A sweet treat for Coach of the Year Bill Laimbeer presented itself, as a trio of energetic players contributed to the game three win over the Mystics: Candice Wiggins, Sugar Rodgers, and Tina Charles.
At the beginning of the game, Charles rhythm was disrupted by the Mystics as they planned to cover the Liberty's best player. Charles shot three of her 11 attempts in just the first half alone, although went four for four at the line.
Yet, teammates Wiggins and Rodgers attacked the rim in assistance. Rodgers said tonight's win was all about playing as a team overall.
"Defensive rebounds, sharing the ball, and having fun won the game tonight," said Rodgers.
The two off the bench, Wiggins and Rodgers, made a great co-op squad. Wiggins came in the first half with six points. Although it may seem like a few, her points came at pivotal moments.
New York went on a nine to two run with less than seven minutes to play in the second. Trailing by four, Wiggins hit a three-pointer to make it a close 27-26. Shortly after, Rodger's drove center for a layup to take the lead.
The two were positively bouncing between points.
In the next possession, Rodgers hit a deep 23-footer to advance the Liberty's lead. With ease, Wiggins then made her second three-pointer to take the lead to five. In one minute, Rodgers made seven points, another three-pointer, and four free throws, to give her tally at half an impressive 14 points to help the team lead 45-37. Charles is proud of Rodgers efforts in the game.
"Sugar's in the gym 24/7. We have practice, and she's there that night," said Charles. "She gets Teresa Weatherspoon to help out, and never lets up. She just wants to keep getting better. I'm really proud of her."
In the start of the third, Washington went on a 17 to six run that left the Liberty stunned. Charles had to physically earn each point and maintain confidence to stay up to her game speed.
Charles led the third going three for seven and was the only one to count in the attempts. Her tall figure grabbed six rebounds to help the team stay in the fight. Then, trailing 55-51, Wiggins remarkably hit back-to-back three-pointers to tie the third at 57, ending her shot series at 100%, all three-pointers, for 12 points.
Charles true game of confidence came in the final quarter.It was her picture of consistency during the most vigorous part of the game.
First, Rodgers, who shot two free throws to start the fourth in the lead, passed to Charles for the six-foot two-pointer to give New York a four-point advantage. Charles then noticed teammate Kiah Stokes in the paint as two more points added. After an answered shot by the Mystics, Charles hit a jumper to keep the continued lead.
While 5:20 remained, Charles and Rodgers, both missed their shots as Washington gained the lead 72-69. As the Madison Square Garden organ played, "Let's Go Liberty," Charles made an aggressive jumper in the paint to trail by one. From that momentum, Stokes and Rodgers pressed hard and made layups to give a 75-72 lead with 20 seconds on the clock.
Mystics Ivory Latta kept the game close with 74, yet, was blocked by Stokes at the top of the key for the three-point tie attempt and the possible shot at winning.
Charles went three for three in the final quarter, and totaled 22 points in the win. Noticeably, she maintained confidence as she attacked the glass for more shots. In addition, she used her height to pull 12 rebounds, which gave for the Liberty's 34 rebounds to Washington's 29.
The duo of Wiggins and Rodgers, who scored 20 points, combined a total 32 points and four rebounds.
The Mystics Latta with 18 points, along with the team's shooting percentage at 44% and 30 points in the paint came, gave New York a nail-biting close call.
"I give Washington a lot of credit. They had good game plans, and they played well," said Laimbeer. "We made the right plays at the right time, and made some shots at the right time and won the ball game. [Washington] could have easily won the ball game too."
The Liberty must prepare for the committed Indiana Fever, who scored 100 points in Monday's game that eliminated the MVP Elena Delle Donne.
"...I tell our players that no matter what your record is, and no matter what your seed is, it's never easy," said Laimbeer. "It's always going to be a grind in the playoffs; every game is going to be hard."