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Aces open homestand with win over Liberty

Make that two in a row. And four out of six.

Bill Laimbeer and company might be on to something.

The Aces opened a four-game homestand Friday night with an 88-78 victory over the New York Liberty at Mandalay Bay Events Center.

Guard Kayla McBride led the way with 27 points on 8-of-15 shooting, and her fourth-quarter play invigorated an announced crowd of 5,478 that included Golden Knights goaltender Malcolm Subban.

He certainly knows what a hometown advantage feels like.

Maybe the Aces do, too.

“The crowd was unbelievable, and they carried us, especially in that second half,” McBride said. “It wasn’t always easy … But I was really proud of our team and how we were able to continue to grind.”

Rookie A’ja Wilson added 20 points and 14 rebounds for the Aces (5-9), who held the Liberty to 37.5 percent shooting and stifled All-WNBA forward Tina Charles.

Laimbeer said the game plan was forcing New York into contested perimeter shots, and the Aces did just that en route to a 32-26 halftime lead.

Charles, one of the league’s most imposing post presences, was 2-for-11 in the first two quarters and settled for several long-range shots.

“Our defense is starting to carry us a little bit better also, giving us a chance to win,” Laimbeer said. “It worked for us tonight.”

Laimbeer was displeased with the team’s offensive output, though, and said McBride determined the outcome with her play, especially late.

She scored 15 points over the final 20 minutes, including a step back 3-pointer and a 3-point play on successive possessions in the fourth quarter.

Dearica Hamby came off the bench to score 16 points — no other Aces player had more than five points — and Wilson had a couple of buckets and a key assist down the stretch.

“We’re trusting each other more,” Wilson said. “We really know each other now. In training camp and things like that, the beginning of the season, you don’t know each other … Now we’re talking a lot more. We’re hearing each other, and the chemistry is there for us.”

Charles led the Liberty (4-7) with 14 points on 6-of-18 shooting. Rookie Kia Nurse scored 13.

The Aces are home for the next week after playing five of their last six games on the road. McBride says it’s time to bear down, especially with seasoned teams like Minnesota, Dallas and Los Angeles coming to town.

“We’ve got to continue to make a statement, especially while we’re at home,” she said. “Continue to get better. Continue to have confidence.”

More Aces: Follow all of our Aces coverage online at reviewjournal.com/aces and @RJ_Sports on Twitter.

Contact reporter Sam Gordon at sgordon@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BySamGordon on Twitter.

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