The game clock read 60:00:00 prior to tip-off. The minutes began to tick away.
The Jayhawks ran onto the floor, and soon after the Wildcats joined the warm-up.
The clock kept counting down.
If only a power outage would occur, or maybe the officials would get lost in Manhattan. Anything, to stop that game clock.
The buzzer sounded, the lights shined on and the officials were ready for tip-off. The final tip-off in Bramlage Coliseum this season. The final tip-off in Bramlage Coliseum for five seniors.
Kansas State (20-6, 11-4) could manage its emotions in one of two ways: go in the tank, or come out guns a-blazing. The Wildcats chose the latter, although it was by no means an easy task to control four years of home court memories.
“When we met in the locker for the last time, we lost it,” senior Kendra Wecker said. “Coach P lost it. It was one of those things where you look at the other seniors and you see them crying and you melt because there’s no way you can control it.
“We had to really refocus before we ran out onto the floor for warm-ups because we were all just sob faces.”
That was some extraordinary refocusing done by the Wildcats, who should consider shedding a few tears before every game if it’s going to result in 50 percent shooting from the field and beyond the arc in the first half.
Wecker made her first five baskets of the half, including a 3-pointer to start the game and to get all 11,254 purple-clad, sign-waving fans on their feet. The senior didn’t miss a shot until the 5:00 mark of the first half with K-State ahead by 22.
On ‘Kendra Wecker Night,’ a celebration of her No. 53 jersey retirement, Wecker scored a game-high 21 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, her 49th career double-double.
“I continue to be amazed at Kendra Wecker,” K-State Coach Deb Patterson said. “To play that early in the basketball game in such an emotional environment and to make shots and hit nothing but net is pretty special stuff.”
Coach Patterson got some pretty special shooting from senior Laurie Koehn as well. Koehn sank three 3-pointers in the first half and concluded the night with 19 points.
“It’s kind of a blur right now because of all the post-game stuff and the emotion of the night, being a senior the last time here,” a teary-eyed Koehn said. “I’m just trying to pull it together honestly. We came out and executed our offense like we needed to.”
There’s almost a sense of sympathy that goes out to any opposing team who has to play on such an electric night.
The Kansas State seniors have never lost to the Jayhawks (12-14, 5-10). It’s a kind of dominance that few teams experience in the Big 12.
The Wildcats maintained the lead throughout the final Sunflower Showdown and although Bramlage has seen better second halves of basketball nobody really cared, because for many this would be the last time to see the “Fab Five” in person.
And still, the game clock kept winding down, 20 minutes left.
It was an achievement oblivious to Mahoney which is a testament to the mind-set that it takes to be so successful.
“It’s just a great feeling to be a part of that (100th win) and to know you’ve contributed to that. It’s great. Each senior on the team has contributed to each of those wins.”
Win number 100 probably came with a little less focus than usual because each senior had their own moments of ‘this is the last time…’ before, during and after the contest.
For Wecker it was the last pre-game warm-up…For Domenico it was the last game day practice…For Madden it was the last starting line-up…For Mahoney it was the last game to run out in front of the home fans…And for Koehn it was the last “everything.”
“I thought about the last time I went to the bathroom right before the game. I thought about everything. The last time I closed my car door to walk up to the gym,” Koehn said.
“It’s one of those things when you’ve had such a great experience, it’s meant so much to you and been such a big part of your life. You’re going to think about all the little things.”
Over the last four seasons K-State has gone an unprecedented 54-5 in the friendly confines of Bramlage Coliseum. Most assuredly, it’s been a great run at home for the five seniors, but it’s only the beginning of the end.
“A lot of people act like this is the end and it’s so sad, but you know it’s kind of like a jump off celebration to where we’re really going to kick it into gear and beat some teams,” Madden said.
The game clock worked perfectly.