The seniors of the West Virginia women’s basketball team never experienced an atmosphere like the one they played in front of Tuesday night.
More than 5,000 fans packed the WVU Coliseum to send off seniors Asya Bussie, Jess Harlee, Brooke Hampton, Christal Caldwell and Taylor Palmer and watch the Mountaineers claim a share of the Big 12 Conference regular season championship.
“(It was a ) great crowd. I want to thank them for their great enthusiasm. That is the way we needed to (send) the girls out. They deserve that,” said head coach Mike Carey.
Playing in a game of this magnitude will naturally bring out some nerves, which Palmer attributed to her team’s sluggish start.
“It was exciting. Emotions were high and it was a crazy feeling. You know you have to focus on the game but emotions get in the way of that,” Palmer said. “At the start we were all over the place, but at the half everyone got it together and started to get things going again.”
Carey started all his seniors at the tip before calling a timeout to take Hampton out, who is currently battling a knee injury. The seniors who played led their team to a conference title.
In their last home game as Mountaineers, Bussie and Caldwell combined for 28 points, while Harlee provided the spark her team needed on both ends of the floor. Harlee recorded six rebounds and added nine points.
“(Jess) does the little things. She does all the little work. The first time I watched her I could tell she was a hustler,” Carey said. “She goes 100 percent all the time when she plays.”
Four years ago Carey had a vision that the players he recruited were good enough to compete with some of the best teams in the country. Four years later, Carey has accomplished his goal in one of the toughest conferences in the nation.
“This championship didn’t start just this year, it started four years ago. I give a lot of credit to a lot of our assistant coaches in helping our players come along,” Carey said.
“It’s hard to explain. Words cannot explain what I’m feeling. This is what you ask for on senior night. There was so much on the line and the whole team came together,” Caldwell said.