New York, NY — The Phoenix Mercury and New York Liberty met Sunday at Madison Square Garden, both teams hungry for a win. The Mercury (4-3) looked to stay hot after winning four of their last five games. However, they were no match to the Liberty (4-3), who have split their last eight home games but were able to pull out a victory for their 7,831 cheering fans in attendance Sunday afternoon.
The game marked the first time New York has won back to back home games since last July.
“I think we’ve put in a lot of effort in practice, that was the biggest thing. We came in focused and went back to having fun,” said Kiah Stokes on the Liberty’s back-to-back victories.
“We know it’s going to be tough without Kia (Vaughn) and Piph [Epiphanny Prince] and Brittany [Boyd] but practices have been tough and intense. More people have had their confidence go up after these practices because we’ve been working so hard.”
New York started the game out on a 6-0 run. Standing at 6’3”, center Kiah Stokes tallied a total of 10 points for the Liberty, with center Tina Charles contributing six more.
Guard Danielle Robinson and center Brittney Griner led the Mercury with four points individually, but they couldn’t measure up to New York. The Liberty controlled the first quarter, 23-16.
New York continued to take charge into the next stanza. They went on a 7-0 in the second quarter, until they were interrupted by two sets of foul shots by Griner. That was the first of many (15) points the 6’9” center tallied for Phoenix in the second. The Mercury ended the first half trailing 47-41, keeping them within range to possibly win the game.
But, despite a total of 26 points from Griner and 17 more from Diana Taurasi, the Liberty refused to give up the lead in the Big Apple. In the second half, Stokes landed a career-high 23 points and added 14 rebounds. It's the second straight game that Stokes has had a career high in points and finished with a double-double.
“I have to give credit to my teammates, they found me when I was open,” stated Stokes. “That helps a lot. I know I can rebound so I tried to get some offensive rebounds in there too. I give credit to my teammates, they found me when I was open, that’s all I can ask for.”
“She’s in a good place, has good progress and has been working very hard,” said New York’s coach Bill Laimbeer. “I had to have the younger players step up. One of those younger girls is Kiah Stokes. We’re all in it together. We’re still finding our way with the personnel. We were getting a little lethargic, so I had to get some different people in the game.”
One of those people was forward Shavonte Zellous. The 5-10 Florida native contributed 21-points and helped guide the Liberty to an 88-72 victory.
“We’re pointing towards getting better right now. We have a good focus right now and we’re hoping this continues. We’ll have moments where we stub our toe and go backwards, there’s no doubt about it. All we can do is be there mentally and physically and put in the effort to win it,” Laimbeer said.
Both teams were neck and neck with rebounds – Phoenix with 37 and New York with 36. The Mercury shot 34.8% from the field and 35.3% from the three-point line, while the Liberty went 43.3% and 7.7% from the three.
Next up, the Mercury will finish off a three-game road trip in Indiana against the Fever on Wednesday. The Liberty will also play on Wednesday, as they host the Atlanta Dream.