The Houston Comets had Cynthia Cooper, Sheryl Swoopes and a purple towel. That turned out to be a repeat championship combination.
Cooper scored 23 points and Swoopes led a late second-half charge as the Comets beat the Phoenix Mercury 80-71 Tuesday night to win their second WNBA title.
Houston, which beat New York for the league's inaugural title last season, beat Phoenix in the best-of-3 series after dropping the opener on the road.
"I'm going to enjoy this one more than the last one because Saturday I thought we were dead in the water," shouted Comets coach Van Chancellor. "The Lord won one for me Saturday and the players won one for me tonight."
The Comets trailed the Mercury by 12 points with 7:24 to play Saturday before rallying for a 74-69 overtime victory.
"For the first time in this series we didn't panic," said Cooper, the league MVP in both seasons. "We didn't get down on ourselves or argue among ourselves. We put that purple towel theory to work and hung in there."
Chancellor called a team meeting at Monday's practice and held up a white towel. He told them it was purple.
"If I say it's purple, it's purple," Chancellor said. "If I say it's so, it's so. You listen to me tomorrow and we'll win."
There were purple towels
| Cynthia Cooper (14) and Kim Perrot combined for 36 points and one big hug Tuesday. (AP) |
Swoopes made two free throws for a 64-61 lead and then she really put on a late show.
Over a 32-second span, Swoopes fed Janeth Arcain for a layup then blocked a shot that led to her own basket at the other end. The lead was 68-61 and the Mercury never got closer than four points the rest of the way.
"I thought Sheryl made some big plays, big free throws, big rebounds, she's a big-time player," Chancellor said. "She ran over her own player and blocked a shot."
Tina Thompson had 18 points for Houston and Swoopes scored 11 of her 16 points in the second half.
Michelle Griffiths led the Mercury with 24 points, while Jennifer Gillom had 20.
"Tonight, it is very hard to come to terms with the loss, so it is very tough to remember what actually happened throughout the game," Griffiths said. "All I can see is the score. I would say maybe some costly turnovers."
The comets never trailed in the first half and withstood a mild Phoenix rally for a 32-26 halftime lead.
But the Mercury kept up the charge early in the second half when they tied the score twice and took their only lead of the game, 47-45, with 14:47 left on a basket by Griffiths.
Mercury coach Cheryl Miller, who had predicted a championship for her team, was more subdued following the game.
"They made their shots tonight and that's what you must do in a championship game," Miller said.
Two free throws and a 3-pointer by Kim Perrot gave the Comets a 50-47 lead and they never trailed again.
Cooper scored 13 first-half points, but she also picked up three fouls, including one with 24 seconds left in the half that gave Griffiths a three-point play.
The Comets took a 25-15 lead with 6:26 left in the half, aided by 10 first-half turnovers by the Mercury. Phoenix outscored the Comets 11-7 the rest of the half as Griffiths had five of her nine first-half points during that spurt.
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