The Houston Comets have been raking in most of the WNBA awards but still must prove they can beat the New York Liberty in today’s first WNBA finals.
Houston finished fast, winning the Eastern Conference title by one game over the Liberty, which started fast but limped into the playoffs despite a 3-1 record over the Comets in the regular season.
Comets guard Cynthia Cooper was a unanimous all-WNBA selection and league MVP. Coach Van Chancellor was coach of the year.
Now it’s a one-game season.
“Everything that transpired before now you can throw out the window,” Chancellor said. “Every team has a lull at some point in the season. They had theirs and now they’re back.”
The Comets rallied in the final 8:17 to defeat Charlotte 70-54 and the Liberty dumped Phoenix 59-41 in Thursday’s semifinal games.
“I don’t think you will see any of the players go out there (today) and start thinking about what we were doing back on July 1 or July 31,” Chancellor said. “They’d better be thinking about what they’re doing today.”
New York won the first three games of the series. The Comets’ charge came later.
“Early in the season, they didn’t have Sheryl (Swoopes) and they played a more wide-open game,” New York coach Nancy Darsch said of the Comets. “They don’t do that as much anymore. They have more defined roles.
“They have four or five offensive calls that are their favorites.”
Stopping Cooper will be the Liberty’s primary emphasis.
“Cynthia Cooper can’t be stopped,” Liberty center Rebecca Lobo said. “We’ll just have to go and do the best we can. It will have to be a team effort against her.”
Darsch plans just that against Cooper, the league’s leading scorer.
“We’ll try to rotate our defensive people on her and try to mix who is defending her and keep our players fresh,” Darsch said. “She handles the ball so much we have to keep fresh people on her. It will be team defense on Coop.”
Lobo had 16 points and nine rebounds in the Liberty’s semifinal victory over Phoenix.
She says the victory built momentum for the title game.
“We wanted to do something special,” Lobo said. “We played a great game under pressure. Now we want to make history. We’re going to do the best we can. It helps that we are back to being the good defensive team we were earlier in the season.”
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