Tina Charles walked into Madison Square Garden on Friday ready to face the Connecticut Sun, her former team, for the second time since being traded to the Liberty on April 14. But Charles didn't have any thoughts of revenge on her mind, not on this night. Her mood was more of a charitable one.
Prior to the game, it was announced that Charles will donate half of her WNBA salary to Hopey's Heart Foundation, a charity she founded in honor of her aunt, Maureen "Hopey" Vaz, who passed away of multiple organ failure in March 2013.
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"When I started Hopey's Heart Foundation, I just wanted something to be in my aunt's name," Charles said. "I didn't know the magnitude of the impact it would have on others. But as they say, wherever your treasure is, your heart will be, also. And for me, that's Hopey's Heart Foundation."
Charles' foundation provides health education, CPR training, and AEDs in schools, communities and recreational centers. Charles will donate approximately $50,000 of her $100,000 salary, according to The Associated Press.
"It was natural, a no-brainer," Charles said. "It was something that popped into my mind and I said, 'I'm going to do this.' "
Before the game, Charles was honored for her charitable efforts with the WNBA Cares Community Assist Award. The WNBA and State Farm, the sponsor of the award, will donate $7,500 to Charles' foundation on her behalf, a news release said.
But the good news did not translate to good fortune for the Liberty, who fell to Connecticut, 83-75, after mounting a second-half comeback that fell just short.
After falling behind 46-26 at the half, the Liberty (3-7) outscored the Sun, who played Thursday night, as well, 49-37 in the second. Charles, who led all scorers with 25 points, hit a fadeaway jump shot in the key with 2:47 left to cut the Sun (5-6) lead to 76-71.
After an Alex Bentley jumper gave the Sun a 78-71 lead, Connecticut committed a defensive three-second violation on the Liberty's next possession. Cappie Pondexter, who scored 20 points, hit the technical free throw but, with 1:38 left, the Liberty committed a shot-clock violation, unable to capitalize on the opportunity.
"We're not great at shot-clock recognition," coach Bill Laimbeer said. "We've had a few of those. The ball ended up in Alex [Montgomery's] hand and she has to shoot it. She's a reluctant shooter. We need better shot-clock management."
But the shot-clock woes weren't what bothered Laimbeer the most about the loss. It was the "lack of effort" to begin the game.
"The WNBA is a really difficult league to get a win in," he said. "I've impressed upon them that they have to play a consistent 40 minutes of maximum effort just to get a win. We're not a great team. We don't have talent all over the map. We have some pieces. But if we don't play with maximum effort for 40 minutes, we're not going to win. I've been telling them that all through the first part of the season. They hear the words but don't embrace it . . . I saw it in Connecticut's eyes, they came to play. The intensity level wasn't there for how hard they were going to have to play just to get a win and it showed."
Charles "totally agreed" with her coach's assessment: "You don't teach effort, especially when you're in the WNBA. You learn effort along the way. By the time you get here, that is something that should be in your DNA. Effort should be our identity."
Connecticut was led by Bentley's 24 points. Chiney Ogwumike scored 20 points.