Last year, on the day NC State women’s basketball coach Kay Yow died following her long battle with cancer, Marissa Kastanek was playing an away basketball game at Papillon-La Vista High, somewhere on the outskirts of Omaha, Neb.
Earlier in the day, she had gotten a text message telling her Yow had passed away and she spent the rest of the afternoon getting details from people in Raleigh.
When she arrived at the school, she found out the school her team was playing happened to be hosting a Think Pink breast cancer awareness game. Just prior to tipoff, there was a moment of silence in honor of Coach Yow.
“All day long, it was like another punch in the gut,” Kastanek said. “But I just took it as a positive sign that Coach Yow wanted me to go out and do well.”
That night, Kastanek scored 18 points in the first half, and 22 points in the game, leading her team to a 58-33 victory.
“I thought about that, and the Think Pink game we hosted at my high school all day coming into [the fifth-annual Hoops 4 Hope game],” said Kastanek, a freshman guard from Lincoln, Neb. “And I thought about Coach Yow, all the money that has been raised and all the people who have been helped by events like this.”
So it was fitting that Kastanek reprised her starring role in honoring Yow’s memory, scoring 16 points and grabbing eight boards – including the game-winning basket on an offensive rebound with 1:07 remaining – in the fifth-annual “Hoops 4 Hope” game, leading her team to a 66-64 victory over Miami in Reynolds Coliseum.
“Coach Kellie [Harper]is always telling us to go out and get [the crowd] excited – and it really worked,” Kastanek said of the 6,452 spectators at Reynolds.
The Wolfpack (14-11 overall, 4-6 ACC) also got 14 points from Bonae Holston, while senior Lucy Ellison grabbed 11 rebounds. Amber White, who did not play in last year’s “Hoops” game, had 13 points, seven assists and seven rebounds. She called it her finest game since her freshman year when she helped led the Wolfpack to an upset win over No. 3 North Carolina on the day the Reynolds floor was renamed “Kay Yow Court.”
For Miami (16-9, 3-7), Shenise Johnson scored a game-high 23 points with six rebounds.
Kastanek’s basket to give her team a two-point lead was the final basketball of the game, but the Wolfpack’s defense was responsible for sealing the win. It held Miami’s leading scorer, Riquna Williams, to just nine points in the game and scoreless in the second half.
And, on the final possession of the game, with the Wolfpack leading by just two points and 13 seconds still on the clock, that defense kept the ball out of the hands of both Johnson and Williams, forcing Charmaine Clark to take a shot as time expired. Ellison grabbed her 11th rebound of the game, and the Wolfpack recorded its fourth consecutive in this annual fundraising contest.
It was the first “Hoops 4 Hope” experience for first-year NC State coach Kellie Harper, who was named Yow’s successor last spring. She spent time prior to the game visiting the booths on the upper concourse of Reynolds that promoted breast cancer awareness and research, checking out the items up for bid in the silent auction and visiting with dozens of former players who made their annual trek back to campus for a players’ reunion.
“It was a lot of fun for me to see what an impact the Hoops for Hope is, personally,” Harper said. “I’ve heard about it, it’s definitely one of the most special events I have ever been a part of.”
At halftime, about 150 breast cancer survivors gathered on the court to be recognized, a personal touch that Yow instituted at the inaugural Hoops for Hope event five years ago.
The survivors, some of whom are more than a quarter century removed from their fight against the disease, are grouped by the number of years.
Afterwards, three new banners honoring Yow’s NC State career were unveiled in the north end zone of Reynolds, replacing the five previous banners that were added one by one over a course of many years in the south end zone.
The new banners feature a centerpiece that has a picture of Yow, with her years of service (1975-2009). A smaller one to the left highlights her induction into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2-2000 and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall Fame in 2002. A similar one to the right emphasizes Yow’s 737 career wins, including the dates of her 500th, 600th and 700th victories.
Nearly four dozen former Wolfpack players, some wiping tears from their eyes, pulled the ropes that uncovered the hidden banners.
“I really wanted them to be part of the whole event,” Harper said of the former players.
The popular silent auction raised $18,170, including $2,770 from the raffle of five premium autographed items. Bidders could buy 20 tickets for $20 or 120 ticket for $100 for the opportunity to win a Torry Holt-autographed cleat, a David Thompson-signed “Hoops 4 Hope” basketball, a game-day coaching experience for the season-ended Georgia Tech game, a Party Light gift basket and an NC State yard flag.
In all, from the silent auction, ticket sales and corporate donations, the event raised $50,052 for the WBCA/Kay Yow Cancer Fund.
Thanks to NC State’s Tim Peeler for this capcom story to to Karl DeBlaker for this capcom photo.