'Coach Yow Would Have Been Really Proud'

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Just five days after Kay Yow passed away following her long battle with breast cancer, her team stepped onto the court bearing her name and attempted to focus on winning a basketball game.

Her players donned pink uniforms with matching shoes, each with 'Yow' in place of the player's name on the back. The opposition laced up pink sneakers. The officials called the game with pink whistles. While there were plenty of reminders of the 38-year coach of women's basketball at NC State, her seat on the bench was empty except for the No. 14 jersey draped across it.

Stephanie Glance, given the seemingly impossible task of coaching the team and mourning a close friend simultaneous, said the game had a different feel even though Yow hadn't been on the sidelines since mid-December.

"Over the last couple of weeks I could call and talk to her, even though she wasn't coaching," Glance said. "Then I could call and talk to her or see her after the games. I really miss that."

North Carolina State's Lucy Ellison (24), and the entire team, wears "Yow" on her jersey during an NCAA women's college basketball game against Boston College. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Following Wednesday's memorial service at Reynolds, there was little in the way of pregame mourning. A few words were said over the loudspeaker followed by a moment of silence, then it was on to basketball.

"I know if coach Yow was here she wouldn't want to be anywhere else," senior guard Shayla Fields said. "If she wouldn't want to be anywhere else, I don't want to be anywhere else."

After falling behind by 21 points at halftime then 31 points with 17 minutes left in the game, the Pack showed its fighting spirit in the form of a 20-2 run that cut Boston College's lead to 11 points before the visiting Eagles stabilized to win 62-51. Fields led the charge during the comeback, scoring 15 of her team-high 17 points in the second half.

"Tremendous effort to overcome that kind of deficit and those kinds of broken hearts," Glance said. "I'm really proud of this team. We have a group of young people who are heartbroken. They wanted to win this game more than any game in their entire life."

The crowd of over 4,000 in attendance did their best to keep the momentum going, cheering ever stop and every basket like it was a game-winner.

"The crowd was unbelievable," Glance said. "It was like we were up by 20, or it was a one-point game. And we were down by 25 points. And the crowd is just yelling and screaming and clapping and encouraging. We really needed that, that really spurned them on in the second half."

The crowd cheered and chanted down to the final whistle even as it became clear that the comeback wouldn't be enough. When the game ended, they stayed and cheered as the team briefly huddled around center court before going to the locker room.

"I got very emotional at the end of the game," Fields said. "I was so happy that the fans stayed and cheered us on and supported us even though we were down so many points."

The final 15 minutes of the game left little doubt.

North Carolina State's Nikitta Gartrell, right, sits with assistant coach Kristen Gillespie during the second half. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
"Coach Yow would have been really proud of them tonight," said Glance. "We are going to play through this and walk through this together. We are going to keep getting better on the floor and we are going to keep grieving."

The jerseys were going to be worn on February 15th during the Hoops for Hope game against Virginia, but the timeline was moved up following the events of the past week. North Carolina also wore its pink uniforms on Monday night against Maryland as team's across the conference and nation honored the Hall of Fame coach.

"It's inspiring that so many people cared about her and care so much about us," Fields said. "To just show their support and be there for us."

Meanwhile the team will attempt to keep focusing on basketball. They'll hit the road for four consecutive conference games before coming back to Reynolds on February 12th against Wake Forest.

"This is her team; this is her program," Glance said. "I want to be the very best representative of Kay Yow I can be. That gives me a lot of strength."

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