Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass celebrates breast cancer awareness in victory over Rhode Island

Minutewomen surpass URI 56-34
(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/ Daily Collegian)

Basketball is more than just a game. That statement has never been more evident than Sunday afternoon’s Massachusetts women’s basketball team’s victory over Rhode Island.

The Minutewomen (13-11, 5-5 Atlantic 10) defeated the Rams (7-16, 2-9 A-10) 56-34 in their annual Play4Kay game. The game was meant to raise awareness for breast cancer and was inspired by legendary women’s basketball coach Kay Yow, who fought the disease herself.

Both teams wore the color pink in honor of the event and special videos were played in commemoration of Kay Yow and to raise awareness for breast cancer.

There was a special moment before the game and announcement of the starting lineups, where UMass head coach Tory Verdi and his wife, Heather, were brought to center court, where Heather was honored with an honorary game ball.

Heather Verdi is a survivor of breast cancer and continues fighting strongly for herself, her family, the team and all of those who have dealt or are currently dealing with the disease.

“It was great,” said Tory Verdi of the ceremony. “If anybody deserves any credit for what we’re doing with the program, it’s definitely her. She’s been a rock and she’s been by my side as we’ve gone through this journey. To me, she’s the true MVP.”

It was a touching moment, as the players were impacted by the moment as well, having been so close to their coach and his family’s struggles.

“That moment was very heartwarming,” said junior guard Vashnie Perry. “Of course it was before the game starts. It was a great moment and I just loved every minute of it.”

“It was a special moment,” sophomore guard Bre Hampton-Bey added. “We cherish those times. I think that she deserved it and she’s been fighting; we’re going to fight with her.”

The Minutewomen made a video that was played during a stoppage in the second quarter, where they discussed who they played for. Most of the players wrote on their papers about Heather Verdi or everyone dealing with cancer, but a few of the players got personal and discussed relatives who have or are currently fighting the disease.

One of those players was senior captain Jessica George. George, who has had one of her best season by far, has been personally affected by the disease within her family. She scored four points Sunday and was instrumental to the Minutewomen’s defense, forcing three steals and creating havoc around the perimeter.

“It was really important for me personally,” said George of the victory. “My aunt, she passed away when I was a lot younger so it was in memory of her. I just wanted to do my best for her because she can’t be here today and she always told me she can’t wait to watch my games and come to games.

“She never got the chance to so I just kind of put my heart out there for her and played my hardest,” she added.

“Personally, it is very, very uplifting to play this hard,” said Perry of the win. “Personally, I’m playing for my grandmother. For me to have these victories and for me to play as hard as I am, I just feel great. And I think the same way us playing for other people and playing for families, personally; it’s a great feeling today.”

Javier Melo can be reached at [email protected].

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