A Coach’s First Season: Yow Inspires Pack to Bounce Back

February 15, 2010
By Cherry Crayton
Nearly 40 former players on the Wolfpack women's basketball team unveiled these banners to honor former NC State coach Kay Yow during the Hoops 4 Hope game on Feb. 14. (Photo by Peyton Williams)

Nearly 40 former players on the Wolfpack women's basketball team unveiled these banners to honor former NC State coach Kay Yow during the Hoops 4 Hope game on Feb. 14. (Photo by Peyton Williams)

Amber White, a redshirt junior on the Wolfpack women’s basketball team, had it in her mind: We will not lose this game. All week leading up to Hoops 4 Hope, which featured NC State hosting Miami for a Sunday evening ACC game in Reynolds Coliseum, White thought about how she couldn’t play in it last year because of an Achilles injury and how she wanted to make her former coach Kay Yow — who created Hoops 4 Hope five years ago to raise awareness about breast cancer — proud.  Even when NC State fell behind by 12 points early in its game against Miami before a crowd of nearly 6,500, and even when it trailed by as many as eight points in the second half, White was determined: We will not lose this game.

“[They] had a lot of fire in their eyes. They did not want to lose this game. For so many reasons,” first-year NC State coach Kellie Harper said. “When that team has that type of attitude, it doesn’t mean you’re going to win. But you have to have that attitude to give you that chance.”

The Pack did come back and win. Freshman guard Marissa Kastanek had a team-high 16 points and scored on a game-winning put-back with 1: 07 left to give NC State a 66-64 victory over Miami. White added13 points, seven assists, seven rebounds and three steals. After the game, she said:

[Senior] Sharnise Beal [said after the game] the [senior class] has we never lost [the Hoops for Hope] game. Ever. We didn’t focus on it, but it was in the back of our mind that we can’t lose this game. I think that’s what kept us together and we knew we had to push through it when we got down. . . . I just tried to come out hard because last year I didn’t get the chance to play. I sat on the sidelines and waited to get out here for Coach Yow. I came out to play for her and make her proud.

During the half time of the game, nearly 40 former players unveiled three banners (photo above) that honor Yow. Harper, who called being a part of Hoops 4 Hopes “one of the most memorable and special events I’ve ever been a part of,” describes how the banners came to be:

Several folks in the program, both staff who have been here for many years and new we staff. We all got together and had a discussion about what we can do that would be special. That idea came up and we felt like it was something we could make happen. We wanted to do it the right way. We felt like having her picture up there was the right thing to do. I thought the banners turned out beautifully. I loved them. Obviously, I didn’t get to see the halftime celebration. I specifically wanted the former players involved in the ceremony and to be there and to be the ones unveiling the banners. I was hoping it would be something special for them as well as all of the fans.

Go to GoPack.com for a game recap and a box score. In the rest of our coverage below,  as part of our ongoing series A Coach’s First Season, we also have

  • a gallery of photos taken by Peyton Williams for NC State magazine,
  • notes from Hoops 4 Hope,
  • post-game comments from Kellie Harper, Amber White and Marissa Kastanek, and
  • an exclusive interview with Debbie Mulligan Antonelli ’86, a former NC State player and a basketball analyst who provided color commentary for yesterday’s game for ESPN2.

Up first is a photo gallery that shows the wide-range of activities that occurred during Hoops 4 Hope. Among the activities were a Walk of Survivors at halftime; a silent auction that featured such items as the director’s chair that Kay Yow often sat in during radio interview, a T-shirt autographed by David Thompson, and a movie and a date with Kellie Harper and her husband, assistant coach Jon Harper; and of course, the game.

