Ohlde to go out on top

The crown jewel of Wildcat women's basketball gets one more chance to sparkle.

After the most heralded career in Kansas State women's basketball history, Nicole Ohlde will suit up in the locker rooms of Bramlage Coliseum. She'll wear that No. 3 jersey for the last time at home, making her way through the locker room, down the hall, and turning left into the ramp leading into the arena. Then she'll lead Kansas State onto the court, under the lights, with an expected sellout crowd wishing her an emotional goodbye.

And it will be fitting on Nicole Ohlde night to see the senior All-American get the recognition she deserves. Fellow seniors Amy Dutmer and Kimmery Newsom will also see the court, but they had their night last week -- the Wildcats' official senior night. No, this night -- when Kansas State plays Texas Tech at 7 p.m. -- will belong to Nicole Ohlde.

But there's also plenty at stake as a team, including championships and post-season positioning. The Wildcats (22-4, 13-2), after losing by two at Texas on Sunday, are tied with the Longhorns atop the Big 12. Beating Tech and a Texas loss to No. 17 Oklahoma would give the Wildcats the Big 12 crown. Regardless, Kansas State is headed for a first-round bye in the Big 12 Tournament in Dallas, and is continuing to position itself for an NCAA Tournament run.

Texas Tech (24-5, 10-5) presents plenty of problems, though, and creates a tremendous obstacle standing in the way of Ohlde's dream finale. After losing arguably their best player in Jia Perkins (medical reasons) and junior center Cisti Greenwalt (fractured ankle), Tech as managed to battle back from a slow start to the Big 12 season to win seven of its last 10 games.

Part of that is because of the production from every position in their starting lineup. No player averages more than 8.1 points per game, but all five starters average more than 5.0. In addition, three of the starting five are seniors, creating an experienced lineup unlike any the Wildcats have faced this season.

And Kansas State must also try to quelch demons of past years. The Lady Raiders knocked off Kansas State late last season to deny them the regular season title, and then bounced the Wildcats in the Big 12 Tourney. That dropped Kansas State unceremoniously in the NCAA brackets, resulting to in a second-round matchup with Notre Dame. The rest, as the cliche goes, is history.

Kansas State will also retire the Ohlde's jersey in a postgame ceremony involving President Jon Wefald, Athletic Director Tim Weiser and Coach Deb Patterson. She becomes the first player in Kansas State history to have his -- or her -- basketball jersey retired. Weiser said the ceremony will be the first of several in the next few years to honor previous Wildcat greats.

But no greater is any than Ohlde, who holds Wildcat records for career points, the women's rebounding record, and who has won two gold medals for Team USA. There are the academic all-district and all-Big 12 honors and the 36-point, 19-rebound performance against Wyoming just a couple years ago. There were the broad smiles after big upset wins -- last year at home against Texas, the year before as the Cats marched through the NCAA Tournament. There were the tears and disappointment -- Notre Dame and just last Sunday, as her hanging layup rimmed out, costing the Cats a chance at overtime and the Big 12 title.

No other player has given so much to the Wildcats, Patterson said. Ohlde arrived to a program that had a losing record the season before, and her broad shoulders became the foundation of something monumental -- some call it a dynasty.

It will be honored Wednesday night.

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