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COMETS ABLE TO BLAZE WINNING TRAIL IN FACE OF WNBA FINALS ADVERSITY

The Houston Comets were down 12 points late in the game and saw their hopes of repeating as WNBA champions fading. They refused to fold.

"We just said that they just had given us their best shot," Cynthia Cooper said after she led the Comets from the double-digit deficit to a 74-69 overtime victory over the Phoenix Mercury on Saturday to even the best-of-three WNBA Finals. Game Three is Tuesday night in Houston.

Cooper, the WNBA's MVP in both its seasons, had 27 points, six assists and three steals. Her four points in overtime accounted for half of the Comets' total.

"Overtime showed what we were made of," Cooper said. "It showed we wanted it more than Phoenix."

"I think the only people who believed we would pull this out was ourselves and the fans," added Sheryl Swoopes, who finished with 14 points -- including the other four in overtime -- and 13 rebounds.

"Now both of us are under pressure," Cooper said. "Let's see how they react."

Cooper, who struggled most of the game, had 10 points in the late rally, including a three-pointer with 1:25 to go in regulation that gave the Comets a 66-64 lead.

Kristi Harrower, who finished with 12 points for the Mercury, hit a 7-foot jumper with a minute to go to tie it 66-66 and both teams then missed chances to win in regulation.

"Houston did a very good job on getting back into the ballgame," Mercury coach Cheryl Miller said. "Obviously, we didn't play well down the stretch, plain and simple.

"We didn't handle the pressure."

Michele Timms led the Mercury with 21 points but was held scoreless in the overtime.

"What you saw tonight is why Cynthia Cooper is MVP," Timms said. "She's like a panther that studies her prey, and then she just pounces on you. She waited until her team needed her."

In the overtime, Cooper charged down the court after a turnover by Jennifer Gillom and her layup with 3:19 left in overtime gave the Comets a 68-66 lead.

The Mercury, who led most of the game, scored only three points in the overtime on a free throw and 5-footer by Gillom, who finished with eight points.

Gillom's basket cut Houston's lead to 70-69 with 2:31 left, but Swoopes made a 17-footer and the Comets held Phoenix scoreless the rest of the way.

"In a span of 35 years I've been involved in a lot of comebacks but never of this magnitude," Comets coach Van Chancellor said.

Timms' three-point play with 7:24 to go in regulation gave Phoenix its largest lead of the game, 62-50. But the Comets then outscored Phoenix, 16-4 -- including a 13-0 run -- to send the game into overtime.

"I think what we started to do was try to protect the lead instead of play basketball," Timms said. "What hurt us was we were trying to run the clock. . . . That just totally turned the ballgame around."

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