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Stewart wants ‘more’ after historic debut

Liberty star scores franchise-record 45 points at Barclays

May 23, 2023 John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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After managing only 12 points on 3-of-10 shooting in her Liberty debut during last Friday night’s season opener in Washington, D.C., New York forward Breanna Stewart knew she had to perform significantly better in front of the Brooklyn faithful Sunday afternoon.

She did so in historic fashion.

Stewart, a former two-time WNBA Most Valuable Player and Finals MVP in Seattle, showed the 8,575 fans at Downtown’s Barclays Center why she was brought here to help lead this franchise to its first-ever championship.

The 6-foot-4 University of Connecticut alum poured in a team-record 45 points in only three quarters on 15-of-21 shooting, including an eye-popping 6-of-9 from 3-point range, as the Liberty (1-1) cruised to a 90-73 rout of the struggling Indiana Fever on the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush.

“It was really important to play like this in my debut,” said Stewart, who was a bit crestfallen after New York got drubbed, 80-64, by the Mystics on Friday night.

Stewart rebounded by grabbing 12 rebounds, handing out a trio of assists, blocking a shot, picking up a steal and draining all nine of her free throws before taking the fourth quarter off Sunday.

“We have Breanna Stewart and they don’t, I suppose,” Liberty head coach Sandy Brondello gushed Sunday. “That’s (what) it comes down to.”

Liberty head coach Sandy Brondello saw her players roll past slumping Indiana Sunday on the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush. AP Photo by Terrance Williams

With Brooklyn clamoring for its first professional championship since the 1955 Dodgers, Stewart knew she had to show the crowd how exciting and competitive the Liberty would be this year.

Especially after general manager signed Stewart and future Hall of Fame point guard Courtney Vandersloot this past offseason, as well as orchestrating a three-team blockbuster trade for 2021 WNBA MVP Jonquel Jones.

“I want people to be here and I want them to come back, and I want more. I want more of everything,” Stewart insisted.

“And yeah it sounds selfish, but as a women’s basketball player, as a female athlete, we need to continue to get recognized for more in media coverage and fans and eyes and viewership.”

Jones scored 14 points and Vandersloot finished with 11 points and eight assists for the Liberty, who will be back in action at Barclays Saturday night vs. Connecticut.

New York, which is favored to at least reach the WNBA Finals for the first time since 2002, took advantage of an Indiana team that has lost a league record-tying 20 consecutive contests dating to last season.

But Stewart’s performance remains one for the ages as no player in WNBA history has ever scored 45 points in 30 minutes or less.

Whether she can do “more” on Friday against the Sun, Jones’ former team, is doubtlessly not as important as the Liberty resuming their winning ways and, perhaps more importantly, continuing to jell as a newly constructed roster.

For now, however, the nearly 9,000 Brooklynites who showed up to see their newest and brightest superstar had to be pleased.

As was Stewart.

“Hopefully I made a few [good] first impressions on some people, and I hope they come back and they come back with more,” she noted.

Courtney Vandersloot and the Liberty will visit her former team in Chicago on June 2. AP Photo by Terrance Williams

GIVE ME LIBERTY: Stewart broke the Liberty franchise scoring record of 40 set by Cappie Pondexter in 2010. … New York point guard Sabrina Ionescu had nine points, eight rebounds and eight assists Sunday. … After hosting Connecticut on Friday, the Liberty will begin a two-game trip in Stewart’s former digs as they visit the Storm next Tuesday. Vandersloot will take on her ex-Chicago Sky teammates on June 2 to close out the trip.

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