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Tina Charles, Shavonte Zellous lead Liberty to first victory

Liberty center Kiah Stokes, left, center Tina Charles

Liberty center Kiah Stokes, left, center Tina Charles and guard Shavonte Zellous, right, talk on the court during a game against the Lynx at Westchester County Center on Friday. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — The Wings came out hot Tuesday night at Westchester County Center, swishing shots and tossing the Liberty into a huge hole after one quarter.

Dallas still owned a double-digit lead early in the fourth, and the Liberty was on the brink of going 0-for-3 to start the season. But then it staged a furious charge. Tina Charles and Shavonte Zellous carried the team across the finish line.

Charles scored 18 of her 34 points in the final quarter and Zellous scored 19, including a go-ahead three in the final minute. So the Liberty gave Katie Smith her first win as head coach, beating the Wings, 94-89, overcoming 28 points and 16 rebounds from 6-8 Liz Cambage in the process.

“Just for them, the work that they put in, I’m just really happy for them to get this thing done today and just really get that kind of monkey off our back a little bit,” Smith said.

Zellous tossed up her three from the right side for an 89-86 lead with 34.4 seconds remaining.

“With the shot clock going down, you’ve got to make something happen,” Zellous said. “And that’s what I did.”

Charles then hit two free throws with 22.8 seconds to go. Skylar Diggins-Smith (20 points) countered with a three for Dallas (2-3) at 19.0 to cut it to 91-89. Charles went 1-for-2 at the line at 10.7. Azura Stevens missed a three for the tie. Zellous made two free throws with 1.8 remaining to finish off this stirring comeback victory.

“It’s hard seeing that zero in the win column,” Kiah Stokes said. “Getting that first one . . . we’re just going to keep rolling.”

The Liberty raised its defensive effort and chipped away at a 17-point deficit after one quarter. It was 12 a minute into the fourth. But Charles, who had 10 rebounds, scored 10 to power a 19-6 run that gave the Liberty its first lead, 78-77, with 3:17 left.

“Once I’m playing at a certain level, it makes the game easier for my teammates,” Charles said. “Shavonte Zellous always reminds me the team goes as I go.”

New owners for Liberty?

The Liberty are courting potential new owners.

At least two different groups that are considering buying the Liberty were at the team’s home opener last Friday, according to The Associated Press.

“I happened to see Brandon [Steiner] and a couple other people who are interested,” WNBA president Lisa Borders told The Associated Press in an interview Sunday.

Borders spent a few minutes chatting with Steiner, a sports marketer and leading sports memorabilia collector.

Neither the Liberty nor Madison Square Garden officials would comment on specific possible ownership groups, but an MSG spokesman did say that the company “is continuing to have productive discussions with several prospective ownership groups and remains committed to finding the right steward for the team’s long-term success in New York.”

James Dolan and Madison Square Garden put the franchise up for sale last winter but couldn’t find a suitable buyer. So Dolan retained ownership of the team while still looking for a new owner.— AP

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