Brooklyn Boro

Ionescu makes history for unbeaten Liberty

Becomes youngest WNBA player to record triple-double

May 19, 2021 John Torenli, Sports Editor
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She came to Brooklyn to change the culture.

To turn losing into winning.

To prove that the skills she displayed while setting the NCAA record for career triple-doubles would translate into success at the pro level as a member of the New York Liberty.

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Sabrina Ionescu is starting to check those boxes quite deftly during her true rookie season.

The former No. 1 overall pick posted her first career WNBA triple-double at Downtown’s Barclays Center on Tuesday night, becoming the youngest player ever to do so in the Liberty’s 86-75 victory over the Minnesota Lynx before a crowd of 815 on the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush.

The owner of a record 26 triple-doubles during her well-chronicled tenure at the University of Oregon, the 23-year-old Ionescu only played in three games last year after New York tabbed her with the first pick in the 2020 WNBA Draft.

An ankle sprain forced her to leave the league’s bubble site in Bradenton, Florida, making her sit at home and rehab the injury while watching New York go a league-worst 2-20.

With Tuesday’s win, the Liberty improved to 3-0 this year, surpassing last season’s win total en route to their best start since 2007.

Ionescu’s triple-double was also the first ever recorded by a New York player and just the 10th in the 25-year history of the league.

“Obviously getting a triple-double in a win is important,” said Ionescu, who reached double figures in scoring, rebounding and assists 26 times during her two-time Wooden Award-winning career with the Ducks.

“Super proud of my teammates, my coaching staff for helping me get that. … I’m super grateful. It’s definitely pretty cool (getting the first one in franchise history).”

Betnijah Laney added 20 points for the Liberty, who won their home opener vs. Indiana here in Downtown Brooklyn last Friday night on Ionescu’s game-winning 3-pointer with under one second remaining in regulation.

“She puts the work in for these moments. Does the work in the offseason, so she’s prepared now,” Liberty head coach Walt Hopkins said of his budding superstar.

“She’s got a special mentality in her belief in herself, her teammates and her desire to win,” he added. “It’s matched by her teammates. We’re getting off to this hot start because they all have that mindset of being hungry.”

The Liberty will get to sate their appetites again in Washington, D.C., on Friday night.

***

Joe Genord belted a two-run homer, but it wasn’t enough as the Cyclones lost their much-anticipated home opener Tuesday at newly-renamed Maimonides Park. Photo courtesy of Brooklyn Cyclones

While the Liberty were running the floor at Barclays, the Brooklyn Cyclones finally returned to newly renamed Maimonides Park on Tuesday evening after the ballpark by the sea remained dormant of baseball activities since September of 2019.

After missing all of last season following their championship 2019 campaign in the now-defunct New York-Penn League, the Cyclones welcomed 1,315 fans back to Surf Avenue, albeit in a tough 4-3 loss to the visiting Hudson Valley Renegades.

Joe Genord blasted a two-run homer for Brooklyn (4-8), who won only four of their first 11 games during a season-opening road trip through Asheville, North Carolina and Greenville, South Carolina.

Back in their home borough, the Baby Bums were one out away from a home-opening win when Andrew Edwards surrendered a two-run double to the Renegades’ Pablo Olivares to erase a one-run advantage.

The Cyclones went down in order in the ninth, leaving them to lament what could have been on a night they not only returned to their long-time home, but also gave it a new name.

Originally known as KeySpan, then MCU, the Brooklyn Cyclones’ new stadium naming partner is Maimonides Hospital. Photo courtesy of Brooklyn Cyclones

Previously known as both KeySpan and MCU Park, the 21-year-old park is now under the banner of the Maimonides Medical Center, which is celebrating its 110th year of service in Brooklyn.

“When the Cyclones take the field at Maimonides Park for opening day on May 18th, we will be celebrating a return to baseball after a pause of more than 600 days due to COVID-19,” said Cyclones Vice President Steven Cohen.

“It’s profoundly fitting we will also be celebrating our new partner, an organization of heroes that not only helped lead our community through this pandemic, but also one fundamentally committed to the well-being of Brooklyn residents.”

Maimonides Park will host at least 60 Cyclones regular-season home games each year, as well as high school, college, and youth league baseball games.

The ballpark also hosts numerous charity events, concerts and other sports like rugby, soccer and lacrosse.

The 10-year agreement will take the naming rights partnership through the conclusion of the 2031 season.

The Cyclones were scheduled to host the Renegades Wednesday night at 6:30 p.m.


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