At approximately 10 p.m. on Saturday night, a new net was being hung from the rim at Hamilton Court.
The old one hung from senior Haylee Donaghe’s neck and it wasn’t going anywhere.
“I’m never taking it off,” Donaghe said with tears of joy. “I wanted to cut down a net so badly. To finally get to do it on my last night at Hamilton court with the Band-uh!, the Aggie Pack and all the fans – I honestly couldn’t ask for anything more.”
After UC Riverside fell to Long Beach State, a win over Cal State Fullerton gave UC Davis the Big West Conference regular season championship.
Thursday – UC Davis 62, Cal State Northridge 53
After losing a chance to clinch the conference title against UC Riverside the week before, UC Davis was looking to respond with a win against Cal State Northridge.
Paige Mintun’s 23 points and eight boards against a feisty Matador team carried the Aggies to within one win of at least a share of a conference title.
“[Cal State Northridge] was playing tonight for its conference tournament life,” said coach Sandy Simpson. “Overall it’s a win against a really scrappy team.”
Saturday – UC Davis 80, Cal State Fullerton 52
The night began with family and roses.
It ended with a ladder and scissors.
On Senior Night, with the conference title on the line, the Aggies showed what a championship team is made of.
“The cliché is that sometimes Senior Night is tough because the emotions are too pitched,” Simpson said. “I was concerned going into tonight because Fullerton’s style is one that gives us trouble.
“We were just fortunate that they didn’t shoot like they normally do and that we rebounded better than we normally do.”
In the contest, Mintun delivered another stellar performance with 21 points and 10 rebounds, good for her first double-double of the season.
The story of the night, however, was Donaghe.
In her sixth year with the program, the senior from Atascadero, Calif. finally won the conference championship she so desperately wanted.
“It’s just a fairy tale ending for her,” Mintun said. “I don’t think it mattered who we played tonight. It was about [Donaghe and fellow senior Ashley Curry]. It was about getting a win just for them.”
Simpson would agree.
“Haylee’s the key for us,” Simpson said. “She doesn’t have huge numbers but she absolutely pilots us on the court. Let’s face it. We wouldn’t have gotten it done without her.”
While the regular season conference crown is a tremendous achievement, the Aggies know that there is still work to be done.
“We’re obviously not satisfied with this,” Donaghe said. “We still have goals that we haven’t accomplished yet and that we have our sights set on. Now we have the taste. We know what a championship is like after putting in all the work, the sweat, the tears and the blood.”
For UC Davis, climbing that ladder and holding those scissors is what it’s all about. The Aggies hope they can do it again on Saturday night in Anaheim.
“It’s so worth it in the end,” Donaghe said. “I don’t think I can really explain it. Just a little piece of net has so much meaning.”
MARK LING can be reached at email@example.com.