And then, it was their last.
Four seniors, all guards, stepped onto the Pit floor for the last time, as players for the University of New Mexico women’s basketball team.
Seniors Cherise Beynon, Laneah Bryan, Tesha Buck and Alex Lapeyrolerie had a mix of emotions, they said, but a positive outcome in a season in which they broke records, beat the unbeatable and have become a sisterhood.
And that sisterhood will stand the test of time, Lapeyrolerie said.
“Thanks to my teammates for being my sisters. I don’t have a sister, so it’s great to have a group of young ladies to have fun with and support from,” she said during her her tribute video shown during the game.
In the process, Lapeyrolerie suited up in her jersey for her team. A feel-good sentiment, after she tore her ACL at home against Air Force just a few games ago.
She got the start. At tip-off, she walked onto the court, waved to the crowd and hugged her teammates — she said it was a melancholy moment, but one she is eternally grateful for.
In fact, Lapeyrolerie said that, the day prior to the game, is when she found out she was getting the start.
UNM head coach Mike Bradbury, too, said it was a last-minute decision.
“Yesterday,” Lapeyrolerie said. “Found out yesterday after practice. My heart skipped a beat. I didn’t expect it. So it was surprising and shocking.”
The Lobos still have a tournament and one more regular season game to play — something Beynon said is still on her team’s mind, even on such a night as senior night.
Beynon, who addressed the crowd after her final win at the Pit over Colorado State, still has a couple — or more, depending on the outcome of the Mountain West tournament — games as a Lobo.
She is in the top 10 and top five of many UNM records. Already, she is in the top five in scoring and assists. Beynon is fifth in scoring and is just eight assists away from tying the single season assist record set by Mandi Moore in 2003. She’s second all time to Moore in assists overall.
Beynon is also sixth all time in rebounds with, and she needs just four more to move into the top five.
This season alone, Beynon tied her career best in assists in a game, when she had 15 against the Broncos at the Pit in January.
But Beynon, who has started every game since her freshman season and was recruited by then-coach Yvonne Sanchez, said her fondest memory as a Lobo was when UNM beat San Diego State in the Mountain West Tournament her freshman year.
She recalled, with clarity, beating the Aztecs by one point in the quarter finals after an SDSU player missed a layup. Beynon said the feeling was ecstatic.
“It was my freshman year when we made a run in the tournament,” Beynon said, adding that she would not choose her team’s win this season over then-ranked No. 17 Marquette. “The very first game we had was against San Diego State, and we had won. A girl had missed a layup — a point blank layup — and we won by one point. But it felt like a championship game.”
For Beynon, the addition of knowing her name is amongst the Lobo greats is still a lot for her to take in. And she used a certain word to describe it: unbelievable.
“Unbelievable what I was able to do with my career here,” Beynon said. “It was up and down. I didn’t know I was able to break records or even be in the top 10 or top five of most of the categories here. So I just think it’s an honor I was able to work that hard and leave a legacy here that I’ll always be remembered by.”
Bryan, who’s made 100 field goals, scored 334 points and recorded 69 steals in her career, said the feeling of playing her last game at the Pit sunk in after and not necessarily before.
“Before the game I was trying to not think about it,” she said. “I was just trying to focus on the game. After the game, when it ended, is when it really started to hit me that this was my last time playing in the Pit.
“It’s kind of a sad, happy feeling, because you’re thinking about all the times you had and just all the memories that have come along the way. Then you’re also realizing that it’s coming to an end, so it’s a little bit of both.”
Buck, who only played one season with the Lobos and is the only member of the group who was recruited by current head coach Mike Bradbury, was the most emotional of the group during the ceremony following the game.
“I don’t know,” she said. “I kind of had it in the back of my head for a while now, so it’s not like it hit me. After the game was when I realized, like, this is it. I was happy we won the game. It was a good game. I thought we played well. Going into the senior ceremony, it was kind of overwhelming, just a lot of emotions.”
Despite only playing one year of basketball for the Lobos after transferring from Wisconsin-Green Bay, Buck left her impact on the UNM record books too.
During a December game against Lamar, she made 10 3-point shots and scored a total of 40 points, both set new single game records for the Lobos, the former still stands, but the latter was broken by Beynon in the San Diego State game. In addition to her single game accolades, Buck also set the single season record for made 3-pointers in a season with 87 through Tuesday’s game.
In her lone season for the Lobos, Buck averaged 13.9 points, 3.1 assists and 4.7 rebounds per game.
Though she did not play on senior night, Lapeyrolerie has been a valuable asset for UNM. Long known as a 3-point sharpshooter, she lived up to the title in her career. In fact, she’s in the top 10 in program history for threes made in her career (128) and in a single season (64).
But, after sustaining a season- — and college-career- — ending injury, Lapeyrolerie was filled with emotion walking down the ramp and onto the court.
“That was when it really hit me,” Lapeyrolerie said of when she stepped onto the court. “It was like, ‘Oh my gosh this is it. It’s done. It’s over.’ And, you know, tears were shed. Tears were definitely shed. But, in the end, I was blessed and thankful to spend these last two years with Mike (Bradbury) and to play for this program.”
Lapeyrolerie, in a ceremonial video after the Lobos’ win over Colorado State, said she’s working on a book. Beynon, as far as her future goes, is keeping her options open.
But for all four seniors, who appeared in front of a home crowd one last time Tuesday evening, the memories alone will last a lifetime.
Cameron Goeldner is a sports beat reporter and photographer for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers men’s soccer and softball but also contributes content for baseball, basketball, football and track and field. He can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @goeldfinger.
Matthew Narvaiz is a senior sports reporter for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers men’s and women’s basketball and baseball. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @matt_narvaiz.