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Liberty begin title quest in Washington

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Liberty begin title quest in Washington


The Liberty went on to vanquish Connecticut in four games and nearly forced a fifth and decisive contest against reigning back-to-back champion Las Vegas in October before suffering a 70-69 defeat in front of a near-sellout crowd on the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush.

Now, the quest officially starts again to bring home this franchise’s first-ever WNBA Finals after New York earned a berth in the championship round for the first time since 2002 a season ago.

Armed with arguably the best starting five in the world, reigning WNBA Most Valuable Player Breanna Stewart, former MVP Jonquel Jones, last year’s assists leader Courtney Vandersloot, All-Star guard Sabrina Ionescu and former All-Star Betnijah Laney-Hamilton. the Liberty are locked and loaded.

They ended the preseason with last Thursday night’s 82-79 win over the Sun at Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun Arena.

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Ionescu scored 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting, including a pair of 3-pointers, and Laney-Hamilton went perfect from beyond the arc by drilling all four of her long-range shots en route to 14 points.

Coach Sandy Brondello believes the Liberty will need their entire roster to make a serious run at the WNBA title this year. AP Photo by Terrance Williams

The victory came two days after a preseason-opening 101-53 loss in Chicago that saw the Liberty’s “Fab Five” combine for only 25 points on 10-of-33 shooting before coach Sandy Brondello sent in the reserves.

“Just our response and being able to come together and put that last game behind us,” said Ionescu after burning the Sun with six rebounds and two steals as well as her strong shooting performance.

“Our response really showed how we came together and trust each other. … We have to take it up a notch (in Washington Tuesday),” she added.

Six-foot guard Marquesha Davis, New York’s first-round pick in this year’s draft, scored eight points on 4-of-6 shooting in only 11 minutes vs. Connecticut, and earned a spot on the roster out of training camp.

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Second-round pick Esmery Martinez was waived last weekend, and rookie Jaylyn Sherrod didn’t make the opening-night roster either.

Sherrod did impress her coach with a key steal late in the game while also scoring eight points in 14 minutes. She may appear in a Liberty uniform at some point this year.

“She did a great job,” Brondello said of Sherrod. “She played so hard, but I decided to get her in at the end because she’s a game-changer. … She got a really big turnover at the end to help us win the game.”

Free agents Kennedy Burke, Ivana Dojkic and Leonie Fiebich made the cut for the opener, as did back-up forward Kayla Thornton and center Nyara Sabally.

Though they will likely live and die with their starting five on most nights, the Liberty know the importance of a deep roster, especially as they begin a grueling 40-game season.

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“It takes 11, 12 players, however many we have to have a successful team,” Brondello noted. “That’s the great leadership that we have. We’re going to need that all year long.”

The Mystics dropped both of their exhibition contests, including last Wednesday’s 83-77 defeat to visiting Minnesota.

Ariel Atkins poured in 20 points and Myisha Hines-Allen added 12 off the bench for Washington, which beat New York at home 80-64 in last year’s season opener for both squads.

The Liberty rebounded to take the next two meetings, including an 89-88 overtime thriller at Barclays on June 25 that featured a clutch three-point play by Stewart and 31 points from Ionescu.

The Mystics did rebound to take the regular-season finale, 90-88, on Sept. 10 in Brooklyn behind Brittney Sykes’ buzzer-beating shot.

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But New York never had to leave home en route to sweeping Washington out of the playoffs just over a week later.

Laney-Hamilton didn’t spend much time dwelling on either of the Liberty’s preseason performances, knowing the regular season was at hand.

“I think there’s always going to be a short turnaround,” she said. “So you can’t dwell too much on the past. We put emphasis on this game because we knew it was our last one before the season starts.”

Tip-off in D.C. is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday and the game will be televised locally by My9.

Brittney Sykes and the Mystics look to spoil New York’s season opener for the second year in a row Tuesday night in Washington D.C. AP Photo by Tony Gutierrez

GIVE ME LIBERTY: The Liberty extended their affiliation with the Hospital for Special Surgery Monday, announcing a five-year partnership with their official hospital. New York has been affiliated with HSS for nearly two decades and the hospital and Liberty revealed that they would increase team physician headcount to more than ever before. “At the core of the partnership renewal is the New York Liberty’s commitment to providing our athletes with access to world class medical care,” said Liberty general manager and 2023 WNBA Executive of the Year Jonathan Kolb. “Continuing to have HSS’ talented physicians in-house is an invaluable resource for our organization. It speaks volumes that top athletes from across the world choose HSS for their various orthopedic needs and we are thrilled our athletes will have that access for years to come.” … After visiting the Mystics, the Liberty will open a home-and-home set with first overall pick Caitlin Clark and the Indiana Fever on the road Thursday before hosting their home opener on Saturday at 1 p.m. … Former Liberty center Stefanie Dolson will be facing her ex-teammates as a member of the Mystics Tuesday. Dolson averaged 4.0 points and 2.0 rebounds in 23 games off the bench for New York last year.

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Israeli strikes on Rafah safe zone kill at least 35, Gazan officials say

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Israeli strikes on Rafah safe zone kill at least 35, Gazan officials say


At least 35 people were killed and dozens injured in Israeli strikes on a tent camp in a part of Rafah that Israel’s military had designated a humanitarian safe zone for displaced Palestinians, according to Gazan officials.

The makeshift camp was within Block 2371 in the southern Gazan city, which was designated a humanitarian zone by Israeli officials on Wednesday, according to Muhammad Abu Hani, a civil defense official in the Gaza Strip. The Gaza Health Ministry reported the death toll and said that most of the victims were women and children.



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In a throwback loss to the Mariners, the Nats get burned by the bullpen

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In a throwback loss to the Mariners, the Nats get burned by the bullpen


For so long, the Washington Nationals had not faltered when their offense had the sort of juice it had Sunday afternoon against the Seattle Mariners. If Joey Gallo and CJ Abrams had the chance to stop and stare as their home runs flew into the seats, things generally went well. If they had to storm back from a deficit, such as the four-run hole they faced after four innings, they mostly held on thanks to a dominant bullpen. When they had turned to right-handed reliever Dylan Floro, who had not conceded a run in 21⅔ straight innings, they found success more often than not.



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Troubled Southwest Virginia draws promise of help from Youngkin, lawmakers

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Troubled Southwest Virginia draws promise of help from Youngkin, lawmakers


RICHMOND — Gov. Glenn Youngkin announced plans for an economic development initiative in Southwest Virginia, a region still struggling with the loss of the coal industry and where Democratic House Speaker Don L. Scott Jr. (Portsmouth) has also mounted a new push to address lingering problems.

Youngkin unveiled his “Accelerate Southwest Virginia” initiative last week at an economic forum at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise. Though he was short on specific policy offerings, Youngkin touted a list of state-funded improvement projects related to transportation, education and health care, then announced a new $10 million small-business loan fund targeting the area through the Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission.



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