New York, NY — Epiphanny Prince and Kia Vaughn are abroad. Brittany Boyd is gone for the season. Tina Charles, however, is neither of those things and this Friday night, she put the short-handed Liberty on her back.
The center posted a career-high 36 points on 56-percent shooting with two made threes to propel the Liberty to a 93-89 win over the Wings.
“This win was excruciatingly important for us,” Laimbeer said after the game. “If we lost this game especially down at the end when we had the game won, that would have been a heart-stopping moment.”
It was not easy though. Dallas cut the lead to two with 36 seconds to play on a Kaela Davis drive and-1. Sugar Rodgers had a chance to ice the game -- she missed two free throws.
On the other end, Kiah Stokes grabbed a board off a Skylar Diggins-Smith miss but stepped out of bounds and gave it back to Dallas. The Wings couldn’t capitalize on the extra possession.
Charles extended the Liberty lead to four with 20 seconds to play, and after the Wings cut the deficit to two with 13 seconds to play, Rodgers put the game out of reach with two free throws of her own and her only points of the game.
“This is definitely an important win especially not having Epiphanny Prince and Kia Vaughn,” Tina Charles said. “It’s definitely a great win for us, especially at home.”
Shavonte Zellous also shined. She posted a season-high 27 points and eight rebounds. With the Liberty leading by three within the one-minute mark, Zellous drove hard to the hoop to extend the lead to 89-84.
“We asked more of her in the last couple of days,” Laimbeer said of Zellous. “We said we needed her to step up and look more for her shot and she did, and the results proved it.”
The Liberty trailed by as many as seven in the third, but it stormed back to end the quarter on a 14-2 run and took a five-point lead into the final frame. Charles put an exclamation point on the run with a bucket in the final seconds.
New York took its first lead since the beginning of the second quarter on a Charles bucket to make it 65-64 with just under three to play in the third.
After the Liberty cut the Wings lead to 53-51, Dallas went on an 11-4 run and led by seven with just under five to play in the third period. That came from back-to-back New York turnovers, resulting in a Diggins-Smith two and a pair of free throws for Karima Christmas-Kelly.
For the Wings, Diggins-Smith led the way with 19 points and Theresa Plaisance added 18 with four made threes.
After Charles hit a turnaround jumper to knot the score at 44 with 1:35 to play in the second quarter, Gray put the Wings right back up with a tough drive and lay-in at the basket.
With the first half clock ticking down, Diggins-Smith silenced the Madison Square Garden crowd, getting an easy lay in after a defensive lapse by the Liberty. The Wings led by five at the half.
The Wings will have to bounce back quickly as they head to Indiana for a meeting with the Fever tomorrow night. The Liberty will look for two straight wins when they host Phoenix on Sunday at 3 p.m.