TINA OUTDUELS MAYA, LIBERTY BEAT WNBA CHAMPS
By: Luis Vazquez
When the Liberty traded for Tina Charles, a former WNBA MVP, they envisioned it looking like this. On a nationally televised game between the New York Liberty (7-11) and the defending WNBA Champions, Minnesota Lynx, (13-6), two titans clashed in the opening ten. Tina and Maya Moore of Minnesota went at it from the tip off.
Maya Moore started well, hitting a three to start the game. She had a couple of excellent reverse layups to pace the Lynx and a block off a three point Alex Montgomery attempt, saw Maya excited and intense for this matchup. Maya would go onto drop 25 points, eleven in the first to give Minnesota a 30-23 first quarter edge. But Tina Charles, fresh off a 28 point performance against Tulsa in her last game, carried the Liberty again, fighting off aggressive double teams to tally 15 of her 30 this evening.
All but two were in the paint as every basket in that first half was crucial to keeping step with the champions, who had not lost in the last six games they encountered New York.
"Charles is starting to realize her responsibility on this team." Laimbeer explained. "She struggled a bit to understand, but she's comfortable right now with who this team is and what her responsibilities are both on and off the court. Its showing in her quality of her play."
But as Maya cooled off, Tina got help from Cappie Pondexter, 18 pts and 11 boards, Charles continued not only to score in the post consistently, she even had four assists, catching cutting guards like Sugar Rodgers and Cappie to keep things moving as she had 24 at the half to keep things even at the half
"We came out with a great level of intensity starting in warm-ups." Pondexter explained. "We showed our resilience, composure and just commitment to winning this game today."
The difference throughout was a Liberty defense that tharted the Lynx guards, without Seimone Augustus services today due to left knee Bursitis, and it sparked an excellent transition attack off of 13 turnovers which bagged 16 points. Bench help from Sugar Rodgers and Plenette Pierson, who had ten, gave the Liberty four players in double digits. Former 2011 Lynx championship member Chande Houston scrapped for balls and hit a drive while receiving a cross paint pass to score twice herself.
"Our focus, just us being engaged and growing as a team." Charles pointed out. "Just individuals trying to get better everyday when we are at practice and being attentive to what coaches want from each and every one of us and being disciplined." Maya Moore received help but her presence was less telling until the fourth.
"Our ball movement wasn't as good as the first." Moore admitted. "When they ramp up their defensive pressure we have to ramp up all the little things you do before you catch the ball."
The Liberty carried a four point lead into the fourth quarter and had to hold on dear life. Maya Moore last points on a layup got the Lynx to 80-78 with under two minutes left. But smart play on a Charles pass to a cutting Pondexter and Ana Cruz put the finishing touches with ten, one on a nifty one handed finger roll in answer to Moore basket. The Liberty ran the last few seconds off and when the horn blew, the Liberty had a signature win and extended their win streak to three.
"It was a quality win for us." Laimbeer summarized. "We were able to keep our composure throughout the game. But we are so far away from where we have to go." Tina Charles was pleased but cautious. "We are going to enjoy this win but we know we have to stay humble." Charles reminded. "We are maybe in fifth place right now so we still have more improvements to make."