SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS- The San Antonio Stars returned home Saturday night with lessons learned. Stars Head Coach Dan Hughes and his young squad are coming off a three-game losing streak, including their worst loss of the season Thursday night against the Phoenix Mercury.
The wounds fresh, the Stars opened their three-game homestand with the New York Liberty at AT&T Center, determined to use moments like Tuesday's 100-77 loss as motivation.
At the core for San Antonio guard Kayla McBride, who is in her third season with the team. McBride got the Stars in a rhythm early with a three-point shot, off an assist by Jayne Appel-Marinelli.
McBride returned the favor on an assist to Appel-Marinelli, and teammate forward Monique Currie, followed suit with a jumper to put San Antonio up 7-6. However, New York's Sugar Rodgers and Tina Charles, did not waste anytime letting the Stars know that this was going to be a battle of the brawn.
Rodgers got six points early with a driving layup to put the Liberty up, 12-9. Charles tacked on two more on an assist by Tanisha Wright, to widen the gap to five. Stars guard Haley Peters, put up impressive numbers. Peters came off the bench with back-to-back three-point shots to bring San Antonio within one, 20-21.
The Stars continued to build on their early momentum, opening the second quarter with a 7-0 run. Peters hit her third three-point shot of the night early, followed by guard Sydney Colson's jumper to give San Antonio their first lead since early in the first, 27-26.
The first half was nothing short of a seesaw ride, with 12 lead changes and five ties; both teams continuing throughout, to tip the scale in their favor. The Stars found themselves in early foul trouble, forcing Hughes to play small and call upon his bench early. They did not disappoint. Most impressively, was center Astou Ndour, who answered with six points early, two of which came on a layup to give the Stars the lead, 37-35.
For San Antonio, history would repeat itself, as they found themselves unable to limit the number of fouls, with eight of New York's 18 points coming from free throws in the third quarter. But Ndour's three-point shot late in the quarter would keep the Stars within two, and within contention to break their three-game losing streak.
"With the massive foul trouble we had in the post, what we got off the bench really helped us in a lot of ways and gave us a chance, to be honest with you," explained Coach Hughes, "That's what you hope for."
However, the effort from the Stars proved too daunting, as the Liberty went on an offensive tear. The catalyst being none other than Charles, whose jumper followed by back-to-back assist to Shavonte Zellous, broke open the gap, giving New York a 76-66 lead.
Coach Hughes called a timeout to slow down the Liberty's drive, only to have both Rodgers and Charles, respond with a three-point shot and driving layup, respectively, to seal San Antonio's fate.
"The way San Antonio was playing me," expressed Charles, "I was able to get Z [Shavonte Zellous] some great looks a way to read their defense and everything like that, and Sugar [Rodgers] made some great shots. So it was just an all-around great effort. Everyone who came in the game, it was a team effort, team win."
The Liberty's 90-75 win tonight gives New York their fifth win of the season (5-4), and extends San Antonio's losing streak to four (1-7). And while the Liberty are playing slightly over .500, that doesn't concern Head Coach Bill Laimbeer.
"Nothing has really changed," said Laimbeer, "Three of our four losses have been, two to LA and one to Minnesota, the undefeated teams. And we kicked one of those away. So we're still plugging away at it."
The Liberty play the Dallas Wings on Tuesday night in New York, while the Stars will face Seattle.