The Penn State Lady Lion basketball team hosted its annual "Pink Zone" game on Sunday, bringing thousands of fans together, along with hundreds of breast cancer survivors.
It was part of a mission to raise money and awareness to fight the devastating disease that affects so many families. The event included a moving halftime tribute to those who have fought and continue to fight a battle of life and death; it also raised more than $102,000 for the cause.
Pink may have been the color of the day, but true blue Penn State fans also had the opportunity to see the Lady Lion basketball team wrap up its most successful regular season since 2005. PSU heads to the Big Ten Tournament as the second seed with a 22-8 record (11-5 in the conference); they are receiving votes in the national polls after cracking the AP top-25 this season.
The NCAA tournament comes to Happy Valley for first and second round action March 19, and the Lady Lions will likely be lacing up their dancing shoes for the first time in half a dozen years.
Sunday's game marked senior day for Julia Trogele, the last Lady Lion standing from the recruiting class of 2007, under Rene Portland.
Trogele found out about Portland's resignation just days before playing in the PIAA championship game to complete her Villa Maria High School career. She's the first player to complete her entire Penn State basketball career under coach Coquese Washington.
Trogele's commitment and loyalty to the team have paid off; she should have the chance to play in the NCAA tournament later this month.
Washington has methodically re-built the Penn State program, putting the Lady Lions back into contention for a conference crown and gaining respect on the national stage. Her team has led the country in three-point percentage this season, with freshman phenom Maggie Lucas re-writing the rookie record books; on Sunday, the unprecedented eight-time Big Ten Freshman of the Week tied Kelly Mazzante's record for three-pointers in a single season.
The success has brought crowds back to the BJC. Sunday's Pink Zone crowd of more than 11,000 was among the top 10 attendance marks in Lady Lion program history, and should the Lady Lions have the chance to host a couple of NCAA tournament games, there should be plenty of fans in the stands to cheer them on.
Washington has created more than impressive statistics during her four years at the helm. She has restored a winning attitude to the Penn State program, an expectation of excellence and a sense of pride. Sunday's Pink Zone was the opportunity to appreciate and celebrate all of the above.
Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at Kellie@BedfordCountyChamber.org.