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Kiah Stokes (Photo by John Jones - Double G Media)

Kiah Stokes (Photo by John Jones – Double G Media)

When New York Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer called out Kiah Stokes for her early season performance, he didn’t know what the response would be. Well sometimes adversity is a good thing. Stokes scored a career-high 23 points and added 14 rebounds to help the Liberty beat the Phoenix Mercury, 88-72 on Sunday.

It’s the second straight game that Stokes has had a career high in points and finished with a double-double. Shavonte Zellous added 21 points, and Tina Charles had 16 for New York (4-3). The Liberty are 2-1 on their five-game home stand. With Prince, Vaughn, and Boyd out, and with Charles held to 16 points, the Liberty showed how deep their team is on Sunday.

Kiah Stokes Stock Is Rising

Stokes put up an impressive 17-point, 10-rebound first half, her first double-double in a half. This is also the first time she recorded back-to-back double-doubles in her career. Stokes finished with 23 points (a career high) and 14 rebounds on the afternoon, snatching up offensive boards, doing an outstanding job on Brittney Griner and looking comfortable finishing around the rim. If this keeps up, we may have to label this the Kiah Stokes breakout season, which should put the WNBA on notice.

Shavonte Zellous Becoming a Great Floor General

The Liberty have a point guard problem. With Brittany Boyd out for the season and Epiphanny Prince overseas this month, enter Zellous. Zellous put up 21 points and five assists against the Mercury, a follow-up to her 27-point, eight-rebound night on the Wings.

“I think Zellous did a good job on Taurasi, stayed with her the whole game, and never gave her a lot of space,” Laimbeer said. 

Despite her technically being the starting small forward, Zellous has been the Liberty’s impromptu floor general, bringing the ball up and initiating the offense for stretches at a time. For now, Zellous is the answer to the Liberty’s point guard questions.

“Down the stretch, Zellous took over and made all the right plays in both that she scored and hit the right people, that’s what she can do and we put her in that position to do today,” Laimbeer said.

The Defense Continues To Step Up

The Liberty seem to be coming together at the right time. The defense was outstanding in the second half, especially in the 4th quarter, holding the Mercury to only nine points. Phoenix had an awful shooting afternoon at 34% and New York swept the defensive boards clean and dominated the paint point-wise to the tune of 42-24 overall. The Liberty did a great job limiting Brittany Griner in the second half and keeping her in foul trouble. 

“We had a good game plan. Griner is a handful,” Laimbeer said, “You know they (Griner and Taurasi) are going to get theirs to a point. But just don’t let them dominate. I thought they did a good job of that.”

Next Up For The Liberty

The Liberty continues its five-game home stand on Wednesday, June 7, when it hosts the Atlanta Dream for School Day presented by the NYC Department of Education. Tipoff is scheduled for 11 AM.

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