Women’s basketball wins Power of Pink game, sweeps season series of Auburn

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Women’s basketball wins Power of Pink game, sweeps season series of Auburn

CW / Austin Bigoney

CW / Austin Bigoney

CW / Austin Bigoney

CW / Austin Bigoney

Hunter Jones | @Hunter_Jones_10, Contributing Writer

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Alabama women’s basketball took on the Auburn Tigers on Sunday in its annual Power of Pink game, which raises breast cancer awareness and honors those affected by the disease. Alabama walked away with a 68-64 win, but for freshman guard Ahriahna Grizzle, this game featured something that was bigger than basketball.

Grizzle’s mother, Pamela, was diagnosed with breast cancer on June 15, 2015. Despite the diagnosis being fairly early, Ahriahna could see the effects of the chemo taking a toll on her mom.

“Seeing her go through chemo and losing her hair, it was really hard to see her thin and not able to do the things that she loved,” Ahriahna said. “That was really difficult to watch.”

On Oct. 30, 2015, Pamela was finally able to ring the bell, signaling the end of her last round of chemotherapy. The day also coincided with one of Ahriahna’s games.

“I just remember how many people were there from our friends, from our extended family – from her [junior] team,” Pamela said. “They had all gone to different high schools so this was her freshman year and everybody still came out to support. It was so touching.”

While Pamela told Ahriahna she would head home to Canada after Alabama’s game against Kentucky on Thursday, she instead headed to Tuscaloosa to surprise her.

“We told her we were just going to Kentucky because it was closest to Toronto and then we were going to turn around and go back home,” Pamela said. “She had no idea we actually drove straight down to Tuscaloosa afterwards and we surprised her after practice.”

At the end of the first quarter on Wednesday, a video featuring Ahriahna and Pamela’s story was shown to the crowd, followed by a standing ovation for others in the audience going through the same fight.

Though Auburn held a lead for most of the first half, Alabama tied the game at 28-28 after a layup from junior forward Ariyah Copeland to end the half.

The second half began with each team trading scores before Auburn scored 6 straight points to go ahead 41-37. The third quarter ended with Auburn leading 50-47.

The fourth quarter began with Copeland scoring 7 points for Alabama in just over four minutes, securing her second double-double of the season and getting Alabama a 54-53 lead. Copeland led the team with 17 points and 13 rebounds.

“I just went out there and gave it my all. Coach [Kristy Curry] says it’s always better to make them guard you versus worrying about somebody else,” Copeland said. “I just want to make sure that I’m more effective. We were worried about Unique [Auburn forward Unique Thompson], so what about me? I had to make her guard me.”

Near the end of a back-and-forth fourth quarter featuring six lead changes, junior forward Jasmine Walker hit a 3-pointer to put Alabama up 2 points with a minute left in the game. Redshirt junior guard Jordan Lewis grabbed a rebound on the other end, making one of two free throws and grabbing the rebound from that miss. She would connect on another pair of free throws before Auburn hit a three to close the gap to two. Another pair of free throws by Lewis sealed a win for Alabama.

“This is a league that you have to go through it and be in it to experience it, and I thought our experience down the stretch really showed,” Curry said. “[Lewis], I thought, wanted the ball, I thought she made big plays, I thought she did exactly what she needed to do. Whether it was her vocality in the huddle or just a presence and a confidence in her down the stretch, I knew she was going to make both free throws, you could just tell. That’s experience, to be a three-year starter in this league, I thought she allowed her experience to take over and it’s important for our team because we get a lot of confidence from her.”

Alabama will get a week off before heading to Athens to take on the Georgia Bulldogs on Sunday.