Thousands pack Mackey Arena to cheer Boilermakers
Posted: Wednesday April 07, 1999 04:51 PM
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (CNN/SI) -- Boilermaker fans got one last chance to say goodbye to coach Carolyn Peck and seniors Ukari Figgs and Stephanie White-McCarty Wednesday.
Fans packed Mackey Arena to celebrate Purdue's first women's basketball national title. The Boilermakers defeated Duke 62-45 in San Jose, Calif. on Sunday night.
After two seasons, Peck is leaving to become head coach of the WNBA's Orlando Miracle. White-McCarty leaves Purdue as the program's second all-time leading scorer.
For Figgs, it was an emotional farewell after a four-year career.
"This is an amazing moment," Figgs said, speaking from a podium surrounded with yellow roses and black and gold balloons. "I can't think of any better way to end a career than this."
Figgs, Stephanie White-McCarty and Amy Shaffer are the three graduating seniors.
The crowd again roared as White-McCarty hobbled to the podium, her left foot in a brace. She sprained her ankle during the final minutes of the championship game.
"It's been a great four years," she said. "I can't believe we're at the end of it."
As she returned to her seat, she and Figgs hugged and the crowd cheered again.
Handing out team posters -- which read "Purdue Women's Basketball, Unforgettable" -- to fans entering the arena, elated Tabitha Roudebesh said winning the championship put Purdue on the map.
"It's awesome," Roudebesh said, sporting a Purdue championship T-shirt. "It gives us another reason to be proud that we're from Purdue."
The student body's pride went a bit far after Sunday's victory, as about 2,000 students reveled on campus streets. West Lafayette police eventually had to use tear gas to disperse the crowd.
"It helps to show our support without burning couches," Roudebesh said of Wednesday night's rally.
Coach Carolyn Peck said the team dreamed of the championship and made it happen.
"We were the first team to end Tennessee's winning streak," she said. "The first women's team to sell out Mackey Arena. Now we have brought Purdue the first national championship."
Peck, who's leaving Purdue to become coach and general manager of the WNBA's Orlando Miracle expansion team, urged the crowd to continue supporting the women's basketball program.
"You have two freshman that know what it's like to get to the national championships," she said. "Now don't leave them. You've got to stay with them through thick and through thin."
As the rally ended, Figgs and White-McCarty approached the front of the stage, hoisted the NCAA trophy over their heads and slowly walked around the stage showing it to the screaming fans.
After that, the lights went out and "We Are the Champions" was played over the public address system as fireworks exploded overhead. As the song continued, the team gathered arm-in-arm, many of them holding bouquets of yellow roses.
The team filed off the stage, stopping to sign autographs and slap hands with fans.
"It means a lot more when you win something for people like that," Figgs said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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