20070624/HOUPHO
Mercury Derails Comets Rally

PHOENIX, June 24, 2007 (AP) -- Penny Taylor scored 13 of her season-high 30 points in the fourth quarter to lead the short-handed Phoenix Mercury to a 90-85 victory over the Houston Comets on Sunday.

Phoenix (8-7) was without the injured Cappie Pondexter and the suspended Diana Taurasi, who combine to average 37.3 points per game.

Belinda Snell scored 17 points, shooting 5-for-13 on 3-pointers, and grabbed seven rebounds for Phoenix, loser of three of its previous four. Tangela Smith added 16 points.

"After a few losses we needed to get a win more than anyone realizes,'' said Taylor, who also had nine rebounds. "Now we have a little bit of a break where we can work on the things that we need to but we had to get that win going into this break because we play Houston again next game.''

Crystal Smith had 16 of her 18 points in the first half for Houston (2-11), which had won two straight. Hamchetou Maiga-Ba added 16 points and six rebounds.

The Mercury were 27-for-31 on free throws and held Tina Thompson to 10 points - nine below her average.

The Comets led 70-62 heading into the final quarter after outscoring Phoenix 26-9 in the third.

"We started off slow,'' Comets coach Karleen Thompson said. "We tried to pick it up in the third quarter, but when you get a team full of shooters like that and they get warmed up it is hard to stop them.''

However, the Mercury scored the first 15 points of the fourth to take the lead for good.

"It was a very good sign this team did not fold,'' Phoenix coach Paul Westhead said. "There were some that played their best and were tired and we didn't have a lot of our players, but we played through it.''

Phoenix led by as much as 20 in the first half, but Houston had a 15-3 run to start the second half. The Mercury had 10 turnovers in the third quarter that led to nine Comets points.

Taurasi, fourth in the league in scoring at 19.5 points per game, sat out the first of a two-game suspension handed down by the WNBA for inappropriate conduct toward game officials at the end of the Mercurys 87-84 loss to Detroit on Friday night. Taurasi missed two 3-pointers in the final 13.9 seconds that would have tied the game Friday and then was called for an offensive foul with 4.5 seconds left.

The former Connecticut star will also sit out the Mercury's next game, at Houston on Saturday.

Pondexter, who scores 17.8 points, sat out her third straight game with a strained left groin.