Friday, January 24

UCLA women’s basketball hosts ‘Play 4Kay’ game, Senior Night

Senior guard Thea Lemberger will be playing in the final regular-season home game of her college career this weekend. UCLA will play California on Friday in its "Play 4Kay" game – the Bruins' 8th annual breast cancer awareness game, and honor its senior basketball players Sunday during its game against Stanford. (Photo credit: Joseph Chan)

This weekend may be the last time this season that a UCLA women’s basketball game opens with a recording of a John Wooden quote.

It’ll be the same lights, the same hoops and the same fans in Pauley Pavilion one last time, as UCLA takes on No. 18 California Friday and No. 5 Stanford on Sunday in their final home games of the season.

For freshman guard Dominique Williams, the two games will be the last chance to feel the stability that Los Angeles gives her.

“On the road, I mean it’s kind of like a foreign place, especially for me because I have never played at these places … before,” Williams said.

But the first of the two games begins with a twist – the Bruins (12-14, 6-8 Pac-12) will not be clad in their regular blue-and-gold trimmed home jerseys. But it’s all for a good cause.

Instead, the players will don pink-trimmed jerseys as part of the “Play 4Kay” initiative that aims to raise breast cancer awareness. Coach Cori Close said she expects the charitable cause to instill a new sense of motivation for her players against California (18-7, 10-4) come Friday.

“I think you always play with a little deeper energy … when you know you’re playing for something bigger than yourself,” Close said.

Sunday’s game against Stanford (24-2, 13-1) will come with no added surprises. Instead it will center on tradition – namely the tradition of honoring the careers of the team’s seniors during the final home game of the season.

And as Senior Night approaches, senior guard Thea Lemberger will get to celebrate her four-year career with the people who have made Pauley Pavilion feel like home.

“All the games I’ve had here, having my family support me, watch me play, that’s a good memory that I’ll have of playing here in Pauley,” Lemberger said.

But there is one caveat that may allow the Bruins to play in Pauley again this season. The first and second rounds of the 2014 NCAA tournament will be hosted by UCLA, and getting a berth will ensure additional runs in Pauley.

And that’s something that Close said she’s determined to make happen.

“I will never ever stop fighting to bring our seniors back for the NCAA tournament,” Close said. “We have an upward climb, but I will never stop fighting for that.”

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