Queens native Tina Charles made her first New York appearance with the Washington Mystics last Saturday. She was greeted with enthusiastic applause and given a fond tribute video celebrating her six seasons with the New York Liberty, but she came to win. Charles put on a decisive 31-point, 16 rebound performance, but she didn’t notch the win. Despite trailing by 18 points at the half, the Liberty prevailed 82–79.
It has been a time of change for the Liberty. On June 30, the team waived post player Kiah Stokes, the lone holdover from the Charles era. The following day, the Liberty signed Reshanda Gray to a remainder of season contract.
It has also been a time of accolades, with Rutgers alumna Betnijah Laney being named to the upcoming WNBA All-Star Game. To make things even sweeter, Liberty forward Michaela Onyenwere was named WNBA Rookie of the Month for June. Guard Jazmine Jones continues to make an impact coming off the bench, receiving Player of the Game in the win over the Mystics.
The Liberty win was especially sweet after suffering a tough loss (by 29 points) to the Mystics in May. The general consensus is this young team is coming together.
“We’re starting to gel more, starting to get our chemistry down, starting to figure things out,” said Jones. “We just knew we had to stick to our game plan, stick to our defensive principles. The fight and the effort and the energy, that’s going to always be there throughout the game—whether we’re hitting shots or not.
“No matter what, top to bottom, we’re always going to go out there and give 110%,” she added. “We turned up the defensive intensity in the second half, and the energy and effort are always there. Then, we fought back. This team has a lot of heart and a lot of pride.”
Jones said the goal was if Charles was the only Mystic scoring in double digits, then the Liberty would prevail, and that proved to be the case. Five Liberty players—Laney, Onyenwere, Ionescu, Gray and Jones all scored in double figures.
“Comeback wins are tough,” said Liberty head coach Walt Hopkins. “Coming back from a really flat start and finding a way to actually close that game out…the more often that they’re able to do that, they really can start to believe in their capacity to close out games. From a long-term perspective, that’s really big.”
The Liberty’s final home game at Barclays Center before the Olympic break is next Sunday versus the Connecticut Sun.