A crowd of well over a thousand, plus more media than shows up for most actual games, even some football games, gathered in Parker Plaza between Reser Stadium and Gill Coliseum Tuesday afternoon, and most of them, those that didn't have to actually attend to something else, actually stuck around for a couple of hours, until they finally got to greet the Oregon State women's basketball team, and see their Dallas Regional trophy/Jamie Weisner nap buddy *, the first ever regional hardware the Beaver women have ever earned, for themselves.
* It's true, Weisner slept with the trophy Monday night.
"Yeah, it was in the bed next to me,"Weisner said. "I was just admiring it."
Come Tuesday, it was more Ruth Hamblin's responsible to guard the hardware, with a grip equaling what she grabbed the rebound in the last seconds of the win over Baylor Monday night.
"I've been keeping my grip nice and tight on it," Hamblin said.
Originally announced for 1:30 PM, and then pushed back to 2:30 PM, and then after 3, the impromptu combination photo op/marketing event finally took off around 3:30 PM, when the team bus finally finished working their way north from the Eugene airport.
It was only the third time an Oregon State team has officially had a greeting party, with the 2 baseball national championships, though there have been a number of welcome home events, most recently when the same gals brought home their first ever Pac-12 Tournament trophy 2 weeks ago, and also including, even with the band playing the fight song, a 3:30 AM reception for the football team after the upset of ranked Arizona a few years ago.
But those have been over by the Valley Football Center and the Basketball practice facility, and sans balloon arch.
Since it will take an upset of epic proportion to get past Connecticut come Sunday afternoon, on the order of ending the UCLA run back a few decades, to bring back another trophy next Wednesday, it really was a great idea, even given the logistic miscues.
More importantly, it demonstrated just to what extent the growing fondness for the team has reached. Even men's coach Wayne Tinkle was there - straight from the day's workouts!
"To drive up and see this is unbelievable," Coach Scott Rueck said. "This has been quite a 24 hours, a constant build-up to this moment. This doesn't surprise me though. I knew, if we built a team that plays the right way, this place is going to go crazy. You can't predict this, but you can foresee something like it."
Rueck also summed up both the win, and the qualities of the team that might actually give them a shot against UConn.
"We knew we were going into the lions' den, against a team that is used to winning every game, against a coach used to winning 90 percent of her games, and (on the road) against a fan base that is rabid. We knew we were going to face huge adversity. We knew that (Baylor) team was going to make a run. I didn't know if we could win in that place, but they got our best effort, and this team made the plays."
"We were at the edge, with four fouls on Ruth and Deven (Hunter), but these players just looked at each other in the huddle and said, 'No, this is ours.' They kept their composure."
"Certainly you have to have talent, and we have a lot of basketball talent, but this team at its core has a trust and a friendship, and that's what's made them who they are. Defensive stops ended up winning that game, and you know great defensive teams are selfless teams."
The players, though obviously enjoying their rock-star status, already have their focus on the Final Four, and UConn in particular..
"It's a dream come true," Sydney Wiese said, "but there's work to do, and still a lot of basketball to be played."
"Honestly, I wouldn't have it any other way," Gabriella Hanson said of the challenge of trying to at least slow down UConn.
"They're well known for their discipline," Hamblin said, "but that's what we're also known for, so it will be an interesting matchup."
Indeed, the matchup of Breanna Stewart, the 2-time national player of the year, and sure to be first pick in the next WNBA draft, and Hamblin, the 2 time Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year and an honorable mention All-American herself, will be a big (literally) key to Sunday's contest.
In the interim, its a good week to be a Beaver!