When Tonya Cardoza played basketball in college, she remembers playing against Kay Yow’s team.
Cardoza, Temple University women’s basketball coach, will always hold her team’s win on Sunday in a special place in her heart, not because of the result, but her relationship with Yow.
The Owls’ (9-15, 5-6 American Athletic Conference) 78-70 home win against Cincinnati (16-9, 8-4 The American) was the 12th annual Play4Kay breast cancer awareness game.
The Play4Kay initiative is in honor Yow, the former North Carolina State University coach, and her lifetime goal of fighting women’s cancers. Yow started the Kay Yow Cancer Fund in 2007, two years before she died of breast cancer. It was her third recurrence in a five-year span.
“I knew her dearly,” Cardoza said. “It is something we all take to heart because just about everyone knows someone who has been affected.”
Cardoza and Yow were personal friends. She and the Naismith Hall of Famer competed in the same conference when Cardoza played at the University of Virginia from 1987-91.
Temple is one of 123 Division I schools that will play a Play4Kay game this season. Teams fundraise by selling T-shirts and holding raffles, wearing pink and honoring survivors.
“The Kay Yow cancer research is something that I think everyone in women’s basketball is really supportive of,” Cardoza added.
To recognize the Play4Kay initiative on Sunday, Temple and Cincinnati coaches wore pink dresses and shirts and players on each team wore pink shoes. Cincinnati also sported pink uniforms.
The Owls had a raffle for Cardoza’s custom pink heels to raise money for the Kay Yow Cancer Fund. The team will know how much money it raised after its final home game on March 2 against Wichita State, a team spokesperson said.
The Owls also held a fundraiser for pediatric cancer research earlier this season during their home game against East Carolina on Jan. 26.
Teams across women’s college basketball began wearing pink during the 2004-05 season when Yow’s cancer returned after 17 years in remission. The Kay Yow Cancer Fund has raised more than $5 million dollars since 2007. The money is given to scientific programs focused on women’s cancers like breast cancer.
Breast cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death among American women, according to the American Cancer Society. In 2019, an estimated 268,600 new cases of invasive breast cancer could be diagnosed in women and 2,670 men in the United States, according to breastcancer.org, a nonprofit providing information to patients and their families.
“It means a lot to just go out and represent,” junior forward Shantay Taylor said. “We wanted to try and get the win for all the women who have cancer and breast cancer.”