Liberty’s Kayla Thornton shines in starting role again with career-high 6 threes in win vs. Sparks

NEW YORK — “Her name is Kay-Three-La.”

That’s how New York Liberty superstar Breanna Stewart addressed teammate Kayla Thornton after she made a career-high six three-pointers in Saturday’s 98-88 win over the Los Angeles Sparks at Barclays Center.

Thornton, who has been thrust into the starting lineup with Courtney Vandersloot (personal reasons) out, missed just one shot (7-of-8) while draining six treys in 27 minutes Saturday. She also grabbed six rebounds in the win.

The 31-year-old is known as the stout defender called upon to get stops for the Liberty in games. But the three-point barrage is not a surprise to her head coach and teammates.

“She practices this every single day and tonight I complimented her because she starred in her role,” head coach Sandy Brondello said postgame. “We all have different roles that we have to fulfill on this team. She plays her role perfectly and some nights she’s gonna get a lot more threes ... This is one of the nights every time it goes up I know it’s going in because I see it every single day in practice. She’s always gonna give us great effort.

“So, well done KT,” the head coach added with the sharpshooter flanked next to her at the postgame podium.

Thornton’s extra scoring opportunities come with the Liberty currently dealing with multiple injuries. Star Betnijah Laney-Hamilton (knee) missed her second consecutive game and backup Nyara Sabally missed her ninth straight due to a back injury. On Saturday, Thornton recorded her sixth start — she came off the bench for the whole 2023 season — with Vandersloot missing seventh straight game.

Saturday was Thornton’s second 20-point performance of the season after not notching that mark since 2021 as a member of the Dallas Wings. She led her team to victory by scoring 20 points against the Washington Mystics on May 31. And she did it again Saturday.

If you ask her, the strategy is simple.

“Just spacing,” Thornton said Saturday. “Being in the right place at the right time and just shooting with confidence.”

Thornton’s All-Star teammate gave her perspective on the torrid shooting night.

"Like Sandy said, she’s continuing to be in the gym working on her shot,” said Stewart, who hit three treys and finished with a game-high 33 points Saturday. “But, the fact that when she shoots it, she’s standing in it, she’s not over-cutting and things like that. ... Understanding she’s a shooter and [she’s] gonna space to [her] range and the rest of the team just continues to find her. She knows when to knock it down and when to move it.”