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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Young stars send W-hoops seniors out on top

    Liam Foley/ Arizona Daily Wildcat

The University of Arizona womens basketball team defeats the University of Washington 72-62 at McKale Center in Tucson, AZ,
    Liam Foley/ Arizona Daily Wildcat The University of Arizona women’s basketball team defeats the University of Washington 72-62 at McKale Center in Tucson, AZ,

    With one last substitution timeout by head coach Niya Butts, the whistle blew on the most recent era of Arizona women’s basketball, and whether it was Sarah Hays hugging her coaches and teammates or an emotional Amina Njonkou burying her head in a towel at the end of the bench, one couldn’t help but notice a changing of the guard.

    The five underclassmen on the floor were responsible for ensuring that the Wildcats (11-16, 4-12 Pacific 10 Conference) held onto their lead and sent the three seniors out on top.

    As Hays, Njonkou, and Beatrice Bofia took in the last minute of their final game in McKale Center from the bench, the quintet on the floor – led by freshman guards Courtney Clements and Reiko Thomas – easily took care of business and closed out the 72-62 victory over the Washington Huskies.

    The four freshmen and one junior were able to calmly and efficiently close out the game.

    The three seniors on the 2008-09 squad weren’t fortunate enough to go out with their childhood fantasy senior-year championship. As a matter of fact, a championship wasn’t a legitimate hope at any point during this season of rebuilding.

    Nobody ever wants to admit that a season will be devoted to grooming younger players for the future, especially when that season is your final year of organized basketball.

    But Njonkou, Hays and Bofia handled their reduced roles with dignity, and their willingness to put their individual goals aside and buy into the “”team first”” philosophy did not go unnoticed.

    “”I’m glad our seniors got a win in their final game on this floor in front of our great fans at McKale Center,”” Butts said.

    “”Amina was really emotional before the game, and during the game as well. She had a couple big plays for us, I’m very happy for her.””

    Clements was the offensive star of the game, scoring a game-high 22 points. In response to a knee injury that sidelined sophomore forward and top scorer Ify Ibekwe, Clements played her most inspired and complete game of the season when her team needed it the most.

    Stats aside, though, Clements knew that Saturday’s victory was for the seniors.

    “”It felt good because we won,”” Clements said.

    “”It was great to get a win for the seniors. I know if I was a senior I would want to win my last home game, and I’m glad we were able to do that for them.””

    Hays, Njonkou, and Bofia were all in the starting lineup together for the first time this season and they were all key contributors.

    Njonkou had eight points and eight rebounds and Hays and Bofia added two points apiece.

    While young stars like Clements and Ibekwe hold the key to a bright future for Arizona women’s basketball, Saturday’s victory over Washington was all about the ‘now,’ and that meant thanking the seniors for their years of hard work and dedication.

    The seniors were not made available to the media.

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