N.C. State fans rushed the court Sunday at Reynolds Coliseum after the Wolfpack women knocked off 10th-ranked Duke 72-59.
Kay Yow Court suddenly was a mix of red and pink.
It was all pink at halftime. It was the 10th annual Hoops 4 Hope Game at Reynolds, when the Pack honors the late Kay Yow, takes time to remember her fight against cancer and her determination that others would survive the disease that ended her life.
The cancer survivors again gathered at midcourt for a halftime ceremony that was moving, that is a reunion of sorts but also a renewal of hope.
Yow, a Hall of Fame coach, battled cancer courageously from her first diagnosis in 1987 until her death in January 2009. Debbie Yow, one of her younger sisters, is N.C. State’s athletics director and said she wears a pink jacket only once a year, on a special day.
“I’m proud to wear pink today, and it’s an honor for N.C. State to be able to have an event of this type and know it started at N.C. State,” Yow said. “The halftime ceremony is extraordinary. It’s poignant, it’s emotional for everybody here. But it’s encouraging, as well.
“They’re here, they survived. And we all still hope we can find a cure.”
The survivors were divided into groups as they walked on the court, with signs designating the number of years that have passed since they first were affected by the disease. Holding up the “15 +” sign was Jackie Parrish of Four Oaks, who said she was 87 and had been cancer-free for 36 years.
Parrish said she has attended all 10 of the Hoops 4 Hope games at Reynolds, saying, “I’m just glad to be here with all these other lucky folks.”
While Parrish is a longtime survivor, she realizes some of the women who walked onto the court behind the “0-2” sign were those whose struggles are more recent. Her advice to them, Parrish said: “Keep getting your checkups and believe.”
Former Wolfpack star Chasity Melvin helped emcee the halftime ceremony, saying Yow once told her, “If life kicks you, let it kick it you forward.”
Soon, it was time for more basketball. The Pack hit 3-pointers. They hustled for loose balls, hustled on defense. And won.
“I know Coach Yow would have been proud of these kids,” said N.C. State coach Wes Moore, a former Yow assistant.
The Wolfpack players wore white-and-pink uniforms with pink sneakers. The Wolfpack cheerleaders had pink pompoms, the State pep band wore pink T-shirts, and fans could buy pink “Scoops 4 Hope” ice cream made by the NCSU creamery.
The Wolfpack players didn’t have their names on the back of their jerseys. Instead, there was “Faith” and “Inspire” and “Courage.”
The Kay Yow Cancer Fund has raised more than $3.9 million for cancer research and “Play 4Kay” events are held at other schools and venues. But it will always be “Hoops 4 Hope” at Reynolds.
“I think Coach Yow would put her hand over her heart, look at everybody today and say, ‘Thank you,’” said Sue Donohoe, executive director of the Kay Yow Cancer Fund. “I think her heart would be overflowing.”