score: Storm 77 Liberty 75 (W) (12-11)
was a fantastic game to attend in person. And I'm proud at
the way we bounced back from Connecticut. I don't know many
game stats, but from what they displayed at Madison Square
Garden Lauren was flirting with another 20-20 game! We did
not wilt or panic when they went on their runs, we kept our
composure for the most part, rather than throwing up a bunch
of quick shots. Our shots did quit falling for a time, heart-breakingly
rimming out time and again when it seemed at the same time
the Liberty couldn't miss from the outside, but they were
the proper shots to take overall. I'm pleased with our current
substitution pattern also, particularly that we aren't running
Sue into the ground. And T is standing strong out there, so
perhaps she has earned a bit more faith, though I like to
see her play more as a shooting guard, and I'm never going
to change my mind about that. At the end of the game, I'm
ecstatic that we won, but it was fun to have it be anyone's
game right down to the wire...it made the arena electric with
energy. It was also fun to watch the Liberty play basketball.
Apart from the crazy physicality in the post (which often
makes me anxious), the Liberty often make that extra pass
to set up a teammate that had me applauding several of their
plays. However, unlike in the last game I actually had a chance
to applaud many of our plays as well. Our transition defense
was better. We controlled the boards better. Lauren was a
beast flirting with another career 20-20 game, though no rebound
was more important than that last one. Sue kept looking for
her shot, even though they weren't falling for her, and I
applauded every one, though again it was when she finally
made a shot, her clutch game-winning 3 that she brought the
Storm house down. I can only imagine the mayhem at TOJ.
Madison Square Garden (MSG) is huge, and not very intimate,
but it has its pluses. It was nice to be able to take the
train in from New Jersey (where I was visiting my brother)
directly to Penn Station...right under MSG. In fact, my experience
in New York overall was remarkably similar to that in Connecticut,
except the Mohegan Sun Casino was nicer to hang around in
than Penn Station. Apparently the scoreboards at the ends
of the quart and the new ArenaVision monitor hanging from
the center are new, and the Liberty had to take a two-week
road trip to allow for installation. It was only by blind,
dumb luck that I got anywhere near my seat initially. Upon
entry I was confronted with choices of "towers"
so I took D because it was the closest. Then I kept riding
escalators trying to find numbers that matched my ticket.
I finally decided to visit a level and try to get my bearings,
so I entered the arena, looked at section numbers, realized
I was in the proper area generally, but that I needed to go
down a level, and ran into an usher who told me where the
stairs were, and pointed out the "Gate" number at
the top of my ticket, which should have been my first navigation
marker all along. Who knew?
I got to chat with the effervescent Queenie and friends before
the game. She hooked me up with a pretty good stash of cards
covering Storm and Utah Starzz players. We were standing around
my section, and the ushers kept asking us if they could help
us. I don't know if they were trying to be helpful or judgmental
and trying to urge us to move on. Whatever. The ends of the
bowl are much more shallow than the Key, so I was pleased
that I didn't choose a seat in that section. The seats are
comparable, but perhaps a touch more comfortable. I liked
their texture more anyway. The side sections rise up in a
better pattern, but the prices are much higher for an inferior
view (more distance from the court), in my opinion. And the
number of people in the seats were pretty well swallowed up
by the Garden. But all in all it was a pretty good venue.
I was especially happy that I could order food from my seats!
Club Service. This was very cool. Perhaps I'm easy, but it
was especially convenient because my sister was on crutches.
I ordered a Coney Combo: "The original dough & potato
wrapped beef frank." Sounds weird, and it was definitely
garbage-gut arena-fare, but tasty.
I missed most of warm-ups trying to find my seat and chatting.
We did notice that Izi suddenly ran off the court. She was
back during intros, though, as good as ever, thankfully. The
team looked more energetic than in Connecticut, to my discerning
The anthem was pretty good and straight forward. Sung by Maggie
Garnier, a New Creations recording artist. There were some
frills, but she really sold them. Again the lights weren't
dimmed. I like how we do the whole spot-light effect at the
I was concerned when I saw that the refs were Michael Price
and that Byron guy and also #8...Daryl? However, despite the
usual spread of bad calls, they called a better game than
the crew at the Sun game did. There were certainly some heated
moments, and I yelled out some good digs, but the game wasn't
decided on their calls or lack of them, so I'm content. The
Liberty fans around me were great, and good natured about
having several Storm fans in the area as well. We traded friendly
trash talk, and acknowledged when each other's teams did something
good. I got a couple of nasty looks on my first BRICK , but
by the end of the half the Anne Donovan/Sue Bird fans behind
me were joining in.
The fans a couple rows behind me went crazy when Anne Donovan
was introduced. Sue and Lauren both got a good bit of applause.
The Liberty played some music and scenes, but with no clapping...I
didn't realize we were the only ones to do this (not that
my sample size of 3 is representative). Huh. Then cue the
loud music and applause for the Liberty players. Then one
of the first scenes of organized chaos this game that were
designed to whip the crowd into a frenzy: the players came
out onto the court throwing some t-shirts, then the mascot
jumped on the L-I-B-E-R-T-Y while the crowd yelled it out.
