OSU headed to Final Four for first time in school history

Michael Kiever Sports Reporter

The OSU women’s basketball team gathered in front of hundreds of fans to celebrate the monumental achievement

According to OSU radio announcer Mike Parker, it was one of the greatest days in Oregon State athletic history.

And the OSU women’s basketball team showed up late.

Fresh off an airplane from Dallas, the OSU women’s basketball arrived back in Corvallis about an hour after hundreds of Beaver fans had gathered in Parker Plaza in front of Reser Stadium to celebrate Oregon State’s first Final Four berth. The Beavers defeated Baylor 60-57 Monday night in the Elite Eight.

The Beavers looked like movie stars as they got off the bus at Parker Plaza, taking in a raucous welcome from the fan base. Fans cheered and waved pictures of the players’ faces as the team took the stage. It was a fitting show of support from a fan base that had the team’s back all year long.

“You don’t have to win every game to get support at Oregon State, but when you do, just look around,” head coach Scott Rueck said, pointing out to the crowd and eliciting cheers. “We don’t just do this for us. We understand who we represent and we take that seriously.”

Several players had the chance to speak on stage during a surprisingly revealing Q&A session with OSU broadcaster Ron Callan. Senior guard Jamie Weisner admitted that she slept with the Final Four trophy, and Senior Deven Hunter professed that it was the team’s ultimate dream since her freshmen year to make the Final Four.

“It’s not a dream anymore,” Hunter said. “It’s an amazing opportunity to get to play the best team in the country.”

As a whole, the rally served as both a tribute to the team as well as a thank you to the fans. OSU recorded an average attendance of 4,356 fans per game at Gill Coliseum, while the teams they faced on the road had an average attendance of 2,421 fans per game.

OSU president Ed Ray and Athletic Director Todd Stansbury both spoke about the monumental achievement of reaching the Final Four.

Ray complemented Rueck on rebuilding the program. When Rueck came to OSU six years ago, he inherited a program that was struggling and had not been to the NCAA tournament since 1996. Now, they are in the Final Four.

“They built it stronger, they built it better and they built it to make history,” Ray said.

Stansbury thanked Beaver Nation for the support over the years and congratulated the team on winning the right way. Not only has the team had great success this year, but seven Beaver players were named to the Pac-12 All-Academic team.

“We celebrate the team not just because of the wins, but how they win,” Stansbury said. “Through sport, we can teach things you can’t teach anywhere else.”

Senior Ruth Hamblin, who leads the team in rebounding, blocks and free throw percentage, said there are some similarities between OSU and their Final Four matchup, UConn.

“UConn is known for their discipline, but so are we,” Hamblin said. “It should be an interesting game.”

The Huskies have won three straight NCAA championships, but as Ray pointed out, there is still one team left they have yet to overtake.

“(UConn) has beaten just about everyone in the country,” Ray said. “You know who they haven’t beat? The Beavers.”

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