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New York Liberty the Stars in Matchup with San Antonio

DSC_1414The Garden was packed with 18,617 fans, many of which were children in attendance for “Camp Day.” They got a good show from the home team New York Liberty (8-5) who received double digit numbers from four players en route to a 84-68 rout of the San Antonio Stars (3-11).

The sixth largest crowd in franchise history saw a lot to be excited about in 2015. When Carolyn Swords, who started at center, scores four of your first six baskets, to tally eight points and four rebounds overall, it’s going to be a good day. “Carolyn is steady,” Head Coach Bill Laimbeer pointed out, “I felt I needed to make a lineup change with Bone and Griner coming up. I felt it’s a good time to get her feet wet and to start her.”

Tina Charles was in All-Star form from the start with nine points (14 for the game) and three boards and they needed it as they exchanged blow for blow with the stars as guard Danielle Robinson scored six of her team high 18.

New York started out with Prince, Tanisha Wright, Swin Cash, Carolyn Swords, and Tina Charles at the outset. San Antonio tested the perimeter defense of the Liberty and found some success early on, but this is a game of adjustments and New York soon covered quicker and Epiphanny Prince got two scores early and a rebound and layup for a three point play was an example of the extra things she is capable of that lead to wins and her Madison Square Garden debut as a Liberty player was impressive with 13 points, four assists, and two rebounds. “Pips is quality. She crosses over well and has a great hesitation dribble,” Laimbeer explained, “When she gets into traffic, she has no problem taking the hit.”

Laimbeer used his shock and speed unit two minutes before the end of the quarter with Brittney Boyd, Kiah Stokes, Sugar Rodgers, and Candice Wiggins as they brought the feast and sometimes famine. In particular Boyd made exuberant youthful mistakes to start but finally settled in and a smooth jumper from thirty was just the medicine the doctor ordered.

As the second began, the Liberty still had no answer to Danielle Adams, the rotund multi-move center who always plays well against New York had eleven points to start and the Liberty offense slowed a bit minus Charles. But they finally started to slow down the Stars by shutting off the other outlets and Essence Carson, carried the scoring for a while hitting for eight points to build the New York lead to 37-26 with under three minutes remaining in the half.

Prince closed out by ground hogging her way through three defenders to shovel a pass to Charles under the basket to make a statement on the court as New York left in command 39-30 at the intermission. “I grew up watching guys like Sebastian Telfair, Edgar Sosa, Corey Fisher and learning their moves because they were the best players in the city,” Epiphanny responded to the origin of her moves, “I’m not the fastest player so learning to incorporate their change of pace/stop-and-go basketball helped me a lot.”

The Liberty experienced a lull when the starters came out but veterans like Tanisha Wright, whose breakaway layup for her first points was the first key turn and Epiphanny Prince kept them afloat with her shot and Essence Carson took over the scoring load hitting jumpers and going left-handed on a tough drive and a three point play scoring the lion’s share of her team leading 16 points and an eleven point space with under four minutes left in the third. “Carson missed practice with a nagging foot injury but she came out and played phenomenal.” Laimbeer said. “It’s key when you have a team with a mixture of veterans and a lot of young players. We know basketball is a game of runs. They had theirs and then we go on ours and that’s exactly what we did.” Essence summarized.

The Stars did not want to go away as Danielle Robinson, kept pecking away at the lead. But Prince soon found Sugar Rodgers with a cross court pass to corner and Sugar hit a three keeping the Liberty in the clear and as the third closed out it was New York enjoying a 61-53 lead in the third. This jumpstarted a Sugar rush as she scored 13 with five assists and four boards which helped open up the game. She continues to play at a high level which coincided with New York success on the lengthy road trip the Liberty just completed. “It’s just about having fun and building chemistry,” Sugar explained, “You get a lot of time to know each other on the road.” “As long as we play our game, New York basketball, we can come out with a win anywhere.” Essence Carson added

The fourth was full of threes as Sugar Rodgers and Epiphanny Prince hit treys to start the final quarter and up the lead to twelve. Even Kiah Stokes and Carolyn Swords got into the offensive swing as the lead was increased by twenty points with five minutes left in the contest and the game pretty much in hand. “We learned on the road trip that we have to stay mentally focused,” Kiah explained, “I just happy to be getting some minutes and coach does a great at knowing who plays well together.”

Avery-Warley Talbert, a starter last year but mostly an afterthought with the surprising play of the new bigs got on the scoreboard as well and showed a feistiness which may serve the Liberty well when depth will be needed on the next big road trip upcoming. “My role has changed with the team which is ok with me on a team that has a lot of great players.” Avery admitted, “Sometimes those are how the cards are dealt.”

Laimbeer has to be pleased to see the improvement of the team but he remains adamant that it has to be displayed on the court every game.

“We know who we are, we’re tied for first and the future looks good in front of us. We just gotta do it.” New York plays Connecticut tomorrow night at the Garden for early control of the Eastern Conference.

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