HOUSTON, July 19 (Ticker) -- Not even an 18-point advantage could make things comfortable for Houston Comets coach Van Chancellor.

Sheryl Swoopes scored 16 of her 22 points in the first half for the Comets, who held off a late surge for a 58-54 victory over the Sacramento Monarchs.

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Sacramento (13-6) missed 11 of its first 12 shots in the second half as Houston extended its nine-point halftime lead to 45-27 when Dominique Canty made 1-of-2 free throws with 12:01 remaining.

But the Monarchs, the league's top defensive team, came back by holding the Comets to 2-of-14 from the floor down the stretch. Nicole Powell sank a jumper with 78 seconds left to cut the deficit to 53-51.

Canty and Janeth Arcain combined to make three free throws before Powell converted a three-point play with eight seconds remaining, making the score 56-54. Swoopes then sank a pair of fouls shots with seven seconds left to complete the scoring.

In ending a four-game losing streak against Sacramento, Houston (12-7) moved within one game of the first-place Monarchs in the Western Conference.

Swoopes, who topped the 20-point mark for the fourth consecutive contest, scored 12 of Houston's first 16 points and sparked the Comets on a 13-2 run to take a 24-13 lead.

Arcain scored 10 points for the Comets, who have won 13 of the 16 home meetings with the Monarchs and eight of 11 overall.

DeMya Walker scored 21 points, Kara Lawson added 10 and Yolanda Griffith grabbed 10 rebounds for Sacramento.