  • Nearly 40 former NC State players attended Hoops 4 Hope Sunday. Before the game, they lined up the South end of Reynolds, near the Wolfpack’s locker room, to create a tunnel of sorts as the current members of the team ran through, giving high fives, to take the court for warm ups. Kellie Harper also ran through the tunnel giving high fives to the former players, and her assistant coaches Jon Harper, Stephanie McCormick and Richard Barron followed.
  • Miami made six three-pointers in the first half. Five of those threes came during a 21-8 run over a 10-minute period that led to a 33-21 Hurricanes lead with 2:54 left in the first half.
  • NC State’s Amber White scored 10 of her 13 points—many of them coming off of her dribble penetration—in the first half, including six points in the final five minutes, to help NC State pull to within 35-29 by the break.
  • NC State scored the first six points of the second half—getting buckets from White, Lucy Ellison and Bonae Holston—to tie the score up at 35-35 with 17:42 left. But out of the first media timeout of the second half, the Hurricanes reeled off a 13-5 run (nailing two threes) to build a 48-40 lead with 13:43 left.
  • Following a Holston bucket, which was set up by a defensive rebound and a drive by White, junior Brittany Strachan made a three-pointer and freshman Marissa Kastanek followed on NC State’s next offensive possession with her own three, cutting the Miami lead to two with 12:15 left. The game was nip-and-tuck the rest of the way, with several big drives and shots coming from senior Sharnise Beal, who scored all six of her points during a two-minute stretch.
  • Though Nikitta Gartrell has struggled with her shot the past several games, she made a short jumper with 1:52 left to tie the score at 64-64.
  • All game long Amber White kept reminding Marissa Kastanek to box out and rebound, Kastanek says. “I kept forgetting and forgetting and forgetting.” She got some big ones in the final minutes. After Gartrell’s game-tying shot, Kastanek grabbed the defensive rebound. Then, after White missed a jumper off a drive, Kastanek grabbed the offensive rebound in mid-air and without landing, she scored on the put-back with about 1:07 left for the game-winning shot.
  • Miami had several chances to add to the scoreboard. With 51 seconds left, the Hurricanes’ Morgan Stroman went to the free-throw line for a one-and-one. The nearly packed house was rocking Reynolds, so much so, Harper says, that “I specifically remember thinking I’ve never heard it this loud. It was amazing.” Stroman missed the free throw and Kastanek grabbed the defensive rebound.
  • After an NC State turnover, Miami had another shot. With 8.8 seconds left, the Hurricanes called timeout to set up a play. Harper asked her team what defense they felt most comfortable playing. They went with a man-to-man, and the Hurricanes missed a contested shot and White got the defensive rebound.
  • With the win, NC State improves to 14-11 and 4-6 in the ACC. Miami drops to 16-9 and 3-7. The Pack’s next game is Friday, Feb. 19, when they host Boston College. The Eagles defeated NC State 83-66 on Jan. 10. A win Friday would guarantee the Pack a winning season.
  • Officials pegged the attendance at 6,452—the largest crowd this season.
  • Other key stats for the Pack: Senior forward Lucy Ellison had 11 rebounds, including seven offensive rebounds, and sophomore forward Bonae Holston had 14 points and seven rebounds. In addition to her 16 points, Kastanek had eight rebounds and two steals.
  • Shenise Johnson led Miami with 23 points and Shanel Williams came off the bench to add 13 points. It was the first time in 17 years that Miami played in a nationally televised game.
  • Before the game, Kellie Harper circled the concourse of Reynolds Coliseum to check out the booths, took a peak at the public auction, and mingled with the crowd. After the game, she accepted a check that reflected how much money was raised during the event for the WBCA/Kay Yow Cancer Fund. The amount: $50,052.
  • What Kellie Harper told the crowd after the game

    After each game, Kellie Harper addresses the crowd. Here is what she said to the nearly 6,500 there last night:

    “Hey y’all! Give yourselves a round of applause. You helped us tonight! We talked about this being bigger than just one game. And we had 40 minutes tonight. That was our job. I’m proud of our ladies. We did not have a chance to be up here at halftime. How about that banner? . . . Our next game is Friday against Boston College. It’s our Pack the House night. Let’s see if we can do better than tonight.”

    Post-game comments

    Below is video of post-game comments that Kellie Harper and Amber White made immediately after the game and that aired on the radio. After the video are the text of comments made during the post-game press conference.

    Post-game comments from redshirt junior guard Amber White

    On playing in the Hoops 4 Hope game

    I just tried to come out hard because last year I didn’t get the chance to play. I sat on the sidelines and waited to get out here for Coach Yow. I came out to play for her and make her proud. . . . .Knowing that last year was the last time that Coach Yow was a part of it physically definitely motivated me. I wanted to be about more than. I thought about all week. It provided an additional motivation

    On the new banners to honor Kay Yow

    One of the players was down shooting a free throw and I glanced up at the banner and I just thought, Wow there are so many people here. And I think to support this cause is just amazing.

    On moving from point to wing

    I think more than ever I’m more comfortable. At times, I still have to bring up the ball so I’m still not off the ball. But it’s about each piece to a puzzle. . . . It’s different but at the same time it’s kind of the same. When I get down or turn the ball over, Marissa is in my ear and I try to provide the same leadership for her. It’s a team effort to get the ball up the floor.

    Post-game comments from Marissa Kastanek

    On her first Hoops 4 Hope

    [T]o see the money raised tonight for a cause that affects basically everyone in America and all the other world—I just thought about it all tonight. . . . .When I first heard that Coach Yow died [last year], it hurt me, and when we showed up to the [high school game on the same day she died], we didn’t know it was the Pink Out game. So that was like Wow. It hit me even harder and the moment of silence before the game was another punch in the gut. It just kept reminding me. I took those as positive signs that she was telling me to play for her. I knew they were going to [unveil the banners].  That was pretty cool.

    On the game-winning offensive rebound and shot

    Amber had been all me on me the whole game to rebound because I kept forgetting and forgetting and forgetting. Then I heard the bench, Coach [Richard]Barron was like, “Go rebound.” So I went in there and got the ball and did what I had to do to help my team.

    Post-game comments from Kellie Harper

    On Miami’s play

    They were obviously shooting the heck out of the ball. They were getting good looks. Even when they took tough shots, they were making them.  We weren’t scoring at the pace they were scoring. We changed up our defenses a couple of times in the first half. I thought initially when we changed from man to zone, it was positive. But I thought when we changed back to man that was better for us.

