COLUMBIA — Columbia College women's basketball coach Mike Davis, wearing a suit, sneakers and a pink tie, grabbed the microphone at center court after the Cougars defeated William Woods 85-64 on Saturday at the Arena at Southwell Complex.
The Cougars and Owls participated in the American Cancer Society's Coaches vs. Cancer event Saturday. After the game, the men's and women's teams from both schools stood on the court. The crowd focused its attention on Davis and the other coaches at center court.
"We all have our opponents off the court," Davis, who lost his mother, sister-in-law and his wife's grandmother to cancer, said. "We all know people who have battled the dreaded disease of cancer."
Davis then asked people currently battling cancer and cancer survivors to join the teams on the court. William Woods women's basketball coach Dan Chapla then asked anyone with family members affected by cancer to join the group. By now, most of the crowd stood on or near the court. Only a smattering of people remained in the stands.
The Cougars wore their pink uniforms for the game. Like basketball coaches around the country, Davis and Chapla wore sneakers with their suits. Paper sneakers lined a wall on the concourse with names of people fans of the game were supporting. A raffle was also held with the proceeds going to the American Cancer Society.
"It makes a statement because you do not realize how much it affects people," Cougars forward Julie Teeple said. "Not only family members, but people you know. So for it to get everyone out on the court, after a good win, it is inspirational."
The Cougars, ranked No. 24 in the NAIA entering the game, were eager to play the Owls, a American Midwest Conference opponent and the No. 20 team in the rankings.
The game stayed close until a 29to 6 Columbia College run midway through the second half decided the game. The victory was Columbia College's 12th straight, and improved the team to 16-5 and 9-0 in the AMC. William Woods fell to 16-3 and 7-2 in the AMC.
Davis said the Cougars played eight out of their first nine games against teams ranked in the NAIA at the start of the season.
"We really had a tough schedule," Davis said. "We were really challenged, and it's paying dividends now."
Davis said it was easy to pause after the game to think of those that are fighting cancer.
"We all have a common opponent in cancer," Davis said. "That's not really a hard thing to do at all because I think we all understand that we've all lost those battles."