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Storm Chasers (Seattle-New York WNBA Recap; 06.11.17)

Robert Cole/ALOST
What could have been a problematic stretch of games without a couple of key players away on international duty turned out quite nicely for Bill Laimbeer's Liberty, who are now the winners of four straight. (Robert Cole/ALOST)
What could have been a problematic stretch of games without a couple of key players away on international duty turned out quite nicely for Bill Laimbeer’s Liberty, who are now the winners of four straight. (Robert Cole/ALOST)

NEW YORK — Shavonte Zellous hit a three-pointer to ignite a 14-3 game-ending run as the New York Liberty ended its home stand by defeating the Seattle Storm 94-86 on Sunday afternoon. With the win, the Liberty extended its winning streak to four and ended the five-game home stand with a 4-1 record.

Tina Charles and Sugar Rodgers each scored 21 points for the Liberty, with the latter scoring nine of her points in the fourth quarter – all from the free throw line. Zellous ended the game with 16 points, seven in the decisive fourth. New York’s winning streak is made all the more impressive given that it started after the departure of guard Epiphanny Prince and forward Kia Vaughn from the team, as they left for the Czech Republic to compete in this month’s FIBA EuroBasket women’s basketball world championships.

“You just don’t know what’s going to happen when you lose players like that,” said New York Liberty head coach Bill Laimbeer. “But, hey, let’s give this group we have right here all the credit in the world. They’re playing together; they’re understanding themselves; they’re learning, they’re getting better everyday.”

After Zellous’s three-pointer, guard Bria Hartley stole the ball from Storm guard Jewel Loyd and raced in for a layup to give the Liberty a two-point lead. That was one of three steals that Hartley had in the quarter, while Rodgers had two thefts in the frame which came in back-to-back Storm possessions. The first led to a Zellous layup for an 89-84 lead and the second led to two free throws from Rodgers for a 91-84 lead with 43.7 seconds left.

Seattle committed eight turnovers in the fourth quarter alone – as many as the Liberty had the entire game.

“When we take care of the basketball, we’re going to be hard to beat,” said Laimbeer. “And we did tonight. We gave up 86 points, but I told our players at the end of the day that we won the game on defense. We made all the right plays down the stretch defensive-wise, and that led to two easy baskets on the offensive end to put the game away.”

The Storm were lead by Breanna Stewart’s 23 points, but she only played 2:54 of the fourth quarter as she was plagued by fouls before eventually fouling out. Guard Sue Bird, the native of New York City who played in what might be her last game professionally at Madison Square Garden, scored 19 and had 10 assists, as she also hit four of her five three-point attempts. Bird’s backcourt partner, Jewell Loyd, scored 21.

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