Lady Panthers think pink

Published 1:12 am Friday, November 13, 2009

SELMA — The Southside High girls’ basketball team has found a new opponent this year.

This foe won’t suit up or take layups before the game.

The Lady Panthers have registered with the Kay Yow Foundation to raise breast cancer awareness and are wearing pink and white uniforms at the Southside home games.

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“We realize that all of us at some point are going to be affected by it,” said head coach Wanda Tyler, whose mother died from the disease.

Assistant coach April O’Neal said breast cancer had touched her life recently.

“I had a first cousin who died two weeks ago from breast cancer,” she said.

Kay Yow was the head coach of the women’s basketball team at North Carolina State University from 1975 to 2009. A member of the Naismith Hall of Fame, she had more than 700 career wins and won an Olympic gold medal as coach of the 1988 U.S. women’s basketball team.

She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1987 and died on Jan. 24, 2009.

The Kay Yow Foundation is the first initiative supported by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association during its 28 years. It is partnered with The V Foundation for Cancer Research, named for another North Carolina State coach — Jim Valvano — who died of cancer in 1993.

In 2007, more than 120 schools joined the WBCA Pink Zone in its inaugural year. Last year, more than 1,200 teams and organizations brought in 830,000 fans and raised more than $930,000 for breast cancer awareness and research.

Tyler said she had gotten good comments from the team’s fans and supporters for the new look, which includes knee socks with “Girls Got Game” printed down the sides. The effort, however, goes past the basketball court.

“As part of the team’s community services, the girls have committed to volunteer with some of the local organizations in this fight against breast cancer,” she said.

The girls’ theme song during the home games is “Pink Panther.”

Keyria Miles returns as the only senior from last year’s 22-9 team. Other players Tyler said she is counting on this season are freshman Ashley Cunningham, sophomores Tahaki Nelson and Khadijra Fails and juniors Tamara Smith and Africa Tyler.

Southside’s girls opened the season Tuesday with a narrow 49-46 loss to Wilcox Central after trailing by 21 points. The Lady Panthers hit the court at Calhoun tonight.