Houston Comets Win WNBA Title

Sunday, August 27th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

HOUSTON (AP) — It was only fitting. Sheryl Swoopes scored the final points and Cynthia Cooper got the final rebound.

Swoopes scored 31 points and Cooper had 25 in her final game as the duo rallied the Houston Comets to a 79-73 victory over the New York Liberty for their fourth straight WNBA championship.

Swoopes, the league's MVP and leading scorer this season, and three-time scoring champion Cooper combined for 32 of the Comets' final 36 points as Houston swept the best-of-three series 2-0.

``When everyone counted us out, we hung in there and showed character, perseverance,'' Cooper said. ``We could have let down today and said we've got a game tomorrow. But we came out and played tough every single minute.''

Cooper hit a 3-pointer with 21 seconds to play that tied it at 64 and forced overtime. Swoopes' 31 points set a career playoff high.

``I saw Tari Phillips out of the corner of my eye and I said if she didn't jump I would make the shot,'' Cooper said. ``I knew it was going to be a 3-point shot and that I was going to make it.''

Cooper didn't want to talk about retirement.

``You know, right now I'm savoring the moment,'' she said. ``I've had some great years with the Comets, great years in the WNBA. Right now, I'm concentrating on the four championships we won.''

Tina Thompson had 11 points and eight rebounds, and her two free throws with 27.6 seconds left gave the Comets a 75-70 lead.

``I'm just glad I don't have to go to church tomorrow tied 1-1 and convince the Lord that I'm one of his boys,'' Comets coach Van Chancellor said. ``Was that a basketball game? This one was the sweetest of the four.''

Swoopes hit two free throws with 11 seconds left in the overtime. After New York's Sue Wicks missed the Liberty's final shot, Cooper rebounded and held the ball until time ran out.

Then, the celebration started, leaving the Liberty in a familiar position.

``This is three times that we've had to listen to their crowd ranting and raving,'' Wicks said. ``We have tremendous heart and Houston has heart. It came down to the fact they just have so much talent. You have to respect Houston.

``The deserve all of their championships.''

The Liberty, who have lost the title to the Comets in three of the WNBA's four seasons, overcame a nine-point deficit with 13:25 to play to force overtime.

Tari Phillips led the Liberty with 17 of her 20 points in the second half, including a basket with 31 seconds left in regulation for a 64-61 lead.

Tamika Whitmore added 15 points and Crystal Robinson had 13 points. New York's final lead came with 2:15 left in overtime.

``I couldn't be any prouder of this basketball team than I am of mine tonight,'' Liberty coach Richie Adubato said. ``We fought back tremendously and matched them basket for basket. It would have been great to play here tomorrow but they made the big shots.''

The Comets overcame New York's 19-6 first half run for a 27-25 halftime lead. Houston went ahead 44-35 with 13:25 left, but Phillips helped the Liberty take a 49-48 lead with 6:20 to play.

After taking a 12-2 lead to start the game, the Comets lost the lead — and Swoopes — briefly in the first half.

New York hit only one of its first seven shots and had four turnovers in the first 3:40 before going on a 19-6 run that gave it the lead at 21-18 with 5:48 to play on a 3-pointer by Crystal Robinson, who had eight points in the run.

Seconds later, Swoopes crumpled to the floor after stepping on Phillips and twisting her left ankle.

Swoopes left briefly but returned and hit a 3-point basket with 52 second left to give her 11 points and the Comets a 27-25 halftime lead.

Houston lost only two regular-season home games this season and has won 11 of 12 playoff games at Compaq Center. The Liberty's 68-67 victory in Game 2 of last year's finals is the Comets' only home playoff loss.

The Comets took a place in pro playoff history. The only NBA team to win at least four in a row were the Boston Celtics, who won eight in a row, ending in 1966. The last major sport pro team to win four in a row was the NHL's New York Islanders from 1980-83.

The Comets finished the regular season with a five-game winning streak and beat Sacramento 2-0 in the first round and eliminated Los Angeles 2-0 in the Western Conference finals.

New York reached the finals by beating Cleveland 2-1 for the Eastern Conference title.