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Cooper leads Comets to victory

Retiring star lifts Houston in playoff win at Sacramento

SHARE Cooper leads Comets to victory

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Cynthia Cooper is doing her best to end her WNBA career with a fourth straight title.

Cooper, who plans to retire after the season, scored 25 points as the three-time defending champion Houston Comets opened the playoffs with a 72-64 victory over Sacramento on Saturday.

"Many things have been said by other people, but the decision is mine," Cooper said. "I'm retiring at the end of this season."

Game 2 of the best-of-three series is Monday night in Houston. If necessary, a third game will be Tuesday in Houston. The Comets are 11-3 in the playoffs in the four-year history of the league.

In a back-and-forth second half, Cooper made the biggest shot. Following a Sacramento turnover, she hit a 3-pointer for a 61-57 lead. On Houston's next possession, Cooper connected on a 16-footer, giving the Comets a 63-57 lead with 2:32 remaining.

The All-Star guard was 9-for-20 from the field, hitting two 3-pointers, and converted 5-of-6 free throws. She scored a combined 10 points in the last two games, including a career-low four points in the final regular-season game against Minnesota.

"I don't think she will retire, but I wish she would," Sacramento coach Sonny Allen said. "She is a great player. She helped them get back into the game in the first half and hit some big shots in the second half. I hope she keeps her word."

The Monarchs, who led by as many as 11 points in the first half, pulled within four at 63-59 on Ruthie Bolton-Holifield's basket. But Tina Thompson scored off a rebound and added a free throw to put Houston ahead 66-59 with 1:06 left.

"You can't give Houston anything and they made some big shots that turned the game around," Bolton-Holifield said.

Sheryl Swoopes had 13 points for Houston and Thompson finished with 10 points and seven rebounds.

Bolton-Holifield scored 16 points for Sacramento. Tangela Smith had 13 and Ticha Penicheiro added 12 before fouling out late in the game. Yolanda Griffith added 11 points and 14 rebounds.

Trailing by 11 points late in the first half, Cooper ignited an 11-0 run, scoring seven points as Houston tied it at 35 with 55 seconds remaining.

"With four minutes left I was ready to read them the riot act," Houston coach Val Chancellor said. "But then we turned it around. That's where we won the game."

LIBERTY 72, MYSTICS 63: At Washington, Vickie Johnson and Tari Phillips scored 20 points apiece as New York held off Washington in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference playoffs.

The Liberty scored 10 of the game's last 12 points after the Mystics closed to 62-61 on Nikki McCray's 3-pointer with 2:17 to play. Phillips followed with a baseline move for a layup, and Whitmore hit a pair of free throws.

The top-seeded Liberty will be home for Game 2 on Monday night in New York and for Game 3, if necessary, on Tuesday.