WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — Bill Laimbeer was sitting on the visiting bench and holding court Sunday at Westchester County Center before his Las Vegas Aces took on the Liberty, the team he used to coach. He expressed sympathy for Katie Smith, his former top assistant and player, who moved up last season to fill his large shoes.
“I feel bad for her right now because she’s not winning and she’s a quality coach,” Laimbeer said. “It’ll come. They’ve got to get something good to happen for them. Hopefully it’s not [today].”
But indeed it was the day.
The Liberty had dropped their first four games and 17 straight overall — tied for the third-longest skid in WNBA history. But they won for the first time since last July 15, outlasting the Aces, 88-78, behind 21 points and eight rebounds from Tina Charles, 17 points, six rebounds and six assists from North Babylon native Bria Hartley and 15 points from Kia Nurse. Amanda Zahui B had nine points, nine rebounds and five blocks.
“It means a lot,” Charles said. “This organization, when I got here [in 2014], was one of the top organizations. We just knew we were going into the playoffs, and I can’t say that right now. So hopefully we can turn that around with this group.”
Charles’ group held 6-8 center and 2018 scoring champ Liz Cambage to 5-for-14 shooting and 17 points. Kayla McBride scored 25, but the Liberty also held 2018 Rookie of the Year A’ja Wilson to 2-for-10 shooting and five points.
“I just have to say that we were definitely poised,” Charles said.
“I thought from start to finish, it was probably our best game since the time I’ve been here as the head coach for the last year for the 40-minute energy locked in,” Smith said. “It feels good [to win].”
“I think it does a lot for us, especially against a team that’s so talented like the Aces. I think it shows that everyone believes on this team that we can compete with anyone in this league.”