It made me nostalgic for the days we'd do that for STORM.
I still fondly remember LJ jumping for the injured Kamila?
during fan appreciation in '03? Well, clearly my memory isn't
as sharp as I thought, but it was fun, nonetheless. Our players
then tried to take the floor, but Maddie repeated the LIBERTY
jump, with the crowd really getting into it, and LJ kept laughing
as she was over at the scorer's table and kept stepping on
the court only to have to step back due to some other "event."
Because after the jumping, guys came out with Liberty flags,
running around the court. It was a lot of activity in a short
span, and the crowd loved it. It was fun.
Starting the game we went to LJ right away. We looked all
right on defense early, but a bit sloppy on offense keeping
us from building any kind of a lead. There were audio and
visual cues for the fans to cheer with. Also after every bucket
the PA guy would announce the score and who was ahead. JB
had some butter fingers initially, but then showed some moves
that had our section cheering. Whenever she's on the bench
she has a heat pad on her shoulder. LJ was going to work down
low, and really going after the rebounds, particularly being
effective on the defensive end, though some of our offensive
sets went too quickly to a shot attempt before she could get
position for a rebound, and I was hoping we could correct
that. 1Q: 20-18, Liberty
We finally took the lead 21-23 on some Izi free throws a couple
of minutes into the game. A bit later I yelled at Kraayveld
for being a total flopper when she went flying backwards upon
being run into by Betty Lennox. A charge it may have been,
but little Betty actually knocking not-insubstantial Kraayveld
to the floor? Come on. ;) It's fun to yell. I'm afraid scullyfu
got a taste of what certain other fans have to endure sitting
in front of me at games. We edged ahead a bit more, but pretty
much both teams had gone cold offensively, and it was therefore
quite frustrating that we'd only be up by a few. Still, I
felt all right as long as our defense kept keeping New York
from scoring; I just didn't want to rely on that. A lot of
our shots were good ones and they'd have to start falling
eventually, right? Meanwhile I got a little testy with the
refs (shocking, I know). One was what I felt was a late whistle,
and Sue was called for a weak reach-in foul. But then again,
there was a loud fan somewhere to my left who kept yelling
at the calls going against the Liberty, so we got into a kind
of shouting match where I started praising the refs for their
calls against New York to drown him out. Right after that
we were all distracted by a crazy sequence where each team
had like three turnovers as everyone scrambled to regain possession
of the ball. On court anarchy! This excitement gave me the
energy to yell BRICK on free throws, topping off my general
conspicuousness, while at the same time teaching some new
tricks to the fans behind me. We all got into the brick call
in the 2nd half, but it's just not as effective when the shooter
is on the other side of the court. Still, I (generously) credit
us with one missed free throw, which was an important point
late in the game when we were only up by 1.
Sadly, the Liberty got hot-ish on offense first and regained
the lead. The fans really started to get into it, booing on
a spate of shot clock violations against NY (I was proud about
how we didn't wilt here under the pressure). The fans clearly
wanted some fouls called. It was mildly painful to watch how
out of sync we were as a team. I think this was epitomized
by a clear miscommunication between Sue and LJ of all people,
when Sue passed it to LJ clearly expecting her to fire a quick
3, and then Sue started back down to court to get ready on
defense. Lauren nearly passed the ball to a suddenly back-court
Sue, then had to awkwardly turn around and fire off a 3 anyway,
surprised that Sue was gone: airball. We hung in there though.
HT: 34-37, Storm
Remember how prolific our offense used to be? Those were good
times. I worried during half-time about the 3rd quarter, a
clear Achilles heel for this Storm team in recent games. The
Yellow Book half-time stats were read aloud by the PA guy,
so I really didn't get a good comparison of the teams. With
about 4 minutes to go NY finally came out to warm up, but
where were the Storm? They emerged from the locker room pretty
much right before the buzzer. No warm up. OK. JB was called
almost immediately for an offensive foul. I'd seen the refs
talking and miming elbows and such during the game break,
so I was worried that they'd pre-arranged this call. But then
McCarville picked up a foul herself very soon after that,
and I recognized that the refs were merely attempting to reign
in the physical play underneath. And happily, the Storm seemed
to come out with fire in their bellies, particularly on defense,
but also being aggressive offensively. They started working
fairly consistently the play where the ball goes in to LJ,
then she immediately passes out of double and triple coverage
to open players on the perimeter. Sue's shot was still not
falling, but I was happy that she kept trying, and hoped that
she'd continue to do so. We built a pretty good lead, but
the Liberty ratcheted up the physical, scrappy play, forcing
turnovers, getting our players frustrated at the lack of calls,
plus their 3 point shots started falling, often coming from
wide open shots as our defense either lost them in transition,
or failed to jump out on them quickly enough. Their shots
were nothing but net, and shot after shot of ours would just
rim out. That's such a killer. It's hard to sit their and
watch while the rest of the arena around you is up and cheering
and clapping and participating in Fan Dance while your team
is forced to call a time out in an attempt to staunch the
flow of scoring. Also, as we were losing control here a bit,
I wondered why Sue wasn't out on the floor.
