When public address announcer Jim Patterson announced there was one minute remaining in Oregon State’s women's basketball game Sunday, the Gill Coliseum crowd of 4,704 almost simultaneously rose to its collective feet and serenaded the Beavers with a resounding and steady applause.
Not long after, the fans got to celebrate, one-by-one, the final regular-season appearance for seniors Gabby Hanson, Sydney Wiese and Kolbie Orum as they were subbed out.
Their work was done as the trio combined for 35 points in the No. 10 Beavers’ 71-56 win over California that wrapped up an outright Pac-12 title for Oregon State. It’s the third straight regular-season title for the Beavers.
The Beavers will be the No. 1 seed in next week’s Pac-12 tournament and will play at 11:30 a.m. Friday in the quarterfinals against the winner of Thursday’s game between No. 8 California and and No. 9 seed USC. That game is also an 11:30 a.m. start.
When the final horn sounded, the confetti began to fall and the players and coaches celebrated with another championship banner before cutting down the nets — something that has become old hat for the program.
And it never, ever gets old.
This one was pretty special for the seniors.
“I think particularly this year we had a lot of unknowns and I think expectations were a little bit, not necessarily ourselves, we knew what it would take to get here, but our team was just very, very different from a year ago,” Hanson said. “To have all these changes happen and then get back to this point, that’s what makes it super special. And then us being seniors and our last go-around.”
Added Sydney Wiese, who on Sunday led the Beavers with 19 points while dishing out six assists: “It’s super fun to be a part of and thankful that we could share it all together as seniors. It feels good to be on top.”
The Beavers finished the regular season with a program-best 27 victories while falling just three times. For the third straight season, Oregon State went 16-2 in conference play.
“I thought this was a perfect ending to a fantastic regular season and a conference title,” coach Scott Rueck said.
Even the emotion of senior day festivities prior to the game didn’t change Oregon State’s focus as the Beavers blitzed Cal from the start.
Oregon State jumped out early and led 24-12 after the first 10 minutes.
The lead ballooned to 32-16 early in the second before foul trouble allowed the Golden Bears (18-12, 6-12) to claw back in.
Cal went on a 12-1 spurt and closed the half on an 18-9 run to get within 41-34 at the break. Jaelyn Brown, who led all scorers with 21, had 10 points in the run.
“We let them get out in transition,” Rueck said. “Our shot selection was not quite as good as it was in the first quarter and we gave them some momentum. Brown hitting those two 3s was big.”
But having weathered the storm, the Beavers responded after the break and regained control thanks to six points from Marie Gulich in a 10-2 burst to start the third.
The lead reached 19 on Kat Tudor’s 3 late in the third.
Cal again had one more run, scoring 10 straight before Wiese hit yet another big 3 to stem the momentum and the Beavers regained control and closed the game out.
In addition to Wiese’s 19, Gulich added 14, Orum 11 and Mikayla Pivec nine. All 10 Beavers who played scored at least two points.
With the game in hand, Rueck was able to honor the three seniors one last time.
“It was a great senior weekend,” Rueck said. “To go out the way they went out with those two wins over the Bay in front of the crowds they played I front of, I mean it’s storybook, right? Perfect. So to get the opportunity one more time today, we’ll be back here in a few weeks, but today was really special and obviously well deserved.”
Hanson admitted she didn’t even realize what was happening.
“(Rueck) reached for a hug and I was like why are you hugging me?” she said. “Shows where my mind was at.
“But the atmosphere was incredible today and just one word comes to mind and that’s gratitude. No one had to show up here at 11 a.m., and they did. That says a lot about where we are and who we are.”
Added Wiese: “It takes a village. … These people have believed in us from the beginning and to be able to share this weekend with them, to have the sellout crowd on Friday, to see almost 5,000 people in the gym today for an early tip, I mean we’re so blessed to be able to have the support system that we do.”