NEW YORK (AP) — Central New York native Breanna Stewart and the New York Liberty fell just short of winning the franchise’s first WNBA championship, losing to the Las Vegas Aces in the Finals.
This was a new experience for Stewart, as she hadn’t lost in a championship round since her freshman year of college. In her previous appearances, she won the two Finals series she played with Seattle and four NCAA championships at UConn. Her only loss in a title game came in the Big East Tournament during her freshman season.
“Making sure that I don’t feel that again, I think that’s really my mindset and mentality going forward,” Stewart mentioned on Friday.
New York is determined to retain most of the same team for the next season. Although Stewart could become an unrestricted free agent, Liberty general manager Jonathan Kolb plans to give her the franchise tag, preventing her from signing directly with another team.
“It’s my first time being cored, but I’m not surprised,” Stewart expressed. “I’m excited about what we’re building here in New York and with the Liberty. … I’m looking forward to many years to come.”
Stewart, a former basketball star at Cicero-North Syracuse High School, is determined to bring a championship to NYC.
“This wasn’t our goal at the start of the season. We didn’t just want to reach the Finals. We weren’t satisfied with coming so close to winning it all,” she said. “But we wanted to win, and we’ll build off of this experience and remember what it feels like to be here.”
While Stewart is committed to staying, the Liberty will have to find a way to re-sign free agent Jonquel Jones, who had a strong performance in the playoffs. Jones averaged 17.0 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks during the postseason.
Jones, who joined New York in the offseason through a trade, is also an unrestricted free agent.
“She’s a player we definitely want to keep, and we’ll continue discussing it during the offseason,” Kolb stated.
Jones enjoyed her first season in New York and indicated that she’s “definitely leaning towards returning here.”
The Liberty already have Betnijah Laney, Courtney Vandersloot, and Sabrina Ionescu signed for the upcoming season. Ionescu revealed on Friday that she had a hip injury in the WNBA Finals, which she sustained in the previous round against Connecticut.
Ionescu refused to let the ailment be an excuse but admitted that she wasn’t at 100% in the Finals. She averaged only 9.7 points and shot 31.5% from the field in the four games.
“I had to receive an injection before (Game 1) just to be able to play in the first two Vegas games,” she said. “So obviously, it’s not ideal. It’s just what happens. There’s no excuse, but I couldn’t walk properly, so the timing wasn’t great.”
Rachel Adams is your WNBA insider, delivering comprehensive coverage of women’s basketball. With a commitment to highlighting the talent and achievements of WNBA players, she provides game analysis, player profiles, and inspiring stories from the league.