Mountaineers dominate in annual Play4Kay game

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Max Correa

Freshman guard Emily Carver grabs a rebound over a Texas State defender.

Cameron Burnett, Associate Sports Editor

In front of a season-high crowd of over 1,500 fans, App State women’s basketball dominated the Texas State Bobcats 73-55 Saturday in Holmes Convocation Center. The annual Play4Kay Pink Game supports those with breast cancer.

Redshirt junior guard Janay Sanders led the way with a career-high 25 points, while dishing three assists. Three Mountaineers scored in double digits, leading App State to the double-digit win. Reflected in the victory, the Play4Kay game means more than basketball for head coach Angel Elderkin and the team.

“We’ve tried to educate our team just in terms of somebody you know is going to face this battle and can we use our platform and the tools that we’ve given you today to teach them how to fight,” Elderkin said. “I think our team always respects this game and knows that it’s bigger than basketball.”

Play4Kay was inspired by the late Kay Yow, head coach of North Carolina State women’s basketball from 1975-2009 and 2002 Basketball Hall of Fame inductee. Yow died from stage 4 breast cancer in 2009, but her impact was felt throughout the basketball world. The game supports the Kay Yow Cancer Fund. 

Elderkin overcame breast cancer when she was 39 and coaching App State. Saturday, she wore a “Tasha Tough” shirt for Georgia Tech associate head coach Tasha Butts, who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer.

Janay Sanders and Mariah Frazier trap Texas State’s Sierra Dickson in the frontcourt. (Travis Holshouser)

Sanders, who went 9-of-13 shooting from the floor, had some extra inspiration coming into Saturday’s career showing.

“Today was honestly for my godmom. She’s currently fighting breast cancer, so I just went out there, and I played for her today,” Sanders said.

After a constant back-and-forth in the first half where Sanders dominated scoring, she dished to sophomore guard Dane Bertolina and freshman guard Emily Carver on consecutive possessions to make a once-close game 35-26 at halftime. The Mountaineers never let the lead get cut under nine in the second half.

“That’s probably been her biggest grow area in terms of being able to create for others, and when she gets to the paint, she draws two, three players,” Elderkin said. “Those were two very big possessions.” 

In the third quarter, App State outscored the Bobcats 19-12 in the period with the lead peaking at 22. The Mountaineers didn’t allow Texas State within 10 for the rest of the game and came out with the victory. Super senior Michaela Porter put together her third-straight double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds, leading all players on the glass.

“How she really helps our teams is rebounding, deflections, just overall toughness mentality. She can always impact a game. Her shots don’t have to fall,” Elderkin said. “She has a real strong will to win, and she impacts our program just every day.”

With the win, App State swaps places with the Bobcats, moving to third in the Sun Belt and inching closer to a bye in the Sun Belt tournament, awarded to the top four teams. Approaching a big game with Troy, the top team in the conference, momentum is building for the Mountaineers as the postseason approaches.

“We know Thursday, we’re going to have Troy coming to town. They’re in the top. They’re fighting. That’s going to be a big, big game for us. If we can get our fans here and create an environment like we did today, that’ll be awesome for us,” Elderkin said. “To be able to finish up at home and maybe give us two days off and get ready for the tournament would give us a really good advantage heading into Pensacola.”

App State returns Thursday in the Holmes Convocation Center, taking on the top seed Troy Trojans at 6 p.m. ESPN+ will televise the game.