Inspired Performance Earns WVU Respect it Deserves - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Inspired Performance Earns WVU Respect it Deserves

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Fans hold up signs for WVU senior manager SeLarra Armstrong before Wednesday's game. Fans hold up signs for WVU senior manager SeLarra Armstrong before Wednesday's game.
MORGANTOWN -

Mike Carey said Wednesday night that he felt something special was about to transpire when he gave what he believed was his best pregame speech to date.

He laughed about this, of course, because he knew even if he was impressed by his words, the players receiving the message may not have been so inspired.

In truth, they were very much inspired. It just had nothing to do with a speech from their head coach.

West Virginia's women's basketball team was inspired by SeLarra Armstrong, a senior manager who is battling Hodgkin's Lymphoma after she was first diagnosed on Dec. 31 of last year.

The Mountaineers – and many of their fans – sported the color violet on game day in support of Armstrong, who did not know that any of the recognition had been planned.

When a video for Armstrong played at the first timeout of the game, she stood at the edge of the team huddle, looking up with tears streaming down her face.

"So special," Armstrong said after the game. "It was a shocker."

Armstrong, a Philadelphia native, first came to the program as part of a work study. Coach Carey recalls when she first showed up at the facilities and how she ultimately became part of the family.

"She just started hanging around, wanted to get involved and she was such a nice person and hard worker," said Carey. "I'm big on that. If somebody wants to get involved and they show they want to be loyal and work and all that, then we'll take them in. She was one of those people and she's just been great to have around."

When the diagnosis came, Armstrong said she never once felt sorry for herself or questioned "why me?" Instead, she focused on her final semester at WVU and on the goals she had both in the classroom and for the team on the court.

On this night, there was special recognition in the way of the purple garb and a donation and gift basket from the team's Hoops N Heels club, but Armstrong has been getting support from her teammates and coaches ever since she first found out that she had a real fight ahead of her.

Coach Carey and the Mountaineers wear violet wristbands with phrases like, "Cancer Sucks!" and "No One Fights Alone!" Armstrong is clearly not fighting alone. Her team has helped give her family back home assurance that though they may not be with her every step of the way, she has a second family here in Morgantown.

"I use basketball as an outlet to keep myself getting up and keep going," said Armstrong. "The staff and the girls are so much support."

So on Wednesday night, the Mountaineers made sure they were able to celebrate Armstrong when the first timeout came around. Just over four minutes in, West Virginia had a 12-0 lead over No. 12 Oklahoma State when the whistle blew.

Carey and his team paused long enough to join the ovation that came from the stands as Armstrong made her way to midcourt, but then they all went back to work.

WVU scored the first 14 points of the game and rode a wave of momentum from the play of Bria Holmes (20 points, 6 rebounds) and Asya Bussie (12 points, 12 rebounds) to lead by as many as 42 with just over four minutes left.

A 77-45 final flashed on the scoreboard and the Mountaineers (23-3, 12-2) had earned the respect they sought with the win over the Cowgirls (20-5, 9-5).

"When you dedicate a game to someone, you want to win the game," said senior guard Christal Caldwell, who contributed 15 points in the victory. "It was just great and for [Armstrong] to know that she has so many people behind her and that people love her, it's good that we could do this not only for our fans, but for SeLarra to let her know just how much we do care about her."

It was an inspired performance. 

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