NEW YORK, September 4, 1998 -- If the 1998 WNBA Championship Series seemed to be a case of déjà vu, well that's because so much was similar to last year. The Houston Comets were crowned champions again and superstar Cynthia Cooper repeated as regular season MVP and Championship MVP. Despite the similarities, however, there were some important differences between last season and this season.

First, the Comets had to win two three-game series instead of just two single-elimination games in order to win the title. Second, the Comets' opponent in the final series was a fiesty Phoenix Mercury team led by its charismatic coach, Cheryl Miller, and the league's Most Valuable Player runner-up, Jennifer Gillom. In fact, Phoenix, who defeated the Cleveland Rockers in one semifinal series to advance, gave the champs quite a scare. Ahead in the series 1-0 after a home win in Game 1, 54-51, the Mercury almost took Game 2 and the title when it was up by 12 with seven minutes remaining.

It took what Houston Coach Van Chancellor characterized as the biggest comeback in his 35 years on the bench for the Comets to pull out Game 2 in overtime 80-71. Houston outscored the Mercury 16-4 to tie the game 66-66 at the end of regulation. Sheryl Swoopes went to work in the extra stanza, scoring four of the Comets' eight points to go along with a steal and a blocked shot.

Armed with party favors, the Houston fans -- the Sea of Red -- came to celebrate in Game 3, and the Comets did not disappoint. Houston took a 32-26 lead at the half, their first halftime lead in the series, on the strength of Cooper's 13 first half points and eight by All-WNBA First Team member Tina Thompson. The Mercury made a run in the second half, coming within four points with less than four minutes to go, but Houston clamped down and held the Mercury to just four points for the remainder of the game to win 80-71.

The second WNBA championship trophy belongs to the Houston Comets and the champagne and tears flowed freely in the winning locker room.

"This is special," exulted Cooper. "I didn't think before that this championship would feel as special as the first one, but when that buzzer sounded, I felt so many emotions. It just makes all of it worth it. I would say this one is definitely sweeter."

** From WNBA News, September 4, 1998