Comets’ Loss Bigger Than Sparks’ Win

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Kim Perrot was with them, during the timeouts, on the fastbreaks and on the defensive end, and on the bench . . . and certainly in the Houston Comets’ hearts.

But even a spectacular final four minutes by the Houston Comets’ Sheryl Swoopes couldn’t prevent the Sparks from winning, 68-64, Friday night, a victory that brings Tuesday’s Sacramento-Los Angeles Western Conference one-game, first-round playoff to the Forum.

Swoopes wowed a season-high Forum crowd of 13,116 with offensive and defensive bursts that brought Houston (25-6) to a 64-64 tie with 2:09 to go.


But the Sparks’ Penny Toler, coming off the bench, twice made two free throws, the first pair with 40 seconds left and the second pair with 10 seconds to go, completing the Sparks’ (20-11) third consecutive victory.

The Comets won the Western Conference title two weeks ago, and if the Sparks beat Sacramento in the Tuesday playoff, Houston would meet the Sparks again at the Forum Thursday--in the first in a best-of-three Western Conference final series.

Games two and three, if necessary, would be played in Houston.

Houston, bearing grief for their former point guard, Perrot, who died Thursday, made an inspiring stretch run at the Sparks. League most valuable player Cynthia Cooper, at Perrot’s bedside when she died, decided not to suit up Friday. Nor did backup post Kara Wolters, who stayed at the Comets’ hotel with flu.

U.S. Olympic Coach Nell Fortner is considering adding Swoopes to her roster. If she sees the final minutes of her effort against the Sparks Friday, she’s a lock. Consider:

* With 4:22 left and Houston down by 62-57, Swoopes stole the ball at midcourt and made a jump shot.

* At 4:09, she got another steal, missed the shot but was fouled and made two free throws.

* At 2:16 she forced a turnover at the Sparks’ end and made a free throw seconds later.

At 64-64, Swoopes bagged yet another steal, but Tina Thompson missed with one minute remaining, setting up the Sparks for Toler’s winning free throws.


“I’m really proud of the Comets tonight,” said their coach, Van Chancellor, who was charged with a technical with about five minutes to go and later was livid over two calls by the officials in the final minutes.

“My players played their hearts out, they did everything humanly possible to win with one of the greatest efforts in the history of women’s basketball.

“But L.A. deserved to win the game. When Toler comes off the bench and gets them 10 points, with all the other weapons they have you’ve got problems.”

Spark Coach Orlando Woolridge, after watching his club lose five-point leads three times and then watching Swoopes’ spectacular finish nearly beat the Sparks, praised both Swoopes and Toler, who registered her second consecutive strong game.

“Swoopes is an incredible athlete, particularly at the defensive end,” he said.

“We gave up those leads, but we were able to regroup and get it. Toler did a great job. This is crunch time, and I’ll go with veterans whenever I can.”

Said Swoopes: “Considering the circumstances and that we only lost by four, I thought it was a good game for us. I think we feel good about ourselves.”


Swoopes, although she played 39 minutes and shot only 10 for 29, had a game-high 25 points, eight rebounds, six steals, four assists and two blocks.

Spark DeLisha Milton, eight for nine from the floor, had 18 points and seven rebounds for the Sparks, who shot 46% to Houston’s 35%.

Private burial services for Perrot will be held Tuesday in Lafayette, La. Her family requests that in lieu of flowers donations be made to Kim’s Place, Clutch City Foundation, 2 Greenway Plaza, Suite 400, Houston, TX 77046.