Liberty look to use 2023 WNBA Finals loss as motivation for next season

Winning a WNBA championship is never an easy task, and the 2023 New York Liberty had hoped for a different outcome. The team made major offseason signings, including Breanna Stewart, Jonquel Jones, and Courtney Vandersloot, with the goal of winning their first championship. However, those dreams were shattered when the reigning champion Las Vegas Aces beat the Liberty 70-69 in Game 4 of the WNBA Finals.

“We’re disappointed. It’s tough to win a fourth game. It would have been nice to go and play Game 5 and give it our all,” expressed Liberty coach Sandy Brondello. “But we have to give credit to the Vegas team, they were down but found a way to win.”

“Although it wasn’t our best game today, we fought hard. It’ll be a difficult one to learn from. Overall, I’m proud of this group for coming together as a new team and building chemistry and unity. They committed to our vision. We’ll take this as a learning experience, remember the feeling, and use it as motivation,” Brondello added.

The Aces faced adversity since they were missing two starters, Chelsea Gray and Kiah Stokes, due to foot injuries. However, the reigning champions did not let that deter them. Despite being behind by as many as 12 points, they managed to take the lead in the third quarter and hold off the Liberty to secure their second consecutive title.

“We knew their game plan was to disrupt us and make it challenging, and that’s exactly what happened,” remarked Stewart. “It was a low-scoring game, but we couldn’t make the stops we needed and couldn’t get the shots to fall. We have to credit the Aces for playing well, but obviously, we wanted to force a Game 5.”

Stewart, who was named the 2023 WNBA MVP, had a rough night, shooting just 3-of-17 from the field and scoring only 10 points, her lowest total in the Finals.

However, despite the challenges, the Liberty had a chance to win Game 4 on the final possession. With less than 10 seconds remaining and down by one point, Brondello called a play for Stewart. Unfortunately, the Aces’ defense double-teamed the MVP, who passed the ball to Betnijah Laney, then swung it to Vandersloot in the corner.

Vandersloot attempted a shot, but it fell short. Jones grabbed the offensive rebound, but time expired before she could put it back up.

“It’s a play we’ve run before,” Brondello explained. “We wanted the ball in Stewie’s hands, and sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. We got the ball where we wanted, but we couldn’t convert.”

“I received the ball deep and tried to get it on the rim, hoping for a score or an offensive rebound. Unfortunately, there just wasn’t enough time,” added Vandersloot.

Although the season didn’t end with a championship, the Liberty achieved several highs. Stewart broke the WNBA record for the most points scored in a single season, while Sabrina Ionescu broke the record for the most three-pointers made in a season.

When asked about her level of disappointment after the loss, Stewart summed it up in one word: “high.”

“We’re proud to have played for a championship,” Vandersloot stated regarding the future of the Liberty. “Tonight didn’t go our way, but building a championship team was our goal. We’ll use this as a learning experience and strive to do it again next year.”

“We have grown tremendously as a team. The more time we spend together, the stronger our chemistry becomes,” Brondello reflected. “We need to add the right pieces to complement our core group. At this moment, I’m not sure what those pieces are. We’ll use the offseason to prepare, review this game first, and then focus on next season. Our aim is to put ourselves in a position to compete for a title.”


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