For the Lady Lions, Sunday is more than just game day, it is more than just senior day and it is more than just the chance to go undefeated at home this season.
Sunday is The Seventh Annual Penn State Lady Lion Basketball Pink Zone game as the No. 7 Lady Lions (22-3, 12-1 Big Ten) take on Michigan (19-6, 8-4 Big Ten) at 1 p.m. The proceeds of the Pink Zone game benefit the Mount Nittany Medical Center, Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute, Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition, the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, J.C. Blair Memorial Hospital and Lewistown Hospital.
Last year, the Lady Lions donated a record $203,000 to breast cancer causes and took a visit earlier this month to the Shaner Cancer Pavilion and the Lady Lion Basketball Cancer Resource Center at the Mount Nittany Medical Center. The Cancer Center was made possible by donations from the Lady Lions’ annual Pink Zone game.
Senior center Nikki Greene has seen the Pink Zone game grow from her freshman year and said that she originally thought it was just a game where the players wear pink uniforms and supported the Kay Yow Cancer Fund. She said she did not realize they were actually contributing to the community.
“It is not just a basketball game, it is not just about winning or losing. It is about who I am playing for and that means more to me than winning a game, getting every rebound or hitting every shot,” Greene said.
For sophomore forward Tori Waldner this game hits close to home as she said she knows a breast cancer survivor and meeting the patients and seeing the Cancer Center brought it more into perspective.
“It is a more personal side to [the Pink Zone game] now. We see what patients have to go through as a routine, visiting a few of them earlier was really cool, that also brought a personal side to it,” Waldner said. “All of the patients are just full of energy and they love the game and we love recognizing them for what they have been through. It is just amazing and I enjoy coming here to see what we have done.”
The Pink Zone game has set record breaking totals by the efforts of coach Coquese Washington and she said it has grown far beyond her expectations.
Washington said the Pink Zone is important to the women’s basketball program and that she wants her players to know that they have a platform in the community. She added they should use that platform to have a voice and make an impact, the Pink Zone game shows them just how to do that.
“It is amazing. It is just amazing to see the reality of what we’ve talked about for so many years and to know that we have had an impact on our community, tangible benefit to our community that supports us so well,” Washington said. “Thousands and thousands of people come out every night to watch us play and cheer us on. So being able to give something back that’s going to last beyond game day, beyond the time that they are here playing basketball, that is a pretty cool thing.”
In six Pink Zone annual events, the Lady Lions have donated $565,317.73 to various breast cancer charities in addition to contributing to the Lady Lion Basketball Cancer Resource Center at the Mount Nittany Medical Center.
“It means the world. We are incredibly proud of the partnership with both the Pink Zone and the Lady Lions basketball,” President and CEO of Mt. Nittany Medical Center Steve Brown said. “I meant what I said earlier, we couldn’t do this without them; they lend their name, their faces and that brings a lot of awareness to what we are trying to do here. This is a college town, this is a sports college town, I am an alum too. I am just delighted to have this partnership.”
Brown said he expects the relationship between the Lady Lions and Mt. Nittany Medical Center to only continue to grow.
“We wanted to show them what they have been able to do by lending their name, their faces and their efforts and I think they were kind of impressed,” Brown said. “I think we will see them again, when we ask them to come over they never hesitate to come over and I think that means a lot.”
Even with the philanthropic efforts there is still a basketball game going on and the last time the Wolverines and the Lions squared off it was a battle of the undefeated in the Big Ten. But since the first meeting on Jan. 21, Penn State now holds the top spot in the conference with a three game lead and Michigan has dropped to third in the standings.
The Lions boast one of the most potent scoring duos in the conference between Maggie Lucas and Alex Bentley who average 19.9 and 13.9 points per game, respectively. But not to be overlooked is the Wolverines combination of Kate Thompson who averages 15.5 points per game and Rachel Sheffer who dropped 20 points on Penn State in the last game.
In the last meeting the Lions defeated Michigan by 10 on the road and held the Wolverines’ leading scorer Thompson to just nine points compared to her season average of nearly 16 points per game. This contest will feature two of the top-10 scorers in the Big Ten as guards Lucas and Thompson will go head-to-head.
Penn State will be playing for its 20th straight home victory that will keep them undefeated at home for the entire 2012-2013 season.
As said before Washington said this is more than just a basketball game and she is hopeful the Lady Lions are really making a difference in cancer patients’ lives.
“We have a grant down at Hershey [Medical Center] and I am hopeful that one of the grants that we fund will be the research that finds the cure to cancer,” Washington said. “Then we can say that Lady Lion basketball helped find the cure to cancer, that would be an awesome thing to be a part of.”
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