EDINBURG — The UTRGV women’s basketball team had a little added motivation Saturday against Grand Canyon.
Not only was it Senior Day, honoring the team’s three seniors, but when UTRGV faced GCU earlier this season, the Vaqueros woundup up on the losing end of a heartbreaker by two points in overtime.
The Vaqueros avenged that loss Saturday and sent their seniors off with a Senior Day victory as UTRGV topped Grand Canyon 66-47 at the UTRGV Fieldhouse. UTRGV is now 13-15 on the season and 8-7 in the Western Athletic Conference.
“The girls really rallied together today, and they knew from the jump that was something that not only we wanted, but that all of us wanted us a team, so it was nice to see that kind of camaraderie,” senior forward Megan Johnson said.
Johnson, who hails from New Castle, Australia, had family in attendance. It was their first time watching Johnson play in college.
“None of my family’s ever seen me play in person in college, so it was huge, and for the girls to rally around each other and have such a big game and a big win, it was amazing,” she said.
Johnson and graduate student Desirea Buerge each finished in double-figures for the Vaqueros as UTRGV swarmed GCU early.
Lockdown defense quickly turned into buckets on the other end as Buerge got things started with UTRGV’s first five points of the game. The Webb City, Missouri, native was one of six different Vaqueros to hit 3s during the first half on 6-of-12 shooting. GCU went just 1 for 10 during that same span.
There was also a large cardboard cutout of Buerge’s face being raised anytime UTRGV made a play, which happened often Saturday.
“It’s always a great thing to have family here watching in person because they’re always watching online back home, and I always get messages after the game, so it was great to have them here,” Buerge said.
“Desirea is a one-year player and she’s fit into our group really well. You guys will get to see her out there throwing the discus and shot here when we get done, but she’s really been a huge impact player for us at the five position, both offensively and defensively,” UTRGV head coach Lane Lord said. “But really, the heart and soul of UTRGV women’s basketball is Megan Johnson. She’s been here four years. You just watch her play, she’s not the most gifted or the most skilled, but she’s going to give you 100% every time she’s out on the floor and as a coach, that’s what we look for and she’s a great example for everybody in our program.”
Johnson said she’ll remember her teammates, the crowds, and her family watching UTRGV get a win on Senior Day.
“At the beginning of the game, I was so focused, and then afterwards, I realized that that was the last game that I’m going to play here, and it was emotional but happy. I was so happy and so proud to have been here and to spend my years at UTRGV, and I think using that, I just want to use the pride to push this team forward and go into the WAC (tournament) and show them what we can do.,” Johnson said.
UTRGV will close out conference play at 3 p.m. on March 7 against California Baptist. In their first meeting, the Vaqueros came away with an 87-68 win.