Liberty Close Out Newark Era, Katie Smith Honored
Added by Luis Vazquez on September 12, 2013.
Katie Smith was honored prior to the game. (Photo by Marlene Amaya-Vazquez)
The night was all about Katie Smith. Though the New York Liberty were still fighting to make the playoffs and put forth one of their best efforts this season, they fell short 80-76 to the Britney Griner and the Phoenix Mercury. However, the determination that Katie Smith, 39, showed last night produced a vintage performance in the final home game of her career.
“She ran a great floor game, organized our ball club, and got us in the right spots,” coach Bill Laimbeer said, “And she had to guard Taurasi, and that’s a chore in itself.”
Before the game Smith was honored by teammates, former rivals, and the fans. A video showing a series of photos highlighting great moments in her career was a statement of accomplishment. A two-time WNBA champion, Finals MVP, seven-time All-Star, three time Olympic champion, and second leading scorer in WNBA history, Katie was brought to tears.
The Liberty (11-21) came out inspired and without Cappie Pondexter, who was in civilian clothes this evening. DeWanna Bonner tortured the Liberty early with her three-point shooting, eventually leading with 18 points but Smith, who scored 17 this evening with three assists, was able to keep the team close. The Liberty effort on every play was evident and as Laimbeer shuttled in players regularly in an attempt to keep fresh players to combat the Mercury size and athleticism.
“I thought our effort was what we were supposed to give.” Laimbeer commented. “It’s been lacking throughout the course of the year. I thought we came out with the effort necessary to win a basketball game. They made some shots and we didn’t.”
The inside play even favored the Liberty as Kara Braxton and Kelsey Bone used their size and agility in the paint to offset Britney Griner’s size and athletic gifts, making her look very average at times. They adjusted to Bonner but using Young to defend her out on the line while Diana Taurasi was kept in check for the most part still got 17. Alex Montgomery’s play was excellent and her shooting tied the game in the second rallying the Liberty at that point and getting them to within a point after trailing by ten. “We fought so hard and it was great to see the effort tonight,” Katie Smith said.
Alex Montgomery drives through tight defense. (Photo by Marlene Amaya-Vazquez)
The Liberty were down only two going into the fourth and down six with less than a minute, the Liberty showed grit by getting two key baskets and getting three big defensive stops. However down by two and with the ball at half court with nine seconds left, the word that doomed a season, turnover, showed again as Katie Smith inbounds pass was intercepted before it got to Bone. The end was bittersweet but Katie Smith has plans.
“There’s always time to figure out what’s next,” Smith said. “I’m a little nervous about the unknown, but I’m sure it will all work out.”
Smith wants to stay in the game and coaching is something that is on her mind.
“I’ve had some conversations with Bill and we’ll see what happens,” Smith said.
The Liberty has two more road games in Indiana and Washington to close this season. Many players will be going overseas, Cappie to Turkey, Alex to France, among others at the close. But in 2014, the New York Liberty will be back in the city as they will return to Madison Square Garden. Changes have to be made in some areas while prudence will have to be shown in others. Cappie shared what needs to be done to change the fortune of the WNBA’s New York franchise.
“Obviously a lot has to change next year, new mindsets, just a whole new way of thinking. We have the pieces to potentially be to contenders to be a championship team,” Cappie explained. “We’re moving back into the garden and it’s going to be a whole new atmosphere. I’m sure we can build off of that.”