WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — The Liberty seemed to like everything about Tuesday morning’s matinee — except, that is, for the final score.
The team’s star and stalwart, Tina Charles, claimed the record for points scored with the team. Going up against Derek Fisher’s Los Angeles Sparks, they showed the energy and effort that was all but absent during their first two games of the season. And finally, the Westchester County Center — their court now after departing Madison Square Garden — seemed a little bit like home: packed solid with squealing children who were there for School Day.
And all that was great. Except they lost, again, 78-73, making it three straight losses to start the season, and 16 straight dating to last year. Charles led the Liberty with 21 points and 14 rebounds, giving her 3,248 points with the franchise, eclipsing Vickie Johnson. Sparks point guard Chelsea Gray led all scorers with 29 points, and Rashanda Gray scored 12 off the bench for the Liberty.
But there is a net positive, coach Katie Smith said. They’re getting closer.
“If we do this every single night, we compete like this, we’re going to win some ballgames,” she said. “After our last performance, this was a huge step forward. It was a great response after a disappointing game at Indiana [when they lost, 92-77]. I thought our defense was locked in from start to finish . . . I think it’s a building block and [make sure] we’re at least doing this, with the energy, the effort and the discipline.”
After trailing for large swaths of the second half, the Liberty (0-3) finally found their rhythm, with a 9-2 run that kicked off with Rebecca Allen’s corner three with 7:27 left to give them a 60-59 lead. The Sparks got the lead back on Kalani Brown’s layup, but Bria Hartley responded with a jumper, and Brittany Boyd scored the next four to put the Liberty up 66-61.
That was the biggest lead the Liberty would get, though, and the Sparks came charging back with a 13-3 run, capped by Gray’s three from the top of the key with 2:05 to go, good for a 74-69 Sparks lead.
Charles hit a jump shot to get the Liberty within three points with 1:04 left, but she missed a three-point attempt about 25 seconds later to help seal their fate. The Sparks had three blocks in the last 4:25 against a team that’s already been struggling to make shots.
Charles would have loved the win, but she did settle for the game ball, which she gave to her young cousin in attendance.
“It means the world to me,” to have the franchise record, said Charles, a New York native who grew up rooting for the Liberty. “For that to happen — I never would have imagined it, never would have envisioned it. I’m just grateful to play in my city, play in New York. It does mean a lot.”