Liberty head coach Sandy Brondello reacts in the second quarter...

Liberty head coach Sandy Brondello reacts in the second quarter against the Las Vegas Aces during Game Four of the 2023 WNBA Finals at Barclays Center on October 18, 2023. Credit: Getty Images

The stark difference between winning and losing in the final round showed on the faces of the Aces and the Liberty.

Las Vegas edged the Liberty, 70-69, when Courtney Vandersloot’s try for the win sailed past the rim at Barclays Center Wednesday night in Game 4 of the best-of-five WNBA Finals — 3-1 Aces. They became the league’s first repeat champs in 21 years.

“It’s historical,” Aces forward Alysha Clark said. “There’s a reason it hasn’t been done in that long of a time period. It’s hard to do. It’s hard to get to the Finals multiple times.”

Clark and MVP A’ja Wilson came into the interview room first, with their celebratory gold bottles and goggles perched on their heads. The entire team soon joined them. Joy in the air.

Liberty coach Sandy Brondello, Breanna Stewart and Vandersloot had already spoken, sitting there with sullen looks. The Liberty could have forced a Game 5 in Las Vegas by just making one more shot. Sadness in the air.

“It hurts,” Brondello said. “But you’re still proud of the journey.”

The Liberty are hoping the conclusion of this journey leads to a different ending next year when they will again chase after the franchise’s first WNBA championship.

“We’ve got to take it as a learning experience now as we move forward and remember how it feels and use it as motivation,” Brondello said.

This team had the best regular season in franchise history at 32-8, then ousted Washington and Connecticut in the first two rounds. But the Liberty are now 2-10 across their five trips to the title round. This was the first one since 2002.

The Liberty quickly dropped into a big hole in Vegas. The Aces won by 17 and 28.

After the Liberty won by 14 back at Barclays, they turned over a 12-point third-quarter lead and shot just 36.1% in Game 4. They fell to a team that was missing injured starters Chelsea Gray and Kiah Stokes.

So how do they try to climb to the top rung? Bringing in more help is a part of it.

“I think the more time we spend together, the more chemistry we get and the more feel for each other and knowing how each other plays,” Brondello said. “And then just adding the right pieces around it with what we think we need.

“I don’t know what they are now. … But if we can bring the core group back and just add some certain pieces, we want to make sure we put ourselves in a situation where we can compete again to be in a Final.”

Their supportive fans loudly tried to push them forward. There were 16,851 at Game 4 after 17,143 came to Game 3. Both were announced as sellouts.

When it was over, Vandersloot had a message for the fans.

“First and foremost, thank you,” she said. “We really felt it. I hope they know that we gave it our all even though it didn’t end the way we wanted.”



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