Seniors go out with a bang

Feb 272005
Authors: Jon Pilsner

The game over, the members of the CSU men's basketball team huddled among the mass of students that poured on the court in celebration.

Head coach Dale Layer spoke briefly to the circle, congratulating his team on a huge victory over rival Wyoming. They raised their arms above the circle in celebration of the team. They then locked arms over each other's shoulders, creating a chain. Swaying from side-to-side, they shouted "C-State, C-State," while the fans around them cheered.

For four seniors, it was the last time they would share this at Moby Arena.

Guards Nick Ball and Jon Rakiecki, forward Matt Williams and center Matt Nelson all played their last games at Moby Arena Saturday in a heart-stopping 96-94 win over rival Wyoming.

"It was special," said Williams, who had 18 points in the 96-94 win. "It's the best way to go out and something I'll remember for a long time."

Rakiecki – who Layer had said struggled all season – was relieved to have performed well in his final game at home. He ended with 17 points and went 4-of-8 from behind the 3-point line.

"I wanted to go out and leave my heart and soul on the court tonight," Rakiecki said. "It just feels so good after struggling all year to finally play the way I know I can."

But it was Nelson, one of the most successful players in CSU history, who helped key the victory. The 7-foot-1-inch center put in 31 points, one fewer than his career high, and shot 12-of-17 from the field and 7-of-8 from the free-throw line.

"It was great to go out like this," Nelson said. "The fans were great and we just went out and worked hard for the win."

Nelson, Rakiecki and Williams all said that the four seniors had huddled before the game to prepare themselves. They also briefly addressed the team.

"We knew we wanted to go out and win it for them," said freshman Jason Smith. "They told us before the game they wanted to win and told us to go out and play our best."

And at the end, while their family members, students and teammates hugged them on the court they had worked on for the past four years, there was a sense of pride.

"We all gave our best for the time we were here," Williams said. "There was no better way to go.

"It's something I know I'll miss but remember fondly," he said.

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