A Fitting End

On a night in which she scored her 1000th career point, Idaho's only senior on the Women's Basketball team, <b>Heather Thoelke</b>, played a pivotal role in the game's victorious outcome Friday night against Utah State. Heather was crucial to the resurgence of Vandal Women's basketball the last 3 years, and we summarize the Senior Night event honoring her career efforts.

The largest Cowan Spectrum crowd of the 2004-2005 Lady Vandal basketball season had just finished joining in as the Vandal players and coaches stood in the center of the arena singing the Vandal Fight song after an exciting 75-65 win over Utah State in the final home game of the season. But when the song ended the fans stayed in position as the players returned to the bench. They were waiting to give one final salute to Idaho's graduating senior.

Coach Mike Divilbiss walked to the center of the floor and addressed the crowd. "I'm going to introduce Heather's folks first, Tom and Jill Thoelke," he said. "Before I start with our young lady, I just want to tell you these parents have been great to work with for the four years that we've been able to have Heather in our program. I've known them for a long, long time. Heather played for Debbie (Vandal assistant coach Debbie Roueche). Debbie started at Kennewick Washington High (Heather's) first year there. I feel really blessed to have had an opportunity to get to know these people. Their daughter is a great reflection of them. They're very impressive, and I wanted to tell them how much I appreciate them."

As Divilbiss paused while the crowd applauded the couple standing with Divilbiss, the Vandals stood in front of their seats on the north sideline of the Spectrum. In the stands behind them were a combination of U of I students, Palouse area basketball fans, and a huge contingent of player families and friends from the Tri Cities area. The object of everyone's attention stood quietly at the end of the line of teammates.

Divilbiss continued. "As I said in the newspaper, I really believe it as the Bible talks about this: If you're going to build your house smartly, you find the best brick that you can to use as your cornerstone. I think Heather is a wonderful cornerstone to our house that we're building here at the University of Idaho and she will be the first…" His words were drowned out by an ovation from the crowd.

As the ovation subsided, Divilbiss continued. "She saw something in us when nobody else saw it and came at the beginning and helped us get this going. She lived in the hard times playing point for us the first year, a little out of position, and just gritted it out. Last year she played with a broken wrist half the season and couldn't shoot, and as you can see she shoots it pretty well; so that took part of her game away. But she found other ways to be successful. She's been through a lot of adversity, as we all have in building a program, but she's just done such a great job fighting through all of it. I'm so impressed with her, and I want to introduce her. I know her teammates are going to give her a hug and a five here on the way by, but let's bring her up here. Heather Thoelke."

Thoelke began making her way to the floor hugging each of her teammates in turn as the crowd stood and cheered. Members of the Vandalizer student cheering section chanted the mantra "Thoel-Ke! Thoel-Ke! "Thoel-Ke!" The applause continued to swell as she greeted Roueche and fellow assistant coach Jeff Crouse. It reached a peak as Thoelke walked to the center of the arena floor to join Divilbiss and her parents.

When the applause subsided, Divilbiss continued. "I don't know if everybody knows this or not, but Heather scored the 1,000th point in her career her tonight." Another ovation filled the air as Thoelke was presented the game ball. Finally, the Thoelke family made its way to the sideline as Divilbiss concluded the ceremonies.

"Thank you very much. We have one more thing that we have to do because we've got quite a throng here waiting. I think we need to do the fight song one more time." Lining the baselines at the east and west ends of the floor were a throng of children poised as if at the starting line of a race. The Vandal Pep Band took its cue and launched into one final performance of "Go, Vandals Go!" As the crowd finished belting out "I! D! AHO! IDAHO! IDAHO! GO-GO-GO!," a button was pushed and confetti and streamers cascaded onto the court as the children stormed the floor to gather a souvenir of the evening.

As the crowd made its way to the exits, Kibbie Dome maintenance crews entered and started to close down the Spectrum beginning the process of converting the Dome back into an indoor track for Saturday's McDonald's Last Chance meet. A spectator approached a member of the U of I staff who, in turn, got the attention of a member of the cleanup crew who then obtained a ladder. He went to the goal at the east end of the floor and, climbing up, unhooked the netting from the rim and then climbed down. He handed the net to the staff member who walked over and handed it to Thoelke. Spectator Dick Mueller of the Tri-Cities area, a cousin of Vandal junior Emily Faurholt (another Kennewick grad), had asked for the net from the rim where earlier in the evening Thoelke had scored the 1,000th point of her NCAA Division I career. That made it a clean sweep for Mueller who, before the game, had made a similar request for the net at the western end of the floor. That's the goal where, seven weeks earlier, his cousin had scored her 1,000th point as a Vandal.

The 2005 regular season had concluded.

Heather Thoelke
A native of Kennewick, Washington, Thoelke graduated from Kennewick High School. She played one year at Eastern Washington University before transferring to the University of Idaho. She is majoring in physical education and hopes to pursue a career in coaching. After sitting out her transfer year she was a three-year starter first at point guard and the last two years at wing. She was second team All Big West Conference her junior year. This season Thoelke is second on the Vandals in minutes played per game (37.9), free throw percentage (.827), defensive rebounds (121), assists (71), steals (47), and blocked shots (11). She is third in total points per game (10.9), 3-point shooting percentage (.342), and total rebounds (149).

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