Come Saturday afternoon, Amanda Hughes will have played her last game in the purple and white, as the Weber State University women’s basketball team is set to take on Eastern Washington University.
Hughes, a senior from Aurora, Colo., will be the only senior honored on a young up-and-coming team that seems to have been finding its groove over the past five games.
Even though the Wildcats will not be making an appearance in the Big Sky Conference tournament next week, they still have a lot to play for. Not only will they try to send Hughes out with a win, but a solid performance will carry the momentum into the offseason and beyond.
“We are trying to finish everything that we do, not just to win games,” said WSU head coach Bethann Ord. “We are wanting to finish on both sides of the floor, offense and defense. We want to finish everything in a way that is going to give our players momentum as we turn to next year.”
Coming off their first road win in nearly four years, the Wildcats will look to stop the Eagles, who will use this game as preparation for the conference tournament. Lexie Nelson will come into the game averaging 16.3 points per game and 44 percent from beyond the arc. If the Wildcats are going to be competitive, they cannot allow Nelson to find open shots on the perimeter.
Hayley Hodgins, who averages 13.6 points per game, is another outside threat. Those two sharp shooters combined for 43 points on 8-14 from three earlier in the season when these two teams met.
Desiree Ramos, who has been the leading scorer for the Wildcats all season at 12.9 points per game, leads a team that has come to understand the phrase “playing as a team.” Ramos, known for her smooth jump shot, has drawn a majority of the attention on defense. All of that pressure has allowed her to find her open teammates, and the results have spoken for themselves.
Kalie Matthews, who will enter the game after making the game-winning free throw just a week ago, said she has seen a change in the team — a change that has helped them reach some of the goals the team set earlier on in the season.
“I think that it has been really meshing together and not playing individual basketball, but playing as a team,” Matthews said. “Even though everyone’s individual skills have gotten better, I just feel that our team chemistry has just helped us blossom.”
Playing as a team is a big part of basketball, but the Wildcats have also been able to stifle their opponents with a mixture of press and zone. Regina Okoye, the conference leader in steals with 2.9 per game, has been aggressive, pouncing on the opportunities presented.
Hughes will finish out her college career averaging 12.6 points and 5.7 rebounds per game, both of those the second highest on the team. Ord said Hughes’ leadership and experience have given the Wildcats something they were lacking last year.
“When I was hired, I knew that we were going to have to doing some rebuilding,” Ord said. “It is a process and it takes time, and sometimes it takes longer than we want. But it seems that we are speeding that process up. The leadership of Amanda has helped out that process a lot. She is a great player.”
The Wildcats and Eagles will tip off at 2 p.m. on Saturday at the Dee Events Center. Admission is free for all spectators.