Special to the AmNews
“We’re a tired basketball team right now. We knew that going into the game,” said coach Bill Laimbeer after the New York Liberty’s 81-76 home court loss to the Tulsa Shock. Coming off a physically draining 90-78 win over the Connecticut Sun the night before, the Liberty could not match the Shock, who were intent on snapping a 10-game losing streak and staying in playoff contention.
“We put a dent in our armor. We know we’re not perfect,” said Laimbeer. “Everybody’s still gunning for us because they know we’re on top. We’ve accomplished nothing so far. All we’ve done is put ourselves in a position to have an opportunity to be successful this year, but there’s still a heck of a long way to go.”
Despite the disappointing loss, Madison Square Garden was hopping, filled with youth basketball players. After the Liberty-Shock game, there was an exhibition featuring the Charlottesville Cavaliers, an under-11 team that was disqualified from the National Travel Basketball Association tournament in Myrtle Beach, S.C., because a girl, Kymora Johnson, is on the team.
“They all share the ball. They all trust each other,” said Isaiah Michie, one of the Cavaliers’ coaches. “[This experience] is going to make them that much closer so next year they’ll probably play even better. … Kymora has a lot of potential.”
Also on hand were players from the Junior Liberty Basketball League, a partnership between the Liberty and the New York City Department of Youth and Community Development, who were introduced on court at the start of the Liberty-Shock game. Since July 13, high school girls have been participating in organized games around New York City, which will conclude Aug. 26 at the MSG Training Center in Westchester, N.Y.
“There’s a great need for resources for teens, so we want to make sure that we’re doing our best to provide them with exciting opportunities that will help them grow,” said Natalie Leary, director of community partnerships and outreach at DYCD. “We hope it will give them the spirit and the confidence to know that they can conquer anything they set their minds to, whether it’s basketball or something in education. We hope it sparks their interest in continuing to live to their highest potential.”
The Liberty return to the Garden this Friday to face the Atlanta Dream.