RALEIGH — The N.C. State women's basketball team returned to the court on Thursday, Kay Yow's name on the backs of their jerseys and inscribed on the floor, her passing still very much on their minds.
That was evident from the way the Wolfpack played for much of the 62-51 loss to Boston College, falling behind by as many as 31 points. But it was also evident in the way the Pack rallied, getting as close as nine points late, fighting furiously against what turned out to be insurmountable odds.
"We kept fighting and we came back," State guard Nikitta Gartrell said. "We didn't pull out the win, but it was a great fight."
Whether they were ready to return to action or not, they didn't have any other choice, which has been the case ever since Yow died at 66 on Saturday.
However, the members of her final team might like to grieve -- and there may not be anything as uniquely personal as that decision -- they have had no option but to do it in a very public way.
Before the State men's game Tuesday night, the members of the women's team took the floor after a video tribute to Yow, many wiping away tears. Wednesday, they attended a gathering in Yow's honor at Reynolds Coliseum.
Today, they will attend her funeral in Cary. Saturday, on their way to their next game, at Virginia Tech, they will stop in Gibsonville for her burial.
Wherever they go, they are on display as the very prominent faces of a much larger, and equally grief-stricken, community. This team, Yow's last, represents them all.
"It's very hard, because you have to see pictures and hear Coach Yow's name called a lot," State guard Shayla Fields said. "But at the same time, it's inspiring because people cared so much about her and care so much about us."
Just because they knew when they signed their letters of intent to play for Yow that this week might someday come does not make it any easier to endure. It only makes the composure this team has shown in the face of considerable loss all the more impressive.
They have had private moments, from a team dinner and shopping trip on Monday to their emotional practices earlier this week. Nonetheless, on the eve of Yow's funeral, there they were, in new pink uniforms and new pink shoes, with nowhere to hide.
It's probably too much to ask of these young women that they play their hearts out in Yow's honor when they have spent the past five days wringing their hearts out in the wake of her departure. But this is where Yow would have wanted them to be. The show must go on.
"We're going to keep playing through this and walking through this together," interim coach Stephanie Glance said, "and keep getting better on the floor, and we're going to keep grieving and having emotion, and doing all the things that we need to do to heal and move on as people first and players and coaches second."
The Pack missed nine of its first 10 shots and was down 15-4 when Glance yelled and clapped her hands on the bench, prompting a reaction from a pink-clad crowd that may have been a little wrung out, too, but was desperate for anything to cheer about.
Finally, early in the second half, State started to hit a few baskets and everything that had seemed so hard became so easy. A 20-2 run got the Pack back into the game, and State got as close as 60-51, but with less than a minute to play.
In the end, State managed to play with emotion after spending most of the week awash in it. As fitting a tribute to Yow as a win would have been, the fact that the Pack never gave up wasn't too far off.
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