New York Liberty
(Photo by Michael J. LeBrecht II/NBAE via Getty Images)

In their 2018 home finale, the New York Liberty took an early lead on the Atlanta Dream, but came up short after a cold third quarter.

Eliminated from playoff contention and perhaps destined for the worst record in franchise history, the New York Liberty true to form in a brutal season, would not go quietly into the night. However, like so many other valiant efforts this season, it went for naught, as they came up on the wrong side of the scoreboard in the final game of the season at Westchester County Center.

Renee Montgomery put up 30 points, sinking eight from three-point range, helping spur an Atlanta Dream comeback, leading to an 86-77 win over the Liberty on Sunday in their home finale.

“They popped us in the mouth at the start of the second half and that’s all she wrote,” head coach Katie Smith said of the third quarter. “I tired to tell them at half that they’re not going to stop. We have to come right back out because they’re going to come right back out with a lot of energy, same as we did in the first half.”

Appropriately, the home slate ended with a strong Tina Charles performance, as she sank 26 points and grabbed eight rebounds.

“Atlanta just wanted it more. Katie had warned us that they were going to come out a different team,” Charles admitted. “We came out sloppy, and they came out hungry. The third quarter is what propelled them to the victory.”

3rd Star: Kiah Stokes

Stokes tallied 11 rebounds for the second consecutive game, this time coming off the bench to crack double figures. If she keeps this pace up over the team’s final quarter, it’s like she’ll pass Sue Wicks for fourth all-time in rebounds. Following Sunday’s game, she’s 24 boards away from tying the Liberty legend.

2nd Star: Rebecca Allen

Allen has now set a new season-high in points in back-to-back games, posting 16 on the scoresheet, just three short of her career personal best. With injuries forcing Allen to take a bigger role in the lineup, the Australia native has risen to the occasion.

Allen somewhat brushed off her personal contributions, instead speaking of a team effort from the limited squad.

“Everyone coming off the bench needs to be aggressive,” she said. “Our team has been limited due to injuries, so we all need to step up in our own ways.”

1st Star: Tina Charles

Seconds after the Liberty’s final game on homecourt, which also served as Fan Appreciation Day, Charles remained on the hardwood, or at least the outskirts, to greet every single young Liberty fan who approached her. Selfies were snapped, souvenirs were signed, smiles were saved. After the game, Charles thanked the fans for their commitment to the team.

“I’m just very thankful for the fans coming out and supporting us. I know a lot of season ticket holders commuted from far to support us here in Westchester. We have very dedicated fans and I appreciate them so much.”

How It Was Decided

Once again, the Liberty had a solid showing going against a strong opponent, with Atlanta fighting for the second league playoff seed, and the automatic semifinal bid that comes with it. They led by as much as 14 and taking a 48-37 lead into the halftime locker room. A third-quarter defensive swoon, however, became their downfall.

Atlanta shot 11-for-18 in the frame, embarking on a 21-2 run, weaponizing the three-ball in the dependable hands of Montgomery. The Dream won the quarter 32-10, giving the Liberty a brutal hill to climb over the final 10 minutes.

“We didn’t score the basketball and we didn’t find Montgomery,” Smith said. “It isn’t a secret that she’s a three-baller. She hit seven against us in Atlanta. Everybody knew that once she starts to hit one or two, things get rolling. You have to get in her space and communicate with each other.”

Game Notes

  • The Liberty played with eight players due to injuries. Lingering ailments kept Shavonte Zellous, Marissa Coleman, and Epiphanny Prince out, while Amanda Zauhi B. was forced out due to hip soreness.
  • With their 23rd loss of the season, the Liberty have tied their single-season franchise record in defeats, also clinch the mark in 2006 and 2013, the latter also suffered under a first-year head coach, Bill Laimbeer.
  • The Liberty finish the 2018 season 4-13 at home, including a 4-11 mark at Westchester County Center.

What’s Next

The Liberty will embark on a four-game road trip to end the season, starting with a visit to the Los Angeles Sparks on Tuesday (10:00 p.m. ET, MSG+/NBATV).

Last week in White Plains, the Liberty took the Sparks to the brink, with the latter escaping with an 82-81 victory. Los Angeles won the first meeting at Staples Center by an 80-54 final on June 24.

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