Liberty Clinch Home Court Advantage Throughout WNBA Playoffs
The New York Liberty of 2015 has exceeded expectations on so many levels. They also are quickly becoming the most accomplished. There have been many great Liberty teams in WNBA history. But there is only one thing that keeps them from completing the attire, a championship. New York defeated the Connecticut Sun (14-19) 74-64 last night to ensure that that they will have home court advantage for their entire playoff run.
The win broke the franchise record as they secured their 23rd victory against only nine losses with two games to play in this most exciting of seasons. New York is the first team from the East to be the number one seed since 2007 when head coach Bill Laimbeer led the Detroit Shock. This season has to be affirmation of his coaching quality once he was provided the weapons he needed.
The most dangerous one he brings is Epiphanny Prince, who was the leading scorer last night with 25 points to go along with seven boards and five assists. Prince has brought the deadly scoring needed on the outside to balance Tina Charles inside game. It was her fifth 2o point game of the season and Epiphanny has scored in double digits in all but one game since arriving from Europe.
“She means a lot to the team. She’s one of the best two guards in the league,” Bill Laimbeer said of Prince. “She has some of the quickest hands we’ve ever seen in the women’s game from our experience.”
The Liberty started fast jumping out to 9-0 and 14-5 leads early on. They were clicking on all cylinders. The recent loss of Brittany Boyd due to wrist surgery did not impact this evening. Her replacement Erica Wheeler is competent but has a lot to learn quickly. The burden was easily picked up by Tanisha Wright, who is leading by example and when necessary verbally. She got 11 tonight. Essence Carson looked smooth scoring seven as well with an important three tonight.
Tina Charles (16 points, 13 rebounds) was a force on the boards tonight and along with Carolyn Swords (10 rebounds) dominated the boards 44-32 offsetting former Liberty player Kelsey Bone.
“We tried to contain Prince and Charles, run transitions, and move the ball but we are shorthanded,” replied Sun head coach Ann Donovan.
Bone however led the charge with 19 points and 10 boards of her own to go along with Chelsea Gray, who hit for 16 points to cut the large New York lead to only six in the fourth. “We tried to battle back,” Gray explained. “We’re going to take that effort and bring it to the next game.”
But Epiphanny restored order whenever it was needed as she hit the key jumpers, including three of four from the three line to hold off Connecticut and defend the home court for 7, 898 fans on Fan Appreciation Day.
“I was just taking what the defense gave me and feeding off of my teammates,” Prince explained afterwards. “As a team, I think we can take each other far. The goal is to get a championship.”
Bill Laimbeer is pretty clear about the importance of gaining home court advantage. New York is 12-4 at Madison Square Garden.
“It means that if you win your home games you win the championship; that’s all it means,” Laimbeer said. “We don’t get bonuses or trophies for the regular season best record. If we win at home we’re the Champions.”
The Liberty host Washington on Friday and close out the regular season in Indiana on Sunday.
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