Even more worrisome than that was that LJ was out of the game,
sitting on the end of the bench being attended to pretty forcefully
by the trainer. She was clearly limping when she stood up
to walk to the other end of the bench. Then a couple of minutes
later she and the trainer went into the locker room. Talk
about ice water down a Storm fans back! Happily she returned
a couple of minutes later, and approached the scorer's table
to check back in. Hey, I didn't even note when the 3rd quarter
ended. Oh well. Continuing...it was a good thing LJ came back
out, because she was on fire, creating shots, getting rebounds,
putting us up by 6 with 3 minutes to go. At this point was
the second "organized chaos" production by the Liberty
people, where they throw a bunch of stimulation at the crowd
and whip them into a frenzy. They have a "NY Liberty"
song, kind of like a fight song, the chorus of which spells
out Liberty then repeats "NY Liberty!" At the same
time the flag wavers run back out with the Liberty flags,
and Maddie and other staffers throw t-shirts into the stands.
The song was kind of catchy and fun to sing along with...if
you were a Liberty fan.
Down the stretch NY was really making the big plays. I'm still
surprised by the outside touch Kraayveld is displaying. We
were hanging, but missing, and they were hitting clutch shots.
With under a minute to go Kraayveld hit a 3 and we called
a time out. The crowd was going crazy, everyone on their feet,
staffers throwing t-shirts. It was loud and happy in MSG behind
their surge, and despite the woes of the Storm it was kind
of fun to see everyone having a good time (I can be magnanimous
because we won). T gave us some good minutes, but they went
up 75-74. Sue came in. The Liberty were hungry, but LJ was
determined, diving on the floor when we missed (again) to
tie up the ball. With like 15 seconds left! It was a nail-biter.
Then Sue, who hadn't made a shot all game, lines up on what
would likely be our last possession and made a 3 to put us
ahead 75-77 with 10 seconds left! Our section was screaming!
But so was the rest of the place. It was a weird mix of "let's
go, Liberty" and "way to go, Sue". New York
immediately called a time out and LJ grabbed a slightly stunned/relieved
Sue by neck with one arm, rubbing her head with the other.
Jeez. I said her shot had to start falling some time, and
if any this was the time to do it. Everyone was on their feet
(except my sister who had only one good foot) for the final
10 seconds. I thought I'd have a heart attack if it went into
overtime. And NY had their chances, but finally LJ corralled
the rebound and was fouled with less than a second on the
clock. Celebration! Well, at least by the Storm fans.
There wasn't really any post-game activity. Maddie kind of
walked around. The PA Guy recapped the scoring and rebounding
leaders, then thoughtfully provided a traffic and weather
report to the exiting fans. Now I just need to go find an
internet connection somewhere here in Baltimore. Anyone record
the game for me? Could you hear me yelling?
Pre-game the Season Subscriber of the Game gets to meet a
player @ center court and get a t-shirt autographed. It's
the simple things like this, that don't cost much money, that
I wish we were more creative with as an organization, since
so many other perks have been cut over the years. I'll have
to start making a suggestion list.
Rather than Junior Captains they do something pre-game called
"pass the torch to the next generation" or something
where the whole team comes out and hands balls to the kids,
then they all high-five them. I guess this is similar to what
we do during intros with our individual hand-offs.
LJ was in her green shoes, had a wrap on her right leg. The
coaches looked sharp in general, but what was that odd, padded
vest Heidi had on (brownish-beige of course)? Wendy had a
sleeve on her arm. Betty had a brace on one leg.
They did a bit called the Maddie Awards with the video clips
and the players acting them out. I like how we do it in Seattle.
But this was fun also. They had the "top three"
players do the "you can't handle the truth" scene
from "A Few Good Men," then the audience voted by
applauding. Out of McCarville, Barbara Farris and Ashley Battle,
Ashley was the clear winner, really getting into the "voices"
of the characters. The applause of the crowd reflected that.
Later they showed the "Cutting Room Floor" where
other players tried to do the scene, but mostly failed by
not getting into character and/or laughing at themselves.
The kids dance troupe are called the Little Torches, and frankly
I think they had a bit more range than our Storm Dance Troupe.
They did some hip hop. But during another game break they
performed a darling little swing routine with little flips
and stuff too. It made me long for a little variety myself.
There's also an older dance squad called the Torch Patrol.
I like how they play on their team name like that. We could
call our dancers the Little Snowflakes or Tiny Lightning.
All right, perhaps that is a little too cutsy. I'm just saying.
During the 2nd quarter they played an amusing montage of the
game to that point, the crowd, and the players to some funny
music that was entertaining.
Half time was a somewhat disturbing dance by some very young
girls from Liberty Dance Days. I didn't take much notice,
but my sister's friends thought the dance was too suggestive
for the ages involved.
For $35 (that goes to charity) you can participate in Liberty
Torch Talk, wherein you get to post a message to a loved-one
to be shown during the game.
One of my favorite contests was during the 3rd. It was a balloon-popping
contest for a Liberty prize pack. The two contestants were
not allowed to use their hands or feet. So that 99 Red Balloons
song is playing, and there are these big guys belly-flopping
down on balloons. It was hilarious!