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Becky Hammon Honored, Liberty Quell Storm

Liberty improve to 13-6

MSG Photo Services

MSG Photo Services


The New York Liberty returned from a very successful road trip, winning three of four to return to Madison Square Garden at 12-6 and leading the Eastern Conference. They were also inducting San Antonio Spurs assistant coach and former Liberty star Becky Hammon into the Ring of Honor, the sixth such honor in the organizations history. But, it would take a lot of Tina Charles to be in charge and a big third quarter to lead New York to victory over a stubborn Seattle Storm (5-16).

The Storm got contributions from a variety of sources with three players scoring five each at the half along with Crystal Langhorne’s ten points while forcing seven turnovers. But though the Liberty offense ran well, it was unlucky at key junctures. Essence Carson was able to find the basket outside of Charles with seven. This kept New York in the game as they did the little things getting contributions here and there. For example Tanisha Wright, scoreless all half, barreled through the key drawing a foul to up the lead to three with 30 seconds in the half. The first half ended with the Liberty leading by one.

It is at times like this that this Liberty team separated itself from its predecessors by taking control of a game that was a necessary to win to signal New York as a winning team. “It shows we have respect for every team,” Tina Charles said. “You can’t take any team for granted because of their record.”

Becky Hammons induction at halftime inspired not just the crowd but the home team. Kiah Stokes recalled some advice Becky gave her about the importance of the moment. “You’re never going to have this team again so keep the chemistry going.”

They came out true to the idea and the game was essentially decided in the third quarter where they outscored the Storm 24-9 with defensive madness and Tina Charles (29 points, 8 rebounds).

“I just want to set the tone for my team,” Charles explained. “I know what my role is. I know if I go hard and compete and they see that it will be a snowball effect.”

Charles did well with 14 first half points but she picked up the pace, looking quick in the post while her smooth turnaround jumper was finding its mark again and again.

But it was clear that another player needed to add some scoring to open this contest. Enter Epiphanny Prince, scoreless in the first half but the architect of crucial points through three assists. Prince took over and scored nine of her eleven points in the third, hitting 4 of 5 shots including a three which moved New York into a double digit lead 45-35. Prince was the silent dagger that complemented the main one in Charles.

Prince is feeling her game starting to round into shape as she gets more games under her belt. It has given the Liberty the scoring dimension they sought when they acquired her this season. “I’m definitely more comfortable with my role and just playing with confidence,” Prince responded. “At the half Essence told me I had to be more involved so when I went out in the third quarter I was looking for my shot more and was able to score.”

The Liberty defense turned up the heat and when they engage in this way it’s difficult for any team to traverse. “We want to make teams know that they will not be able to jump on us in the third quarter,” Charles explained. Carolyn Swords has become a fixture in the starting center position. Her physical presence and smart play has been an asset working side by side with Charles. “Defense is always a lot of fun. It’s something you can control,” Carolyn pointed out. “I like that part of the game. It’s something we work every day as a team. We know we have each other’s back, we have that trust. It’s helped us a lot to be where we are.” What follows is a breakdown of the “explosion.”

Prince 21 foot jumper 47-35 NY

Prince steal leads to Tina Charles hook shot 49-35 NY

Prince layup 51-38 NY

Charles Lay-up 53-38 NY

Prince 17 foot jump shot 55-38 NY

Essence Carson 14 foot jumper 57-41 NY

Candice Wiggins 23 foot three point shot 60-44 NY

Candice Wiggins has been an active and flexible veteran weapon all year for the Liberty. But Candice work shone loudly in a second half that saw her contribute four rebounds, four assists, and ten points which with Carson and Prince’s eleven apiece were more than enough to win this contest going away. The Liberty will have a big home and home series with the Chicago Sky.

The return of Cappie Pondexter next Tuesday should be quite an event as the talk of the Prince for Pondexter trade was the talk of the off season along with the obvious comparisons. Prince for one doesn’t play into it. “They’ve been talking about that for years and for years I’ve been ignoring it,” Epiphanny responded. “I just want to do what’s best for my team because we’re in a good place now and we want to stay there.”

Liberty Head Coach Bill Laimbeer is pleased to have a 13-6 mark at this point but is still wary about committing to a confirmation that this team is a playoff team today. “I do know that the first half of the season gave us a leg up and some breathing room, but we can’t relax,” Laimbeer explained.


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