Betnijah Laney-Hamilton’s knee injury forcing Liberty teammates to step up on defense

Betnijah Laney-Hamilton’s knee injury forcing Liberty teammates to step up on defense

Sandy Brondello is in the dark about her star defender, Betnijah Laney-Hamilton, as she sat out her second consecutive game with a right knee injury during the Liberty’s 91-76 victory over the Sky.

There is no timeline on whether the versatile guard and forward will be back before the Olympic break or if she has had any imaging done on her knee.

“All good questions,” Brondello answered Thursday before the game. “I don’t know the answers at this stage.

Betnijah Laney-Hamilton, pictured earlier this season, missed the Liberty’s win on Thursday night. Michelle Farsi for the NY Post

“I’m sure they’re going to get some work done just to see what’s going on there. It’s unfortunate for us,” the head coach of the Liberty added. “She’s battled these knee injuries and hopefully she’ll be OK.”

Laney-Hamilton, who remains day-to-day, previously sat out with an injury to the same right knee in June — causing her to miss two games against the Sparks.

She also suffered a right knee injury in 2022 and underwent arthroscopic partial meniscectomy surgery, which is performed on torn meniscus cartilage.

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Brondello explained Laney-Hamilton’s knee was swollen from the bus trip for Wednesday’s 71-68 win in Connecticut that she also sat out.

With Laney-Hamilton unavailable for the time being, the Liberty will turn to Leonie Fiebich and Kayla Thornton.

Fiebich, who started in Laney-Hamilton’s place Thursday, already planned to ask her teammate questions after warming up about how to lock down Chennedy Carter, who had averaged 22.8 points on 49 percent shooting across the past five games entering Thursday night’s game at Barclays Center.

Leonie Fiebich started in place of Betnijah Laney-Hamilton on Thursday. Michelle Farsi for the NY Post

“We’ve played against her twice already so that always gives you a good feeling as a defender, like testing her out — what her tendencies are; what does she like to do,” Fiebich said. “And right now she’s playing with a lot of confidence. So, it’s just about making her take uncomfortable shots because she’s gonna shoot those shots. So, just trying to take away her bread and butter and trying to make her take uncomfortable shots.”

“She’s doing a lot more than when we last played her…” Thornton added. “She’s kinda of the main focus right now. Just understanding that she’s a driver, so it’s not going to just be on me and Leo [Fiebich], but team defense, and clogging the paint up and not allowing her to see holes because with a driver like that, once you see a hole, it’s kinda over with.”

Fiebich and Thornton, who typically provide a spark off the Liberty bench, previously stepped up in the absence of Laney-Hamilton in June.

Fiebich, who has more often filled the starting spot and established herself as a core piece in the Liberty rotation, has greatly improved her defense throughout her rookie season, and much of that has come from her veteran teammate Laney-Hamilton’s guidance.

Kayla Thornton typically provides a spark off the bench for the Liberty. Michelle Farsi for the NY Post

The forward previously played at the Spanish club Casademont Zaragoza and often studies tapes of Laney-Hamilton’s defense as she continues to adjust to the play in the WNBA — a league where more fouls are called than she’s used to.

“With the foul trouble … in Europe, the refs are just so different and the style of play is different,” Fiebich said. “So, for me, it was hard to kind of find my balance. So, just watching her [Laney-Hamilton] and asking a question here and there, asking a lot of questions when it comes to scouting because she knows the players. She knows their tendencies. She’s been in the league a long time.

“[WNBA officials] protect their veterans. If you touch them in any kind of, I don’t know, it’s a foul. So, we don’t have that in Europe.”

Fiebich started for Laney-Hamilton in the Liberty’s win over the Sun on Wednesday, when she scored five points, grabbed two rebounds, and recorded five assists and one steal across 33 minutes.