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Liberty plan to put franchise tag on Breanna Stewart, hope to bring back free agent Jonquel Jones

NEW YORK (AP) — Breanna Stewart and the New York Liberty fell just short of winning the franchise's first WNBA championship, losing to the Las Vegas Aces in the Finals.

It was the first time that Stewart experienced losing in a championship round since her freshman year of college. The league's MVP won the two Finals series she played with Seattle and won four NCAA championships at UConn. Her lone loss in a title game came in the Big East Tournament her freshman season.

“Making sure that I don’t feel that again, I think that’s really my mindset and mentality going forward,” Stewart said Friday.

New York hopes to bring back most of the same team next season. Stewart could be an unrestricted free agent but Liberty general manager Jonathan Kolb said that he would give her the franchise tag so that she can't sign a contract directly with another team.

“It’s my first time being cored. Not surprising,” Stewart said. “I’m excited for what we’re doing here in New York and with the Liberty. … I’m looking forward to it for many years to come."

Stewart is focused on trying to bring the city a championship.

“This isn’t the goal that we had at the start of the season. We didn’t want to just get to the Finals. We weren’t content with being one game away from winning the whole thing," she said. "But we wanted to win, and really just building off of that and not forgetting what it feels like to be here.”

While Stewart definitely isn't going anywhere in the near future, the Liberty will need to figure out a way to re-sign free agent Jonquel Jones, who flourished in the playoffs. She averaged 17.0 points, 11.6 rebounds and 2.4 blocks in the postseason.

Jones, who came to New York in a trade in the offseason, is also an unrestricted free agent.

“She’s a player that we definitely want to retain, and we’ll continue those talks into the offseason,” Kolb said.

Jones enjoyed her first season in New York and said she's "definitely trending towards coming back here.”

The Liberty already have Betnijah Laney, Courtney Vandersloot and Sabrina Ionescu signed for next season. Ionescu revealed on Friday that she was dealing with a hip injury in the WNBA Finals that she sustained against Connecticut in the previous round.

Ionescu refused to use the ailment “as an excuse” but said she was not 100% in the Finals. She averaged just 9.7 points and shot 31.5% from the field in the four games.

“I had to get an injection before (Game 1) just to be able to play those first two Vegas games,” she said. “So obviously, not ideal. It’s just kind of what happens. There’s no excuse obviously but, I mean, I wasn’t really able to walk, so timing wasn’t great.”

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AP WNBA: https://apnews.com/hub/wnba-basketball