It was certainly their day.

Seniors Stephanie Gandy and Jennifer Smith went out with a bang,
ending their final regular season with the Michigan women’s
basketball team with a 57-47 win over No. 12 Minnesota,
yesterday.

The duo owned the game, combining for 35 points and 10 rebounds,
and even wrapped things up with two free throws each.

“We really wanted to have an opportunity for our effort
and our hard work to pay off, especially for these seniors,”
Michigan coach Cheryl Burnett said. “And those were the two
who really took charge.”

It was Senior Day at Crisler Arena and the team’s
first-year coach made sure that Gandy and Smith were honored
throughout the afternoon. Before the game, the seniors stood with
their families at center court, and were presented with bouquets of
yellow roses. Burnett looked on like a proud mother as the
players’ achievements were listed off to the crowd of
3,233.

Following the contest, Burnett started a new tradition. She
thanked the fans, but then handed the microphone off to Smith and
Gandy to say their goodbyes and thank-yous.

“It was a nice thing to do,” Smith said.
“I’ve never had anyone do that for me before. It gave
us a chance to thank people that we wouldn’t normally have
gotten to thank.”

They thanked everyone, from their families, to the pep band and
media.

The road has not been easy for Gandy and Smith at Michigan. Just
during their first season with the team did Michigan have a winning
record in conference play and in the first two seasons did the team
have an overall winning record.

The seniors also endured a change of coaching staffs when
Burnett took the reigns of the program earlier this year.

But Greg Smith, Jennifer’s father, said that he believes
his daughter has never regretted her choice to come to
Michigan.

“I think sometimes when people deal with adversity, it
gives them a chance to grow the most,” Greg said. “If
everything comes easy, they don’t get a good understanding of
hard work and what it’ll do for you. I think
(Jennifer’s) been happy with her years here. I don’t
think she would have done anything different.”

Smith had extra reason to be happy after Michigan’s win
over Northwestern last Thursday. Not only did the center climb to
second on Michigan’s career-scoring list with 1,659 points,
but she also broke the single-season scoring record. Smith passed
Peg Hart’s record of 581 from Michigan’s 1982-83
season.

But when asked about breaking the record, Smith’s father
stressed that it was not a big deal to his daughter.

“Jen is a team player and she truly doesn’t care how
much she scores,” Greg said.

Gandy too has had her share of accolades. The guard has scored
more than 1,000 points in her career at Michigan — a feat
only 18 other players in Michigan history have achieved. After
scoring 16 points in yesterday’s game, she sits at No. 11 on
Michigan’s all-time scoring list with 1,143.

With her broad shoulders and stern face, the senior may at first
appear intimidating, but according to freshman Kelly Helvey,
Gandy’s toughness only goes skin deep.

“At first I was really scared of Stephanie,” Helvey
said. “But as soon as I got to know her, I (discovered) she
had a soft side to her.

“Stephanie made every shot (in practice) … It was
great playing with (her).”

Smith and Gandy will have one last chance to play with the team
when Michigan participates in the Big Ten Tournament, which starts
Thursday in Indianapolis. Beyond that, these seniors must look past
Michigan basketball. Both will graduate with degrees in Sports
Management and Communications.

“I was real happy that we went out with a win … so
we can look back on (Jennifer’s) last game here
positively,” Greg Smith said. “But we’re also
thinking about her future and this is not the end for her.
It’s just another chapter.”

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