Former Lincoln High star Alex Montgomery returned to her native area as a starter for New York against Seattle on Thursday at KeyArena.
Montgomery, a fourth-year wing, played off the bench her first three seasons in the WNBA. Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer always liked her game, however, showing patience in honing Montgomery as a pro.
“She can guard anybody in the gym, she’s that strong,” said Laimbeer of Montgomery, who he often has guard the opponent’s best player. “She hardly ever gets tired and eventually she’ll almost fall down because she doesn’t stop.”
Montgomery was a defensive hound in the 84-80 overtime win against Seattle before 4,863 fans. But her three-pointer with 1:45 left in overtime was her biggest play of the night. Her shot tied the score at 80 points each. Teammate Tina Charles muscled an offensive rebound into a putback with 23 seconds left to break the tie that ultimately was the game-winning shot.
Charles finished with 18 points and 14 rebounds, her 11th double-double of the season. All-Star Cappie Pondexter led the Liberty with 20 points. Montgomery had seven points and four rebounds before family and friends.
“I’d like to see her (Alex) offensively get better,” Laimbeer said. “That’s where her opportunity is to be a better player. She’s a spot-up three-point shooter almost exclusively right now. She has to learn to do other things. But we don’t have any practice time until the remainder of the season.
“We talk to her and she came back a better offensive player than she was before. She still has a long way to go.”
Montgomery, who was the 10th overall pick in the 2011 draft out of Georgia Tech, entered the game shooting 42.9 percent from three-point range. She’s averaging 5.7 points and 4.2 rebounds in a career-high 24 minutes overall, starting 12 games this season.
The Liberty won its third straight game, the second of a back-to-back. New York left Los Angeles at 4:30am Thursday for the evening game in Seattle.
“It took six hours to get here, it’s a long trip from L.A.,” Laimbeer said, apparently missing his NBA days in Detroit where he’d fly a private plane for road trips against the Sonics.
The Liberty has a one-game lead on the fourth and final playoff slot in the Eastern Conference. New York (10-13) closes its road trip out West against Phoenix (20-3) on Saturday at 7pm at US Airways Center or on the WNBA’s LiveAcess.