodgers triple at 5:40.
Seattle took a two-point lead into the locker room and started strong in the third quarter, taking its largest lead of the game 61-51 as Bird connected from deep 3:09 into the second half.
The teams traded baskets for the remainder of the third before Seattle pulled away in the final period. Jewell Loyd, who scored a game-high 25 points, converted a 3-point play to put the Storm in front 84-68, and the Liberty was unable to pull any closer than 13 the rest of the way.
“Come Friday I will say to throw this one away,” Laimbeer said. ” We’ll learn from it. Our defensive performance was not up to our normal standards and that is what we have to work on.”