Fine Finish For Fab Five
March 5, 2011
FRESNO, Calif. - "Thank you seniors" signs peppered the Save Mart Center.
It was a fitting expression of gratitude to a group that has meant everything to the Fresno State women's basketball team. On Saturday night, seniors Emma Andrews, Marnique Arnold, Taja Edwards and Jaleesa Ross, arguably the best class in Bulldogs' history, played the final home game of their decorated careers.
The group capped its reign in fitting fashion, beating Nevada 73-50 in what was the WAC regular-season finale for both teams. The Bulldogs finished second in the conference title race, while Louisiana Tech clinched the title outright. Fresno State had already locked up the No. 2 seed in next week's WAC Tournament, which begins Wednesday at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, and get a double-bye through the semifinals.
An already emotional night took on more meaning late in the second half, when Ross became the all-time leading scorer in Fresno State history, passing former Fresno State star Melvin Ely and bringing her career point total to 1,953 points. Ross finished with 15 points against the Wolf Pack, while Munro led the way with 16 points and four assists.
The senior class accounted for 52 of Fresno State's 73 total points.
"It was a great night all around," Bulldogs coach Adrian Wiggins said. "As a coach, it was great just to be a part of it.... It's just tough. I'm very proud of them. I have mixed feelings. Half of me is excited about their futures, and the other have is in denial."
The night began with a nice touch of fanfare, as Fresno State paid tribute to its stellar senior class. One by one, Andrews, Arnold, Edwards, Munro and Ross were introduced to an appreciative crowd of 3,128 fans. Then all five met at midcourt and shared an embrace. When that was over, it was back to the business at hand.
Or as Munro put it, "game time."
In honor of the special night, Wiggins elected to start the entire senior class.
Both teams traded baskets in the first half, but it was only a matter of time before Fresno State created separation. Freshman forward Bree Farley gave the Bulldogs a 16-15 lead with 10:16 to play in the half, and Munro followed with a layup to add to the cushion. Munro then came through again, this time with a nifty behind-the-back layup, which she later said "was a bit spontaneous." That was part of a 17-2 run that helped Fresno State break the game wide open.
With the victory over the Wolf Pack, the senior class pushed its career win total to a staggering 95 games.
"The pregame got me a bit emotional," Munro said. "Once the game started, I calmed down a little. It was just a great game all around."
Fresno State found its groove in a big way in the second half. The Bulldogs benefited from some solid ball movement, as Ross found Munro wide open at the top of the arc. Munro calmly drained the 3-pointer and gave Fresno State a hefty 59-38 lead. The Bulldogs led by as many as 23 points.
Ross, already the all-time leading scorer in Fresno State, added even more distinction to her name late in the second half. She beat the Wolf Pack's Tahnee Robinson to the hoop with a layup, and smashed Ely's nine-year-old mark of 1,951 points. Ross was 6-for-10 from the floor against Nevada.
"I think I'm just overwhelmed," she said. "We'll be focused (for the WAC Tournament). At this point, it's win or go home. We're not ready to be done yet."
"We Are Your Team!" -- The Bulldogs nabbed the No. 2 seed and cruise to Friday's semifinal game of next week's WAC Tournament. For more information, visit gobulldogs.com.