HOUSTON, Aug. 20 -- Natalie Williams
scored 25 points on 11-for-16 shooting
as the Utah Starzz edged the Houston Comets 75-72 Tuesday to advance to
the Western Conference Finals.
Utah, which will host Los Angeles on Thursday, took the lead for good, 48-47 on a pair of free throws by Marie Ferdinand
with 12:49 remaining.
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The Starzz extended their advantage to 66-58 on a jumper by
with 4:58 to play, but the Comets stormed back
behind WNBA Most Valuable Player Sheryl Swoopes, whose 3-pointer
got Houston within 73-72 with 15 seconds left.
Sheryl Swoopes scored 20 of her game-high 28 points in the second half.|
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After Ferdinand made a pair of free throws with 12 seconds to
go, Houston called timeout to set up a final play. Swoopes
passed to Kelley Gibson
, whose 3-pointer from the left wing with
three seconds left was blocked by Azzi.
Swoopes snagged the loose ball and missed a desperation
3-pointer from NBA range just before the buzzer.
The game was overshadowed by a scary incident.
Play was stopped for 25 minutes when referee Bill Stokes
collapsed near the scorer's table during a timeout with 15:33
left in the game. Stokes was treated immediately by medical
officials from both teams.
He was taken to Southwest Memorial Hospital, where
he is listed in critical but stable condition.
The players were sent to their respective locker rooms while Stokes was being treated.
The teams returned and had a brief shootaround before play resumed.
Utah shot 50 percent (28-of-56) for the game and limited
Houston to 39 percent (27-of-69). Ferdinand added 18 points and
had 14 and nine rebounds for the Starzz, who won a
playoff series for the first time in team history.
Swoopes had 28 points, but fellow All-Star Tina Thompson
just 12 on 5-of-16 shooting for Houston, which was a league-best
14-2 at home during the season and posted an 83-77
double-overtime win here in Game 2.