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Stewart enjoys happy homecoming

Liberty's star forward haunts former Seattle teammates

May 31, 2023 John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Breanna Stewart was just as good as the Seattle Storm remembered her.

Only now, she balls for the New York Liberty.

Stewart scored 25 points, pulled down 11 rebounds, blocked two shots and picked up a pair of steals Tuesday night in her return to Seattle as the Liberty extended their winning streak to three games with an 86-78 triumph over the Storm in front of 8,340 fans at Climate Pledge Arena.

The former two-time WNBA Finals Most Valuable Player spent her first six seasons in the Emerald City, grabbing titles in 2018 and 2020.

She also won league MVP honors as a member of the Storm (0-3) in 2018.

But Stewart chose to come to Downtown Brooklyn this past offseason as a free agent, hoping to lead the Liberty (3-1) to their first-ever WNBA championship and grow the game she loves in the media capital of the world.

“It was a really difficult decision to leave Seattle to go to New York – and it still is difficult when I think about it,” Stewart said before tip-off and hours after being named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week.

“Change isn’t always a bad thing,” she added. “I still have a lot of amazing memories. I grew up here, got married here, started a family here.”

The 6-foot-4 star forward entered her previous home arena donning a pair of sunglasses to cover a black eye suffered during Saturday’s home win over Connecticut.

However, it was Stewart who doled out the punishment against her ex-teammates.

She went 8-of-14 from the floor, 8-of-9 at the free-throw line and scored 10 third-quarter points, helping New York pull away for good.

“I was floating there a bit in the first half,” Stewart admitted of her homecoming, which also featured a courtside appearance by her former Storm teammate Sue Bird.

“We knew it was emotional. It’s not just the game, it’s the build-up,” Liberty head coach Sandy Brondello said of Stewart’s much-anticipated return. “She wasn’t as into the first half. She got going thankfully because without her we might not have won today.”

Breanna Stewart scored 25 points in her emotional return to Seattle, the WNBA city she called home for the previous six years. AP Photo by Lindsey Wasson

After scoring a franchise-record 45 points in her Barclays Center debut on May 21, Stewart put up 21 more vs. the Sun in Brooklyn on Saturday.

She certainly wasn’t alone in handing Seattle its third straight loss to begin the post-Stewart era on Tuesday.

Sabrina Ionescu scored 20 points, Stefanie Dolson added 10 off the bench and Courtney Vandersloot finished with a season-high 11 assists for New York, which hasn’t lost since a season-opening setback in Washington, D.C., on May 19.

Jewell Loyd scored a game-high 26 points and Ezi Magbergor added 12 points and 14 boards for the Storm, who will welcome Stewart back to Seattle again on July 2.

Despite bringing in 2021 MVP Jonquel Jones and Vandersloot, the league’s all-time leader in assists, the Liberty are relying on Stewart to spearhead their “Superteam” en route to what Brooklynites are hoping will be the first pro sports championship parade in our borough since 1955.

But Stewart knows that won’t be easy.

“Obviously, we want to be able to win and contend for a championship,” she said.

“But it’s realizing that when you put all these pieces together in a short amount of time, it’s going to take time to make sure that we win the day. We need to grow one practice, one game at a time.”

The Liberty will be in Chicago Friday to take on Vandersloot’s former Sky teammates. The future Hall of Fame point guard spent the previous 12 seasons in the Windy City.

If that reunion goes as well as this one did for the Liberty, they’ll be on their first four-game winning streak since 2019 when they return to Barclays on Sunday to host Chicago in the finale of a home-and-home.

“We’re gonna get the best from every team, we know that,” Brondello said.

Courtney Vandersloot (left) and the Liberty will be in Chicago Friday to take on her former teammates. AP Photo by Lindsey Wasson

GIVE ME LIBERTY: Jones had nine points in 18 minutes during Tuesday’s win. … The Liberty will host Minnesota in Brooklyn next Wednesday after hosting Chicago this weekend. … New York blocked a season-high 10 shots against the Storm and had an assist on all but five of its 28 made attempts from the field.

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