Sunday was a special day at the Bryce Jordan Center for a variety of reasons.
For the Lady Lion senior basketball players, Zhaque Grey and Renee Womack, it was a day to celebrate their blue and white careers in front of the home crowd one last time.
For fans, it was the chance to give the Penn State squad a curtain call after clinching a share of the Big Ten title last Monday night at the Bryce Jordan Center against Ohio State, and celebrate even further when the Lions secured sole possession of the regular season championship, their first since 2004.
And for more than five hundred Pennsylvania breast cancer survivors, it was a chance to stand at center court as part of the WBCA Pink Zone at Penn State, acknowledging the individual struggles of those stricken with a terrible disease, as well as the efforts of the Penn State community to put an end to breast cancer forever.
The afternoon seemed to be a fitting tribute to the Penn State program, head coach Coquese Washington and her talented team, which has been unrelenting in its efforts to return to the NCAA tournament after an early exit from the bracket in 2011.
Since her arrival in Happy Valley five years ago, Washington has been very clear about her expectations of excellence for her team, not only on the court, but also in the classroom and in the community. That vision all came together over the weekend in front of one of the largest crows in program history, tied with a big pink bow.
Washington has returned the program to its place among the elite squads of the Big Ten, the national rankings and the NCAA tournament. The next step is tourney success, first in the conference playoffs, and then the Big Dance. More and more, fans are believing again, and returning to the BJC to witness their winning ways.
Still, trophies and all-stars are not the only things the Lady Lions take pride in these days. The team is especially proud of its work in battling breast cancer.
The WBCA Pink Zone at Penn State is promoted all season long, while fundraising efforts take place for months in advance of the basketball game. This year's preliminary fundraising total of just under $160,000 took the six-year Pink Zone total to well over the half-million dollar mark.
Beyond the money raised, the success of the event can be seen in the tear-filled eyes of the survivors, who seemed to be surrounded by a rosy glow on Sunday.
The ceremonies provide encouragement and hope for those who have won the battle, but also for those who continue to fight.
Sunday's event was more proof that the Lady Lions are champions in more ways than one.
Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at Kellie@BedfordCountyChamber.org. Her column appears on Tuesdays.