All-star Charles eyes strong finish for Liberty

By Joseph Staszewski

UNCASVILLE, Conn.—Tina Charles is ready to get back to business after her fourth WNBA All-Star Game appearance.

The former Christ the King star scored all 13 of her points in the first half and grabbed four rebounds in her East team’s 117-112 loss to the West in the WNBA All-Star Game Saturday at Mohegan Sun Arena. With the all-star break concluded she returns to a New York Liberty team that entered on a five-game winning streak and is leading the league’s Eastern Conference, after winning 15 games a year ago.

“I can’t wait to get back with my team,” Charles said. “I really miss them and the camaraderie we have on that team and the character of those girls… I can’t wait for practice on Monday to get back after it.”

Charles caught fire late in the second quarter. She nailed consecutive jumpers and shortly after put some of her guard skills on display. The center grabbed a rebound and dribbled the length of the court to drive a layup up and get the foul called against Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner. The three-point play gave the East the 49-48 lead it took in the half. Connecticut Sun guard Alex Bentley said the play had “Tina Charles written all over it.” Charles agreed.

“That’s what I do,” she said with a smile. “You have to read the scouting report. I was just having fun again. I wasn’t making threes, so I just figured I’d take it all the way down.”

She watched former UConn teammate Maya Moore steal the show—and the game—late. The Minnesota Lynx standout won MVP honors after scoring an all-star-game record 30 points, including eight straight in the final three minutes. It’s nothing Charles hasn’t seen before.

“It’s like a video game,” Charles said. “It’s like she’s possessed. It’s just her.”

Charles is having another splendid season. She is fourth in the league in scoring and rebounding at 17.2 points and 9.3 boards per contest. She dropped in 30 points in a win over the Seattle Storm July 20. It helped earn Charles her second-ever start in an all-star game.

“The best thing about all-stars is the camaraderie,” she said. “You get to know the girls around you and just have fun. It’s a lot of fun.”

Fellow Christ the King all-time-great Sue Bird of the Seattle Storm also took part in the game. She started for the Western Conference after players missed the game with injuries.

Bird scored five points and dished out three assists. She is playing in her ninth all-star game, just one behind all-time leader Tamika Catchings of the Indiana Fever, who competed in her last Saturday. The 32-year-old Bird, who is leading the league in assists with 5.5 a game, hasn’t taken the chance to reflect on all the success she’s had.

“It’s hard to kind of think about that when you’re still playing,” Bird said. “I think that is one of those questions I’ll have a better answer for when it’s all over.”

Charles didn’t have a magic answer when asked what it will take for the Liberty to continue their success in the second half.

“Just stay disciplined in who we are, the game of basketball we’ve been playing.” Charles said. “It’s definitely been working for us to be No. 1 in the East right now.”

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