Khadijah Whittington broke down in tears on the podium discussing how inspirational North Carolina State coach Kay Yow has been during her battle with cancer.
Yow even wiped away a tear as her star player talked, a rare break in the strength the Hall of Fame coach has shown during a remarkable two-month run.
"That is what coaching is all about," Yow said Saturday night following the Wolfpack's season-ending loss to Connecticut. "It's why I've been in the game over 40 years. People are always talking about coaching basketball but I always thought of myself as coaching people."
Yow, 65, is undergoing nearly weekly chemotherapy sessions for stage 4 breast cancer and said she will wait to consult with her doctors to see how her body responds to the treatments before deciding whether to return for a 37th season of coaching.
"That's something I haven't even thought about at this time," Yow said. "How am I going to feel? Is my body going to respond. I don't know yet. I need a little time to figure it all out."
Yow planned to take a week off before starting the process of preparing for next season. Unable to spend as much time on the practice court as in the past, Yow said she will focus more on off-court discussions with her players about their goals.
After returning from a 16-game absence to undergo treatment for a recurrence of her breast cancer, Yow led the Wolfpack on an emotion-fueled run through the NCAA Tournament in the Fresno (Calif.) Regional semifinal.
Before that loss, the Wolfpack had won 12 of 14 games.
No sooner had Duke lost Saturday than the Atlantic Coast Conference, host of the Greensboro (N.C.) Regional, came out with a statement urging fans to attend tonight's final between, ahem, Rutgers and Arizona State. "We encourage all ACC fans, women's basketball fans, and sports enthusiasts to come out, support these teams, and make a difference," conference commissioner John Swofford
said in a statement. Needless to say, he would not have had to say that had Duke still been playing. Tonight's game is not a sellout and it will be a tough sell, even though the NCAA authorized a new "family four pack" after the Duke loss for $40, which includes four tickets, four hot dogs, and four soft drinks . . . Arizona State will determine at game time if sophomore guard Briann January
can play. She suffered a concussion in the March 19 game against Louisville and did not play Saturday against Bowling Green. She had a limited practice session yesterday. "She's shown a lot of improvement," ASU coach Charli Turner Thorne
said . . . Rutgers' defense got a lot of credit for disrupting Duke, but not that long ago, there was no defense. After surrendering 85 points in a loss to Duke and 87 in a loss to DePaul, coach C. Vivian Stringer
was at wit's end. "I was personally hurting," she said. "I took it for as long as I could. If we're going to lose, we're going to lose my way. We are going to play defense." Since then, Rutgers has allowed more than 70 points just once, an 89-84 overtime win over surprise Elite Eight participant Ole Miss . . . Arizona State's Emily Westerberg
on her team's lack of notoriety: "We've always been underrated. People look at us and think we're just a bunch of skinny, white girls who are unathletic." Westerberg would be a lock for the All-Motormouth team if there was one . . . A win today would put Rutgers in the Final Four for the second time (they lost to Tennessee in the 2000 semifinals). Arizona State has never even been this far. "For me, it would be incredible, especially after what we've been through this season," said ASU's Aubree Johnson
, whose brother died in November. "We've talked since Day One about going to Cleveland."
With Tennessee, Mississippi, and LSU advancing to the regional finals, the Southeastern Conference is leaving its mark in the tournament. It's the third time in the past six years three SEC schools have reached the regional finals. The last came in 2004 when Tennessee, Georgia, and LSU were among the final eight teams. Ole Miss and Tennessee meet in the Dayton regional championship. The Lady Vols have won 10 straight NCAA Tournament games against SEC opponents, last losing to Ole Miss in 1985. Tennessee beat Ole Miss, 81-69, Feb. 15, but Armintie Price
was plagued by foul trouble and only played 25 minutes. She scored 9 of her 13 points in the second half . . . At just about the same time that Epiphanny Prince
was stripping the ball from Wanisha Smith
and going coast-to-coast for the winning basket in Rutgers' victory over Duke, her high school team Murray Bergtraum won the New York State championship.
Peter May of the Globe staff contributed to this report.
© Copyright 2007 Globe Newspaper Company.