Houston still the one in WNBA

Comets dedicate third straight title to Perrot's memory

September 06, 1999|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

HOUSTON -- The confetti operator did not jump the gun yesterday. There would be no buzzer-beating three-pointer. The plastic covering the Comets' lockers to protect the players' clothes from champagne remained in place. There were no surprises.

The Houston Comets defeated the New York Liberty, 59-47, to win a third straight Women's National Basketball Association championship before a sellout crowd of 16,285 at the Compaq Center.

Liberty guard Teresa Weatherspoon hit a three-pointer at the end of this game, but it didn't have the impact that her shot from beyond half court had in Game 2 on Saturday, giving the Liberty a last-second victory.

Shortly after the ball landed on the court yesterday, a mountain of confetti rained from the ceiling and Comets guard Cynthia Cooper, the Most Valuable Player of the championship series, jumped on the scorer's table and waved the No. 10 jersey of teammate Kim Perrot. Perrot died of brain cancer on Aug. 19.

"We won this one for Kim," said Houston forward Tina Thompson, who scored 13 points and grabbed six rebounds. "All the desire, passion and strength that she brought to this team we showed today."

This championship cemented Houston's place as the elite team of the WNBA. The Comets are the only champions in the three-year history of the league, but they are hesitant to begin calling themselves a dynasty.

"It feels good to be talking about being a dynasty and being compared to the Chicago Bulls," said Cooper, who rebounded with a game-high 24 points after a 1-for-10 performance in Game 2. "We just want to enjoy this championship, because this championship is unique and special for a lot of reasons."

Houston coach Van Chancellor said it was an extremely difficult season, because there were a lot of off-the-court distractions. Cooper's mother died of cancer in February; Perrot was ill for seven months before she died last month, and guard Sheryl Swoopes is going through a divorce.

"After what this team has gone through," Chancellor said, "I don't know of any group of players anywhere at any time in their lives that deserve a championship more than they do."

While the Comets can celebrate their championship victory, the Liberty has to live with a second loss in the WNBA Finals. The Liberty lost a key player in forward Rebecca Lobo to a season-ending knee injury in the first game and then struggled through an 18-14 regular season.

"At the beginning of the year, if anyone had said we would have been here in the championship game, I would have been happy," said forward Sue Wicks, who led the Liberty with 11 points. "But you get this far and you go into this game and you want to win it. It really hurts. The higher you go the more it hurts when you fall."

The Liberty was unable to take advantage of the momentum it built from a rousing come-from-behind victory capped by Weatherspoon's buzzer-beater in Game 2.

For most of the first half, the teams played even. But the Comets slowly pulled away in the last two minutes of the period to take a 33-25 halftime lead. The teams went cold from the field for a long stretch near the beginning of the second half, and the Liberty was never able to close to within fewer than seven points.

Even though both teams were battering each other, Houston was the beneficiary of most of the referees' calls. The Comets were 27 of 32 from the line while the Liberty was just eight of nine.

In addition to Cooper's 24 points and Thompson's 13, the Comets got 11 rebounds from forward Tammy Jackson off the bench and 11 points from Swoopes. It was enough to beat the Liberty, which was doomed not only by poor shooting from the field (30.9 percent), but by poor rebounding (eight offensive boards) and turnovers (16).

Pub Date: 9/06/99

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