MURFREESBORO, Tenn. -- This was a banner week for the MTSU women’s basketball team.
First, the Lady Raiders extended their winning streak to 16 after a home win over Old Dominion on Jan. 25. Their performance was rewarded with a No. 25 ranking in the latest Associated Press Women’s Basketball Poll.
MTSU played at Tulsa on Saturday, and it will travel to Southern Mississippi on Wednesday before returning home this Saturday, Feb. 8, against Rice.
The 2 p.m. matchup vs. Rice will certainly be a special one as the Lady Raiders will play the Lady Owls in the annual Play4Kay game. The event honors those who have faced cancer, including breast cancer.
Several activities will take place during the game at Murphy Center, and each is for a good cause. As usual, the Lady Raiders will wear the traditional pink jerseys, and they will be auctioned off after the game to benefit the Play4Kay foundation and the local Saint Thomas Rutherford Hospital Power of Pink foundation.
Before the game and during halftime, those cancer survivors in attendance will make a tunnel for the team to run through as it takes the court. Also, Pink T-shirts will be available for a donation, and some will be thrown out to the crowd during breaks in the action.
After the game, all of the Lady Raiders will sign autographs. The main focus of the event is everybody in attendance needs to wear pink to honor those who have fought the battle against cancer.
All over the country during the next couple of weeks, several women’s basketball teams will be wearing pink jerseys to honor the former legendary North Carolina State head coach Kay Yow, who beat breast cancer three times before eventually losing her fight in 2009.
One of her final games on the bench for the Lady Wolfpack was against the Lady Raiders during the first round of the 2005 NCAA Tournament.
MTSU pulled off the 60-58 upset on March 19, 2005, and my editor, Monte Hale Jr., had a chance to interview Yow prior to and after the game. It is also a memory current MTSU Senior Women’s Administrator Diane Turnham remembers to this day.
“One of the things I remember vividly is the year our own Blue Raiders beat them in the 2005 NCAA Tournament,” Turnham said. “Yow was on the bench that day after she had been away from her team.
"She was with them for the tournament. I remember that day how incredible her strength was and how dedicated she was to beating that disease. Her team helped her fight the disease every step of the way. To me that is why it is so important to participate in a game of this type every year to honor her memory.”
Most every family in America has been touched by cancer, including mine. So, this is perfect way to honor those on Saturday who have fought the good fight against not only breast cancer, but all types of cancer.
Several members of the Lady Raiders have had either family members or friends who have dealt with cancer. All of them will take pride in not only trying to win the game that day, but use it as a way to remember those who have faced the battle.
One of those players, senior guard Janay Brinkley, has lost members of her family to ovarian cancer in recent years, so this game carries a special importance.
“I just personalize the game, and I just think about my aunts and grandmother who passed away from ovarian cancer,” Brinkley said. “So it means a lot to me just to play and what it represents.”
The game starts at 2 p.m. on Saturday at Murphy Center and is a perfect way for everyone involved with the program to honor those who have faced cancer – either past or present.
“Basketball and athletics is a family, and when someone in our family is affected by a disease then we all want to help,” Turnham said. “That is why this day is so great.
"We've always had a Play4Kay day, but we want especially with the Final Four in Nashville this season, to make this year extremely good.”