From the outset, the Liberty's season was billed as a rebuilding year. A roster brimming with new faces -- Essence Carson is the only player left from the team's 2013 roster -- forebode early hardship. But with Tina Charles as the foundation, the process has been anything but tumultuous.
Charles, the 2010 No. 1 pick from UConn who was selected to her fourth All-Star Game, scored nine of her 22 points in a pivotal quarter for the Liberty in its 64-57 win over the Connecticut Sun at Madison Square Garden last night.
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At 9-5, the Liberty, which finished in fifth place in the Eastern Conference in its previous two seasons, is tied for first with the Chicago Sun with three games left before the All-Star break.
"It's a new group," Charles said, "but we've come together in a short amount of time."
Trailing by as many as nine points in the second quarter, the Liberty began to pound the ball inside to its former MVP, who had 12 rebounds.
"Not a good first half," Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer said. "We came out and said whoever has the most energy the rest of the game was going to win."
Charles hit a 15-foot jumper with 8:15 left in the third to bring the Liberty to within 33-32. Her free throw 40 seconds later tied it.
From there, the Liberty's energy spiked. In the fourth, Charles put her head down, drove hard to the right side and converted a contested layup to give the Liberty a 54-50 advantage with 9:30 left. Three minutes later, Swin Cash's three-pointer from the corner made it 60-54.
Epiphanny Prince, who scored 10 points and was playing in her second home game as a member of the Liberty, hit a jumper from the foul line on the team's next possession.
Any chance the Sun had at a comeback was swatted by Kiah Stokes. The rookie center from UConn set a franchise record with eight blocks, five in the fourth quarter.
"I love that kid," Charles said. "This team wouldn't be where it is without her."
After Stokes stuffed Kelsey Bone with 4:15 left for her final block of the night, an animated Charles rushed over to give her a chest bump.
"When I heard I broke the record, I was excited," Stokes said. "I'm glad my teammates are trusting me. But I'm honestly just glad we got the win."