NEW YORK, , September 8, 1999
-- It's getting to be a day that can be safely marked on future calendars -- the day that the Houston Comets win the WNBA Championship. For the third time in three years, the Comets raised the Championship trophy above their collective heads on Sunday.
The 60-47 victory over the New York Liberty in Game 3 of the WNBA Championship ends a long and emotional season for the Comets. The most challenging opponents for Houston this year weren't the other 11 teams in the league, it was sorrow over the loss of loved ones. The emotional roller coaster began with the death of Cynthia Cooper's mother, Mary, to breast cancer. It continued with the devastating diagnosis of cancer for 32-year-old, starting point guard Kim Perrot and ended with Perrot's death right before the end of the regular season.
"After what this team has gone through, I don't know of any group of players anywhere, anytime in their lives that deserve a championship any more than they do," said a relieved Van Chancellor after the Game 3 triumph.
The Comets weren't crushed by the heavy burden of loss, instead the team closed ranks and supported each other through tough times. That togetherness was in evidence in three tough games in the Championship against the Liberty.
After taking a commanding 1-0 lead in Game 1 in New York, Houston was expected to close out the series in Game 2 at home. But Game 2 turned out to be an exciting Liberty victory after Teresa Weatherspoon canned a Hail Mary from beyond halfcourt. Cooper, the eventual Championship MVP, had a poor shooting game, recording only one field goal in 10 tries for 12 points. But the loss can't be placed on her doorstep alone, the Comets gave up 45 points in the second half as their defense broke down, allowing the Liberty to shoot 50 percent for the half while the Comets shot 23.1 percent. Chancellor called the defeat "the most heartbreaking loss I've ever been involved in."
But Houston regrouped in Game 3, Cooper returned to her MVP form, scoring a game-high 24 poitns. Teammates Sheryl Swoopes scored 11 and Tina Thompson hit for 13 and collected six rebounds in the victory. The Comets also received unexpected support from 36-year-old backup post player Tammy Jackson who scored seven points and took down a game-high 11 rebounds.
Inevitably, with the three-peat in the bag and the word dynasty swirling overhead, the idea of a four-peat was brought up. Despite Cooper's admonitions, it's hard not to tab the Comets as favorites in 2000.
"What we are going to promise is that next year we are going to come back and give our heart and soul," said Cooper. "Just like we did this year."
** From WNBA News, September 8, 1999