    On the last defensive plays of the game

    We were in man. Actually, I put it on our players and asked them how they wanted to defend on screens. They made the call on switching screens. Sometimes you want your players to be as comfortable as possible in those situations, and I asked them how they wanted to defend. They felt good about it. The look in their eyes, it’s exactly what you want to see as a coach in that timeout.

    On the play of senior Sharnise Beal

    Sharnise came in and did some really good things for us. She got a couple of rebounds and plays and scored some baskets. She gave us a spark when we needed it.

    On Hoops 4 Hope

    We talked about this game day being bigger than our team. It’s more than a basketball game. At the same time, we had to be focused on the task at hand. As a coach, that helped me. Because I was trying to be more focused on Miami than anything else. Before the game, I was able to take a lap around the concourse. I was bale to meet with former players and see the auction items and mingle with the crowd. That was a lot of fun to me. And to see what an impact Hoops 4 Hope has, first hand. I’ve heard about it but it’s definitely one of the most memorable and special events I’ve ever been a part of.

    On what she saw in her players

    [They] had a lot of fire in their eyes. They did not want to lose this game. For so many reasons. . . .When that team has that type of attitude, it doesn’t mean you’re going to win. But you have to have that attitude to give you that chance.

    On moving forward

    I’m hoping that our kids show some resilience. They went out and got some stops in a very pressurized situation. Hopefully, the next time they are in that situation, they know they can get that stop. We have not made that stop in some other close games, and I’m so proud of them getting over that hump so to speak and finding a way to come up with the ball at the end.

    On the play of Marissa Kastanek

    I think from day one we’ve all said that Marissa is not really a freshman – in the general definition of a freshman. She came in more mature and physically strong and came in with a lot of confidence. She’s able to collect herself and bounce back after mistakes. I talked to her one of her shots in the first half was rushed. I pulled her to the side, and I said you did this. She said, yes. I said you’ll make your next one. She said OK. And she’s back out there ready to shoot it again. I like playing her on the wing better than I like playing her on the point. But I think that’s what our team needs right now and I think she’s handled that nicely.  . . . . She brings so much energy and so much life. That is the only thing she’s like a freshman. She has that youth and innocence and energy. And I’ve told her, you have to keep that for four years.

    On possible post-season play

    We have talked a little bit about it with our players. We’ve looked at games that have taken one at a time and the big picture as well. Throughout the season we’ll look at. We’re not trying to put too much pressure on the players, but at the same time, we’re trying to get them to understand that it’s not just a game that they’re playing for the future as well. Obviously, this was a big game that could be pivotal for the future. I’m glad our players were able to get that win.

    Interview with Debbie Mulligan Antonelli ’86

    Debbie Mulligan Anontelli ’86, a Cary native, was a three-year starting guard on the NC State women’s basketball team who played under Coach Yow from 1982 to 1986 and is a member of the WBCA/Kay Yow Cancer Fund’s board of directors. She now calls games for ACC, the Big 12 and SEC, among others; has been the radio analyst for the CBS/NCAA Radio Network for the past 13 Women’s Final Fours; and co-hosts with Beth Mowins a weekly 30-minute podcast, “Shootaround with Beth & Debbie,” that focuses on women’s college basketball.

    On coming back as a former player and participating in Hoops 4 Hope

    It’s unbelievable coming back. It was fun to see all my teammates and that it was a good turnout. I know NC State winning makes everybody feel good about coming back. The banner is awesome. It’s wonderful. It’s a perfect complement to the court, and it’s neat that the former players got to unveil it. I think Coach Yow would have been proud. . . . .This is my second time back. It was a little easier. The Tunnel of Hope or Tunnel of Love with the former players is always an emotional thing because you look out there and see the decades and decades of people who have come together. I know Coach Yow was smiling fondly because she’s always put people first and she always cared about us as people first before we were players. I know she would be proud of the effort that people made to come back.

    On what she saw in NC State in the win over Miami

    Resiliency. Bouncing back. Fighting to the end. [NC State] hit a lull and they had a little adversity but they found a way. That’s Coach Yow. That’s how she would have defined the game. They never gave up.

    On first-year NC State head coach Kellie Harper

    There is great potential. She is in a very difficult situation because she has to replace a legend, and that’s always a difficult spot, plus, the emotion of the situation. I think she’s handled it marvelously and handled it like a veteran. It’s a young staff but they are putting themselves in a position to win every night and the kids play hard for her. That’s important.
    On the lessons of Hoops 4 Hope

    I think the power of pink is very strong when you’re playing for a purpose greater than yourself. In today’s society, we have so many athletes who are so selfish. But inside a team sport, when you put the color pink on, you’re always playing for something greater than yourself. And that inspires because you don’t care who gets the credit. It’s amazing what you can accomplish. And that’s where NC State is now. The power of pink. It certainly moved Amber White today. She played great.

    On NC State’s potential moving forward this season

    One of the reasons why Amber White is playing so well is because Kellie moved her off the point. You take her off the point you take a lot of responsibility off of her, and she can just play. Well, Marissa can handle it. She’s a freshman who is in tune with Kellie a lot more. I think that was a great move. So the potential for them to grow is really going to make them a tough team in the ACC tournament. I would not want to see them on my side of the bracket.


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