Women's basketball honors Kay Yow in the Play4Kay game

Women's basketball honors Kay Yow in the Play4Kay game
Photo courtesy of Alabama Athletics

Pink shoes squeaked up and down the court as fans, decked out in pink T-shirts, passionately waved pink shakers with every Alabama free throw, rebound and three-pointer. 

Alabama women’s basketball hosted its yearly Power of Pink/Play4Kay game for breast cancer on Sunday afternoon. Play4Kay is a fundraising initiative started 11 years ago in 2007 by the Kay Yow Cancer Fund in honor of the former North Carolina State women’s basketball coach who passed away from breast cancer in 2009.

“Everyone is working hard for Play4Kay to fund and try to fight all women’s cancers,” Alabama coach Kristy Curry said. “Today, for us to just raise awareness for women’s cancers – we’re all in this together and we need to continue to fight for her.”

According to the fund’s website, for a game to be called a Play4Kay game, it must be marketed as such, raise money for the Kay Yow Cancer Fund and honor cancer survivors during the game.

In 2014, Curry received the Kay Yow Heart of a Coach Award. The award is presented annually by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes to a women’s basketball coach who coaches his or her players’ hearts, bodies and minds according to Biblical principles, per the FCA website.

“It’s an incredible honor, with what Coach Yow has done for the game of women’s basketball and the way she fought a terrible disease," Curry said.  "… As coaches, I think that we all need to love our players and love our communities with a thankful heart the way that Coach Yow did. So it definitely was an honor to receive that award.”

Alabama was seeking revenge against Auburn for a nine point road loss three weeks ago, and the game also marked Alabama’s Senior Day. Seniors Hannah Cook, Ashley Williams, NeNe Bolton, Meo Knight, Alana da Silva and Coco Knight were honored after the game for their contributions to the program.

Williams, a fifth-year senior and the only player to play under Curry for all five years since she was hired, tearfully reflected on her career as she held her daughter Kamryn.

“It’s been a long journey,” Williams said, pausing to collect herself. “To play with these five other seniors has been great. I took Hannah and all the rest of the freshmen in, had to take them under my wing.”

Courtesy of a nine point advantage in the fourth quarter, Alabama did get its revenge, defeating Auburn 70-60, winning its third straight game.

Through the first quarter, the Tigers weren’t doing the Crimson Tide any favors, though, holding the home team to just 1-of-11 shooting from the field.

Someone in the huddle must have flipped a switch between quarters though, because Alabama came out guns-blazing in the second. Two three-pointers by Cook and guard Jordan Lewis, a steal and converted layup by Williams and five more points by Shaquera Wade made up a 13-0 run over just 1 minute and 52 seconds of game time.

“We just needed to slow down, we didn’t want them to dictate our pace,” Cook said. “We slowed down, took care of the ball, we limited our turnovers. We made smarter passes and turned good passes into great shots.”

On Senior Day, with a raucous home crowd, playing a revenge game against a rival and hoping to keep their NCAA Tournament hopes alive, the team didn’t need any reminders to play with intensity and heart.

“When life kicks you, you have to kick it forward like Coach Yow used to say and I thought our team was really getting kicked there for a little while today,” Curry said. “We kicked it forward the way she would’ve wanted us to do it.”

A tightly contested second half finished with the crowd catapulting Alabama – especially Cook, who scored seven points in the fourth quarter and converted a three-point play – over the top.

“The crowd is a huge factor, especially for me,” Cook said. “It gets a lot of us into the game and just gets us pumped up,” Cook said. “I thank all the fans who came out today for this special day. After that and-one, I really got into the crowd … It’s a lot of fun to be around.”

Alabama out-rebounded Auburn 43-28 and Williams and Wade had much to do with that. Williams had her second consecutive double-double, the 16th of her career, with 17 points and 10 rebounds, and Wade had 11 and eight, respectively. 

Now Alabama turns its focus to hosting the 20th-ranked Georgia Bulldogs on Thursday night. Riding a three-game win streak and sitting at 7-7 in conference play, players and coaches certainly still have the NCAA Tournament on their minds.

“I think it’s a real simple formula: we just need to try and win the next game,” Curry said. “We win the next game and everything takes care of itself … We know how important it is to make an impression on the committee … But we can’t worry about those other things. If we can control what we can control, and that’s our energy and our effort, it’ll all take care of itself.”

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