Georgia Tech at N.C. State 2:30 p.m., ESPN2

Wolfpack women's game will be special

CorrespondentFebruary 16, 2013 

Marissa Kastanek is the last player the late coach Kay Yow signed to play women’s basketball at N.C. State.

So Sunday’s annual Hoops 4 Hope game against Georgia Tech at Reynolds Coliseum will probably mean even more to the senior guard and captain than to her younger teammates.

N.C. State (13-12, 5-8 ACC) has plenty of momentum as it takes on the Yellow Jackets (10-14, 3-10) in a 2:30 p.m. contest. The game will be shown on ESPN2 as part of its Play 4Kay package of games dedicated to breast cancer awareness.

The Wolfpack has won five of its past six games since getting off to an 0-7 start in conference play. The Wolfpack has played well and lost its first three conference games at home to then-No. 4 Duke, No. 11 North Carolina and No. 14 Florida State before getting on the winning track.

A win Sunday would help keep the Wolfpack on track for postseason play, perhaps even with a hope of an NCAA at-large berth if its next loss is deep into the ACC tournament. N.C. State is looking to sweep the season series after beating the Yellow Jackets 78-66 in Atlanta two weeks ago.

But this game is about more than postseason hopes. The Wolfpack is playing in part for the memory of Yow, the Hall of Famer for whom its court is named and who fought a very public battle with breast cancer for over 20 years.

There will be pink all over the arena, with N.C. State players wearing pink-trimmed home jerseys and the Yellow Jackets sporting plenty of pink as well, with coaches and fans and officials wearing pink ribbons and people in pink shirts and blouses and shoelaces,

“It’s about being able to play for something more than basketball,” Kastanek said. “It’s amazing to see how much support Hoops 4 Hope is getting for breast cancer research, and Coach Yow started that. A sport can be a vehicle for something else in society. You have rivals who on any other terms may not see eye-to-eye, but they’re coming together for a cause.”

N.C. State is 4-3 in its “pink” games at home, with two straight losses to Wake Forest and Florida State. The first was a loss to Miami in ’06, but after that the Wolfpack went on a four-game winning streak.

“I remember our first ‘pink’ games when I was an assistant coach (at Auburn and Chattanooga),” said N.C. State coach Kellie Harper, who was a player for NCAA champion Tennessee when the Wolfpack made its only Final Four appearance in 1998 and coached for Western Carolina against Yow in a 2007 game.

“And to be here at N.C. State leading the Hoops 4 Hope day is a real honor. Winning that one is special. It’s different. It’s not a rivalry game, but it’s unique to N.C. State and to our fans and our team, our staff and our program.”

Junior forward Kody Burke, who with Kastanek is the other N.C. State player averaging in double figures, got her 1,000th point Thursday night in the 76-69 shocker at No. 19 Florida State that avenged the earlier loss.

“This game means more than anything to our team, because the Play 4Kay started at N.C. State and it’s kind of a tradition,” Burke said. “We’re building on a legacy, and it’s an honor to be a part of it. The game really matters to us because of what it represents, breast cancer awareness.”

ESPN2 will televise 12 Play 4Kay games regionally Sunday, including Maryland at Virginia at 5 p.m. Duke’s 3 p.m. game against Wake Forest will be the Blue Devils’ Play 4Kay contest.

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