NEW YORK, September 3, 1997
-- The clock hadn't completely run out on Saturday before members of the Houston Comets started to run into each other's arms, jump up and down and raise triumphant fists in the air, all in celebration of the Championship, which would soon be theirs.
Their celebration, while a few seconds premature, was on target. When the clock did wind down and the fireworks and confetti started to fly, the Comets had defeated the New York Liberty, 65-51, establishing themselves in history as the first WNBA Champions. And they did so before an enthusiastic sellout crowd of 16,285 and a television audience that included viewers in more than 165 countries.
The team's star guard, Cynthia Cooper, ruled the game as she had done so often during the season, emerging as the high scorer with 25 points and adding four rebounds and four assists to her list of credits.
Cooper was already the league's leading scorer and regular-season Most Valuable Player, but after her team-leading performance, she earned a second MVP award in three days, staking claim to the honor in the Championship Game as well.
"I never would have imagined when the season began that I would be in this position," said Cooper. "It feels great to accomplish this in a team atmosphere after so many sacrifices this summer."
Cooper's fellow All-WNBA First Teamer, Tina Thompson, also turned in a memorable performance, scoring 18 points and grabbing six rebounds in the final game.
The Liberty's Teresa Weatherspoon, who had four points and two rebounds, said losing the Championship was a very bitter pill for the Liberty -- who began the season with a seven-game winning streak -- to swallow.
"It's a very painful loss for us," Weatherspoon said, "but at the same time, we really have to be positive about a lot of things that we've done that were so successful, not only for the Liberty organization but for the WNBA itself."
Houston's Cynthia Cooper hit for 31 points to add to her game totals of five assists and five rebounds in the Comets' 70-54 victory over Charlotte in a playoff semifinal contest on Thursday, August 28. Cooper's point total was the highest in the three postseason games.
The New York Liberty played suffocating defense in the team's 59-41 win over the Phoenix Mercury in a playoff semifinal game on Thursday, August 28. The Liberty prevented double-digit scoring by any of the Mercury's players while limiting Phoenix to 22 percent from the field. The 41 points is the low mark in the league this season.
** From WNBA News, September 3, 1997