The Houston Comets' biggest stars always seem to come out in the second half.

Cynthia Cooper scored 23 points and Sheryl Swoopes led a late second-half charge Tuesday night as the Comets beat the Phoenix Mercury 80-71 for their second WNBA championship."For the first time in this series we didn't panic," Cooper said. "We didn't get down on ourselves or argue among ourselves."

For the second game in a row, the Comets fell behind in the second half, and for the second game in a row, they rallied to win to take the best-of-3 series 2-1.

"I'm so glad that we won our second championship in a row," Comets coach Van Chancellor said. "Thank God for great players."

The Comets trailed the Mercury by 12 points with 7:24 to play Saturday before rallying for a 74-69 overtime victory.

The Comets had the same magic Tuesday night when they wouldn't allow Phoenix to take over when the Mercury took a 47-45 lead. Cooper gave part of the credit to Chancellor's purple towel speech at a team meeting Monday.

Chancellor held up a white towel and told the team it was purple.

"If I say it's purple, it's purple," Chancellor said. "If I say it's so, it's so. You listen to me tomorrow and we'll win."

The Comets got the message in the second half Tuesday night when the Mercury cut Houston's lead to 62-61 with 7:40 to play. Swoopes started it with two free throws for a 64-61 lead and then she really put on a show.

Over a 32-second span, Swoopes fed Janet Arcain for a layup, then blocked a shot that led to her own basket at the other end. That made it 68-61 and the Mercury never got closer than four points the rest of the way.

"I've always been the kind of player to feed off of defense," Swoopes said of her key block. "I just felt that if she (Brandy Reed) makes that shot, the game could have gone the other way. At that point, we couldn't get anything going. We told ourselves we had to concentrate on defense."

Tina Thompson had 16 points for Houston, and Swoopes scored 11 of her 16 points in the second half.

"We knew they'd make some runs, we just didn't let it bother us," Cooper said. "We didn't want to let it hinder us throughout the rest of the game. We wanted to fight back. We did that with defense, teamwork and offense. We stuck together."

Michelle Griffiths led the Mercury with 24 points, and Jennifer Gillom had 20.

"We did come back quite a few times, just playing with poise and going to the players who were hot, Michelle Griffiths and Jennifer Gillom," Michele Timms said.