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Charles In Charge, Liberty Ride Veteran to Second Straight Win

by Luis Vazquez | Posted on Thursday, July 3rd, 2014
Pondexter goes up for a lay-up. (Photo by Marlene Amaya-Vazquez)

Pondexter goes up for a lay-up. (Photo by Marlene Amaya-Vazquez)

You don’t need to hit on all cylinders when you get an excellent team effort highlighted by an MVP performance like the one the New York Liberty got at Madison Square Garden this past Tuesday evening. Tina Charles exploded out of the gate, scoring New York’s first nine points, 13 in the first quarter and 20 of the Liberty’s first 40, en route to a 28 point, 14 rebound, two assist, two blocked shots performance.

Charles led the parade of scoring that drove New York to its second straight victory, 90-74, over the Tulsa Shock. The win improves New York to 6-11 on the season.

Head coach, Bill Laimbeer, liked what he saw this evening, especially from Charles.

“I thought we had a lot of great efforts tonight… Tina [Charles] set the tone early in the game just doing what she’s supposed to do… scoring buckets for us,” said Laimbeer. “She was very engaged. We talked the last couple of days about other ways to attack, and how to be in attack mode throughout the game and she went out and did it.”

“They came out with a lot of energy playing and as a team we didn’t and that made it tough. Tina (Charles) and Cappie (Pondexter) played really well for them and in the end that made the difference,” added Tulsa center Courtney Paris.

From the first possession, it was clear that Tina Charles was going to send Tulsa and the entire WNBA a message.

“I just wanted to carry the team as much as I can.  I work a lot on my game in practice and just trusting and having confidence in the individual workouts I do with Bill [Coach Bill Laimbeer] especially and putting them towards the game,” Tina explained. “The more I’m able to do for this team, the better it can push us to have a playoff berth.”

Tina was far from alone. Cappie Pondexter and Anna Cruz scored in double-digits and Avery Warley and Sugar Rodgers provided the grunt work on the defensive end which complemented the defensive tenacity which has been consistent for 40 minutes in two straight games now. Tina was excited by the results.

“It was a lot of fun playing today…It was a collective.  It was a great team effort,” said Charles.  “Everybody played hard.  We executed.  We were able to maintain their guards.  That’s a big thing for Tulsa’s game – are their guards with [Skylar] Diggins and [Odyssey] Simms especially.  We came out and really got going.”

Pondexter had a classic all-around performance, scoring 21 points herself to go with four boards and five assists as she broke down Tulsa guards with spin moves and creative penetration drives. The Liberty, as a result, led at the half 46-35. Coach Laimbeer sensed this would be a good evening for Cappie.

“There’s going to be those days when she wakes up on the wrong side of the bed physically. It’s going to happen. We are a little thin at that position to carry the day when it does happen to her. I have to play her sometimes when she doesn’t have it.” Laimbeer explained. “She was out there early today. I knew she was going to feel good because she was doing some extended shooting before the game. I mentioned to my assistants that if she is doing extended shooting so she must feel pretty good. It was a positive for us.”

Skylar Diggins showed a lot of pride as she put her team on her back and drove them back into this game by putting down 23 points, 16 in the third to help the Shock (6-10) stay in range 64-58 after three quarters.

“We played with a sense of urgency in the third quarter to cut down the lead and get it close but they had a good run in the fourth quarter. Tina (Charles) set the time for them right away and they played inspired. We have to do a better job helping each other; we have a lot of things to look at,” Diggins said afterwards.

Anna Cruz, more aggressive than we have seen her at any point this season, started late in the game finishing drives for scores, hitting jumpers to go with her normal rebounding and passing skills to add 17 points, 5 assists and rebounds, and two steals, one a breakaway which closed the third period and effectively and three impressive drives late to end the competitive aspect of this game in the fourth. “Anna, on top of that, played like she normally does – solid. She dogs the other team on defense.” Laimbeer added. “Between those three, they carried the day for us. But we had a lot of quality efforts from other players too, especially our bigs. We changed up our defense a little bit and I thought tonight it was a really good effort in showing what they’re capable of doing,” Laimbeer shared.

The Liberty will close their five game home stand against Maya Moore and the defending WNBA Champions, the Minnesota Lynx this Sunday afternoon at 2 pm in the Garden.

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