The New York Liberty brought their special superpower to Madison Square Garden this afternoon to match up against the Connecticut Sun, the Eastern Conference frontrunners. It was kid power. When it’s unleased, New York rarely fails. And they certainly needed every bit of energy they could absorb as the Sun and Liberty slugged it out evenly in the first half until Tina Charles took control leading the Liberty (10-9) to a 96-80 win before 14,943 fans.
“It was loud. You could hear the screams,” said Sugar Rodgers, “They were extremely loud today and we could hear them.”
The Liberty continued the momentum from their last game maintaining a high level of play on both sides of the court. But this time it was the Liberty top liners that shown. One game removed from her fifth WNBA All-Star appearance, Tina Charles posted a double-double before halftime. She went on to explode offensively for 28 points and 17 rebounds. In fact New York had its biggest rebounding edge at 48-24.
The second act saw Charles move up into beast mode adding eight more post points to reach twenty with a half throw-hook over the top of a stiff double team showing that she was not to be stopped. Charles, like most of the Liberty, were running on all cylinders and the break is not welcome on this occasion.
“It is unfortunate we get the break. Some teams at the break go up and some down. We’re starting to go up,” said Liberty Head coach Bill Laimbeer.
Charles set the tone but it was the rest of the team that is starting to learn their roles. Hartley, who had an average first half, made a significant stretch contribution with key baskets to reach ten points. Shavonte Zellous provided second source scoring putting up 16 points tonight while going 11 for 11 from the foul line. Kiah Stokes looked herself with eight points, six boards and two blocked shots.
“I was just trying to tell them that we have to create better habits,” Tina Charles said, “We have to go forth with what we can do individually so we can start trusting one another more and build that continuity within one another.”
One player who showed just such a trust in the team is Sugar Rodgers. She was demoted strategically to the bench to give it a boost and she has used it to lift her game. One record came with the announcement that she would replace the injured Elena Delle Donne to qualify for her first All-Star game and participate in the three point contest during the festivities.
“It’s a blessing. I’m just taking advantage of the opportunity and just go out there and have fun,” Rodgers said.
The Liberty never took the foot off the gas as to a player they recognized how important it was to beat the Sun (12-9) as they have fallen twice to them. This game may very well have been a preview of a future encounter when it would be for all the marbles. A 29-13 third quarter ensured this.
“This is a team we can potentially see in the playoff and we just wanted to make a statement tonight,” said Sugar Rodgers.
The best news concerns Epiphanny Prince. Her joy to be removed from the number one spot on the court was well-known but the nine points she scored as she warmed up the second half and her killer crossovers confirm that Prince is recovering fully from her knee surgery and is becoming once more the explosive player she has always been.
The Liberty go into the break on a two-game winning streak with a real test in Minnesota against the Lynx, who sport the best record in the WNBA.