New York City, NY - The final buzzer sounded, and the crowd erupted. Seconds later the center court message board proclaimed a New York Liberty victory and a return to the playoffs. Literally seconds following the message boards at the ends of Madison Square Garden had the announcement of when playoff tickets would be on sale. The Liberty's 81-68 victory over the Minnesota Lynx was a cause for celebration.
In a contest of conference leaders, the Liberty emerged victorious. The greater significance, as noted, was a return to the postseason for the first time in three years. Coach Bill Laimbeer was pleased naturally with the outcome and opportunity of s second season.
He remained on an even keel even quick to remind media that the Liberty defeated Minnesota last season. A year that was one less than desirable to remember and one that seems a part of the distant past. Laimbeer rather chose to be more enthusiastic about the idea, "that we are coming together as a team and competing every minute of every game."
The postgame Liberty locker room was not unlike the ones after earlier victories. Satisfaction over the win with a hint on what needed fixing. No cause for celebration though to a player, there was a sense of accomplishment knowing post season will be on the horizon.
"It (post season) is definitely satisfying," Liberty center Carolyn Swards said. "This is something we pointed to as a team from day one."
Tina Charles, so much a reason for the Liberty extending their season, added, "First it's great to have the win. Getting to the postseason is special to the franchise not having been in the playoffs for three years. But we have another game tomorrow."
Interestingly, Swords had touched on the same idea. After talking about playoff qualifying, Swords spoke more of the Connecticut Sun. The Liberty would tip off against a conference rival on the road in less than 24 hours. Swords spoke of what had to be done and how New York could not expect a leisurely trek to the Nutmeg state. The Liberty had dominated the Sun to date, but the home team would by no means be an easy ‘out'.
A night later New York left Mohegan Sun Arena with win number twenty. They withstood a challenge and responded with a well-earned road win.
A Liberty team, opponents, and observers noted for being much improved, is now entering the conversation of a contender. As in WNBA championship contender. No one is calling to reserve the Canyon of Heroes in New York as of yet.
Still, the Liberty are playing with a world of confidence, and, as Laimbeer noted that sense of purpose. Outstanding team defense has caught everyone's attention. Charles and Epiphanny Prince are the marquee players while there is an excellent cast.
Every contender has a detail or two to be addressed. Especially Minnesota, making do minus the injured Seimone Augusts. The Liberty? Their concerns are rebounding, which has gotten better of late and unforced turnovers, which can drive Laimbeer crazy.
The opposition, especially rival contenders, respects but does not fear the Liberty. The fan base, though, is having a special time in a special season. From Ring of Honor members to ‘celebrity row' through the long time season ticket holders and those boarding public transportation in Liberty jerseys making the commute to the Garden.
They admire this team with sincere adulation. Coaching axiom says ‘Sports do not build character but reveal it.' That is evident as the fan base watching the team share the ball, helping each other on defense and cheering for one another., leaves no doubt this is a team caring for each other on and off the floor.
To the New York fan, frustrated with the Knicks and/or disappointed in the Nets, the Liberty has provided a summer of hope. To those fans, MSG has become a true ‘Garden of Dreams'.