Kiara Leslie Makes WNBA Playoff Debut

Brett Friedlander

Former NC State women's basketball star Kiara Leslie started ane played 33 minutes for the Washington Mystics in Game 1 of their first round WNBA playoff matchup against the Phoenix Mercury.

The 6-foot-1 guard wasn't at her best offensively, going just 3 for 9 from the floor while finishing with seven points in her first career postseason game. But she played well otherwise with six rebounds, four assists, two blocked shots and a steal.

Her effort, however, wasn't enough to prevent her team from suffering an 85-84 loss in the WNBA's bubble at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.

Despite being the defending league champions, the Mystics barely squeaked into the playoffs as the eighth and final seed after a regular season that saw their roster decimated by injuries and opt-outs.

But they took the fifth-seeded down to the wire in a winner-take-all elimination game on Tuesday.

Washington led by 11 heading into the fourth quarter and were still clinging to the lead when Leslie came down with a key offensive rebound with six seconds remaining. A teammate missed a free throw, however, leaving the door open for the Mercury.

Phoenix eventually won the game on a corner three-pointer at the buzzer by Shay Preddy, who was released by the Mystics earlier this year.

The loss put an ended a season that saw Leslie battle back from a knee injury that forced her entire rookie year in 2019.

She played 19 games, starting 10, averaging 5.5 points and 3.0 rebounds per game while shooting 35.2% from the floor and 36.2% from three-point range. She twice scored a career-high 11 points, the most recently in the regular season finale against Atlanta last Friday.

Leslie was the 10th overall pick of the 2019 WNBA draft, but tore the meniscus in her right knee, requiring surgery to repair the damage, just before her team's first exhibition game last season.

The Holly Springs native played her final two college seasons for the Wolfpack after starting her career at Maryland. She averaged 14.3 points and 6.6 rebounds during her time at State, earning first-team All-ACC honors and honorable mention AP All-American recognition as a senior in 2018-19.

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