The New York Liberty fell to their sisters in elimination from Indiana, but the midseason acquisition Kea had a career-best 21 points.
Another New York Liberty loss on Thursday night nonetheless yielded more personal history for members of their young roster.
Paris Kea tallied a career-best 21 points while Jazmine Jones put in 10 rebounds. Their efforts weren’t enough to prevent an 85-75 loss to the Indiana Fever, but strong efforts from the young players were signs of the growth that the Liberty endlessly sought in a trying season.
“Jones is such an aggressive player,” head coach Walt Hopkins noted. “I think she gets fed up at times. It’s part of what makes her brilliant. She’s so hard to guard.”
Kea returned to the starting lineup on Thursday, subbing for the injured Layshia Clarendon. The latter is set to miss the remainder of the Liberty’s seasons with a back ailment.
In only her ninth game of the season, Kea’s strong shooting allowed the Liberty (2-18) to build an early lead then keep pace when Indiana (6-15) began to build a lead thanks to Teaira McCowan’s antics off the bench in the second quarter. The second-year reserve sank each of her six shots in the first half but late triples from Kea and Kia Nurse helped New York trim their halftime deficit to 46-42. Nurse was right behind Kea with 18 points. Thursday saw Nurse scored her 1,000th career WNBA point in her third season.
The rise of Kea has been one of the Liberty’s more intriguing stories in the Bradenton bubble. Injuries forced the Liberty’s hand in adding Kea, who spent her rookie season in Indiana. She praised her teammates’ energy for inspiring her to take shots en route to her best single-game numbers.
“I take it one game at a time, trying to get better. I want to win,” Kea said. “Every night I’m going in with all I got to win. That’s really my mentality: to find however I can contribute to the team and get a W.”
Jones, the final pick of the most recent WNBA Draft’s first round, returned to action after sitting out the entirety of the Liberty’s Tuesday tilt against Los Angeles. She fell just short of a double-double with nine points accompanying her decalogue of rebounds.
In a battle of the only two WNBA teams to be mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, the Fever took over the game with a strong fourth, outscoring New York 23-13. Candice Dupree led all scorers with 22 points in victory, while Kelsey Mitchell added 14 more.
The Liberty will play their penultimate game of the bubble season on Saturday afternoon against the defending champion Washington Mystics (12 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Go/CBSSN). New York will look for a season sweep, with one of their two wins coming against Washington on August 7.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags