Led by a dominant performance from Tina Charles, the New York Liberty secured a come from behind, 81-77 victory over the Seattle Storm Wednesday in Seattle.
The Storm got off to a poor start, as a combination of poor defensive effort and several early unforced turnovers, allowed the Liberty to double up on Seattle, by a score of 26-13 at the end of the first period.
In previous contests, the young Storm squad might have folded under the pressure of such a bad first quarter. This was far from the case, however, as Seattle responded with a monstrous second quarter, that saw them hold the Liberty to 14 points while pouring in 32 of their own on 14-18 shooting, including 4-4 from three. After the onslaught, the Storm would take a 45-40 lead into the half.
"It started on defense" Storm guard Sue Bird said of the second quarter performance. "(W)e got out and started feeling good and things kind of found a place for us and we were able to come back."
The second half would see the eastern conference leading Liberty slowly chip away at the Storm's lead. By the start of the 4th quarter, Seattle held just a single point advantage after being held to 13 points in the third quarter.
The final period would be a back and forth battle that would leave the game in doubt until the final seconds.
With only 27.9 seconds to play, Ramu Tokashiki hit two free throws to keep the Storm within a single point at 78-77. Liberty rookie Kia Stokes was intentionally fouled on the next possession, and after swishing her first free throw, her second attempt rattled around, hitting seemingly every portion of the rim before falling through to give the Liberty a three-point edge.
The Storm were unable to score on the ensuing possession, and were forced to foul Swin Cash, who sank her first foul shot before intentionally missing her second to ensure that the clock would run down, preventing the Storm from having any chance at a miracle comeback in the waning moments.
"We just had to grind the game out," said Tina Charles, who finished with a game and personal season high 30 points. "We knew they'd won the past two games. They played hard and executed their plays. We just collectively came together and willed ourselves to win."
The loss, which snapped the Storm's two-game winning streak did show that Seattle is beginning to be able to hold its own against the league's elite opponents.
"New York is a very good team," said Storm head coach Jenny Boucek. "They are playing very well right now, very confident. They have a lot of talent, a lot of weapons, a lot of size, and sometimes during the game they just simply overpowered us."
Paced by the 30 points of Charles who added five rebounds, the Liberty also received a standout performance from Tanisha Wright in her first return to the building where she played the first 10 years of her career. In 29 minutes of action Wright scored 12 points, pulled down a game-high tying six rebounds and also dished out five assists.
"It was just all about the game," said Wright of her homecoming. "It was nice to be back and see everybody, but it was about the game."
Also reaching double figures for New York was Epiphanny Prince, who finished with 10 points and five assists.
Seattle was led by 14 apiece of Ramu Tokashiki and Sue Bird. Tokashiki also contributed four rebounds and two blocks. Bird, who was named an all-star for the ninth time during the fourth quarter, added a game-high seven assists.
Storm forward Crystal Langhorne also reached double figures, scoring 13 points and pulling down five rebounds in the losing effort.