With just two more regular- season contests on home soil, the Gannon University women’s basketball team hopes to make a bold statement during a blockbuster Saturday that not only represents Senior Day, but the team’s annual Pink Zone game against Lock Haven University.
This year’s Pink Zone game will mark the fifth consecutive year the team has participated in the cause, and as coach Cleve Wright said, it is more than just a way to raise money.
“It’s not just a fundraising event,” he said. “It’s also a recognizing and honoring of survivors and there’s an educational part as well.”
Over the past four years, the program has raised about $52,000, and expects to add $15,000 more by the time Saturday’s game is over. The efforts to meet this goal have included selling T-shirts and raffle tickets as well as having a silent auction during Saturday’s game.
Wright also said that the goal would not be met without help and support from several other groups.
“It’s more than just Gannon women’s basketball,” he said. “We initiated it, but it wouldn’t happen without all these other people.”
These groups include the athletic department, the Student Organiztions and Leadership Development office, health center, boosters and other athletic teams.
Sophomore forward Jen Papich said that although this will only be her second time playing in a Pink Zone game, she expects the game to be exciting for many reasons.
“It’s a different environment altogether,” she said. “There’s so much support and it’s for a good cause. Having that much energy around us helps us play well.”
The Pink Zone game will cap off a week that includes the last two home games of the season, and also marks the team’s celebration of its two seniors, guard Caitlyn Lowe and forward Becky Innes. Lowe said that even though she will miss playing in the Hammermill Center, she hopes the team will continue to play deep into the postseason.
“It’s hard to imagine it all coming to an end,” she said. “But our goal is to be successful in the playoffs so hopefully we’ll be playing for a long time after Saturday.”
She also said that while Saturday is Senior Day, the team needs to keep in mind what it is playing for.
“It’s just a plus that it’s Senior Day,” she said. “We get to play in front of all those amazing women and of course our regular fans, who are also incredible.”
Papich said that losing Lowe and Innes will be difficult but that they have taught her a lot in the two years she has played with them.
“Caitlyn and Becky are a huge part of the team,” she said. “They were part of the team that made the final four and their experience really helps the underclassmen focused. But I’m excited this day is going to be so big because they definitely deserve it.”
The Knights secured a playoff berth with a win over Clarion University on Saturday, Feb. 11, after falling short to Edinboro University on Wednesday, Feb. 8.
Gannon was poised to steal one from the No. 2 ranked Fighting Scots with a seven point lead going into the half, but was unable to regroup after relinquishing the momentum.
“I didn’t think we handled that the way we wanted to,” Wright said. “But I’m not taking anything away from Edinboro – two of their best players went 21-of-26, that’s pretty good.”
Papich and Lowe agreed that the team experienced some lapses in the second half that led to the loss. Papich noted that though Edinboro is tough, she does not think they are infallible.
“It was hard on us because Edinboro has that aura around them right now that makes them seem almost unbeatable, and they’re not,” she said.
Lowe added that she was pleased with the way the team responded to the loss by coming back strong against Clarion.
“It took us a while to get going Saturday, but once we went on a run we never looked back,” she said. “I think it was a big win for us mentally.”
Wright said that although the Knights are excited by making the playoffs, they are not complacent.
“We’re guaranteed at least one more game, but we don’t want to be satisfied with that,” he said. “What we’re striving for right now is our consistency in execution, energy and emotion.”
He also said that although the team came out ahead of Mercyhurst at their last meeting, it will be a hard-fought game.
“It’s a rivalry game, and I know they’re still fighting for a playoff spot,” he said. “They’re still in the hunt and I know they’ll come here and play hard.”
Papich said that though the Knights have clinched a playoff spot, it won’t be hard to get excited for the rivalry matchup.
“We didn’t play well against them last time,” she said. “We ended up barely winning by one on a buzzer-beater. We’re ready to show them it shouldn’t be a one point game.”