**COURTESY NEW YORK LIBERTY**
WASHINGTON, D.C. – MAY 14 – Tina Charles posted a double-double with 24 points and 11 rebounds, and Sugar Rodgers chipped in 19 points with three 3-pointers as the New York Liberty pulled away from the Washington Mystics for an 87-76 victory in its 2016 season opener on Saturday night in Washington, D.C.
New York broke open a tie game with an 8-0 run late in the fourth quarter to secure the win. Charles completed a 3-point play, then found Kiah Stokes streaking to the basket on the next possession to make it 78-73.
The Mystics failed to score a field goal over the final 2:54 as New York edged them 14-3 over that span.
After trailing 28-21 after the first quarter, the Liberty controlled the game the rest of the way, outscoring the home town Mystics 66-48 over the final three periods.
New York overcame that early disadvantage to knot things up at 45-45 heading into the half, and then naturally it was Charles that took over, scoring nine-straight Liberty points, capped off by a 3-point play, to make it 58-52 with 2:07 left in the third.
The Liberty never led in the first half, but after taking its first lead on a Rodgers bucket a little over three minutes into the third quarter, New York did not trail again.
Lindsey Harding finished with a game-high seven assists in her Liberty debut, also scoring six points. Kiah Stokes had six points and three blocked shots, while Tanisha Wright scored nine and Shavonte Zellous posted eight points. Tayler Hill nailed four 3-pointers to post a 20-point game for the Mystics.
The Liberty returns to action on Sunday night for its 2016 home opener at Madison Square Garden against the Dallas Wings at 5 p.m.
- The Liberty shots 47.8 percent (32-of-67) from the field and outscored the Mystics 42-22 in the paint.
- New York had 23 assists on its 32 made field goals, and four players, Harding, Charles, and Brittany Boyd, had at least three assists.
- The Liberty committed just five turnovers while forcing 14, and were +9 in points off turnovers, outscoring the Mystics 14-5.
- Despite grabbing just five offensive rebounds, the Liberty was efficient with its extra opportunities, posting 13 second-chance points.
- After scoring eight points on Saturday night, Zellous is just one point shy of 2,000-career points.
LIBERTY HEAD COACH BILL LAIMBEER
On the season opener win:
“I do not care who you play in this league, it is going to be a tough game. Everybody is good, especially on the road. If you can get a road win in this league that is even more of a positive. I thought our team held together. Washington played really well in the first half, put us on our heels a little bit there. We recovered, and we got a good win.”
On Tina Charles performance:
“That is what she is supposed to do. She is an Olympian, She is an all-star, first team all- star, and she is supposed to be out there and lead us in our offense, and she did a great job.”
On the quick turnaround and their next game:
“They wanted to stack up the first weekend so we got a back to back. We have Dallas coming in. Going to be a tough game. They are a three baller, they like to run, and you just have to go home and protect your turf.”
LIBERTY FORWARD TINA CHARLES
On starting the season with a win against a team they put out of the playoffs last season:
“It is really important. Not even anything about the playoffs, but regardless of who we were going to start out against. Just to set the tone, especially going into a back to back, just giving us confidence executing, just being disciplined especially on the defensive end.”
On what changed for her in the third quarter when she got going:
“Just wanted to put the team on my back. Just doing my role. I know I am relied upon a lot here, so I just want to continue being depended on, and just gain my teammates respect and trust out there.”
On what they need to improve on going into the next game:
“Rebounding. We have to get on those board especially the defensive rebounding. That is really huge for us, not letting them getting any offensive boards, not letting them get to the free throw line. They shot a lot of free throws in the first half, and just limiting turnovers. Those are the things we can control.”
Liberty at a glance
Points: Tina Charles – 24
Rebounds: Charles – 11
Assists: Lindsey Harding – 7
Steals: Sugar Rodgers – 4