By Scott M. Johnson Herald Writer
SEATTLE — The seniors on the University of Washington women’s basketball team just couldn’t get it together Saturday afternoon. It could be said that they were a complete mess.
Fortunately for the Huskies, that came after UW capped off its 2011-12 regular season in style.
Thanks to a tight pregame schedule that didn’t leave time for memories, UW’s tear-soaked Senior Day ceremony came after the Huskies’ finale against UCLA, a 67-59 win. It also brought out the soft side of Regina Rogers and Mackenzie Argens, who muscled their way to a combined 22 rebounds in the victory but couldn’t muster up the strength to hold back the flood of tears afterward.
“I have that side hidden inside me,” said Rogers, a 6-foot-4 powerful post player who was so overcome during the ceremony that she couldn’t watch the video screen as it showed her career highlights. “My mother’s really emotional; she brought that out in me.”
The scheduling of Senior Day, with the on-court ceremony coming afterward, may well have worked out better for the Huskies (16-12 overall, 8-10 in the Pacific-12 Conference) in that the seniors were able to carry their emotion until the game was over. Rogers fought through a zone defense and battled two and three defenders all game long to put up a team-high 22 points on 6-of-7 field-goal shooting and 10-of-15 free throws in 32 minutes of action.
“There are so many emotions that (having the ceremony) after the game is probably better,” the Seattle native and transfer from UCLA said afterward. “I don’t want to be crying during the game.”
The only easy basket Rogers got all afternoon came when senior teammate Charmaine Barlow, lying on her stomach in the key, pushed a ball between two defenders and allowed Rogers to pick it up for an open layup and a 52-45 lead with 6:14 remaining. UW never looked back after that.
The Huskies relied on some key offensive rebounds and UCLA’s poor shooting — at the free-throw line and from the field — over the final 10 minutes to pull away in the end. The Bruins went 61⁄2 minutes without a field goal and made just 1 of 6 free throws along the way while watching a 48-45 deficit turn into a 60-47 hole.
During that 12-2 run, UW had six offensive rebounds, resulting in three putbacks and two other revived possessions that eventually brought added points.
Senior Mollie Williams was a big key down the stretch, despite somewhat quiet numbers (five points, eight rebounds) on the final stat sheet. The 6-foot-2 forward had all of her rebounds after halftime, helping UW outrebound the fifth-place Bruins 48-37 for the game.
“The last thing I told (Williams) coming out of the locker room at halftime was: ‘You’ve got zero rebounds, which for you is completely unacceptable,’” coach Kevin McGuff said afterward. “And she responded like a senior playing with a sense of urgency does. She got eight in the second half, and a couple crucial offensive ones.”
Williams said she was inspired by the halftime chat, but perhaps her most impressive performance came after the game, when she kept it together while teammates like Argens and Rogers fell apart.
“When we were doing the starting lineups, I couldn’t watch the video (screen) because I started tearing up — and that’s before the game,” said Argens, who had four points and 11 rebounds in the final home game of her UW career. “Yeah, it was an emotional day.”
The careers of UW’s senior class are not officially over, seeing as how the Huskies still have to play in the Pac-12 tournament this week. UW is scheduled to open with Oregon on Wednesday, with No. 1 seed and Final Four favorite Stanford waiting to play the winner in a Thursday game.
“I hope we play them,” McGuff said of a possible second-round matchup with the 27-1 Cardinal. “That means we won (over Oregon). The draw is what it is, and I hope we have that issue (of having to play the nation’s second-ranked team) and we can cross that bridge when we come to it.”
As of late Saturday afternoon, McGuff wasn’t yet thinking about Oregon or Stanford but of his senior class.
“I’m excited they were able to finish off their careers on a winning note,” he said after the win over UCLA (14-15, 9-9). “They’re really good kids. (Saturday’s game) was an example of: we’re not always perfect,
but we always compete and we always try hard. I’m just really happy for the seniors that we got the win.”
The seniors were certainly happy to go out like they did.
“It’s very nice to go out with a win,” said Argens, a fifth-year senior who was on four UW teams with losing records before finally getting over the .500 mark this season. “… It’s great to go out on that note.”
“A lot more smiles,” Williams chimed in.
And a few tears, too. The kind that make a memorable afternoon that much better.