K-State’s incredible 7-0 start to conference play,
which still stands as the program’s best opening stretch in
the Big 12, ended at home vs. Baylor (63-49) to put the
Wildcats a game back of the Bears in the standings. The
Wildcats bounced back with three wins in a row and took a
half-game lead in the Big 12 when Baylor lost to Texas. The
view from the top became short-lived, however, after the
Wildcats dropped consecutive games to No. 11 Oklahoma (68-65)
at home and at Colorado (73-68).
Shalee Lehning: Oklahoma, that was
definitely a tough loss.
God, OU, I never beat them.
(Sauber) Dietz: Obviously, Oklahoma’s always a tough
team to play, so that one was a really tough game. For me, in
particular, I think going down to Colorado, which is my
hometown in Boulder, that one really made me mad, losing down
there. That one was hard. A lot of people came to watch. My
high school coach did and a bunch of my friends and family.
That one was tough for me to swallow.
Lehning: I remember right when the (Colorado) game
ended, confetti came from the ceiling. It was like this huge
win for them. That was kind of rattling.
(Miller) Sweat: I remember knowing when we lost, we
could’ve just lost the Big 12.
I don’t think there was ever an ounce of panic going
on. Our coaches did a great job keeping our minds focused on
the next game. We weren’t focused on winning a Big 12 title.
That was our goal and, of course, that was what we were
working toward. We wanted that more than anything, but we knew
it took one game at a time. We had overcome adversity. We had
overcome losses. When things looked bleak before, we fought
through that and found a way. It was just another strike of
adversity that we had to overcome.
(Sauber) Dietz: That was a little tough to lose those
two games. I think after that we knew what we were capable of,
so it was easy to get our chins back up and back to the
While the two losses dropped the Wildcats
out of a tie for first place, they recovered by topping
Nebraska (69-65) and dominating Missouri (81-52). And thanks
to a Texas A&M win over Baylor, the Wildcats were back in
a tie for first with only one regular season match-up left: at
Kansas on March 5, 2008. Win, and the Wildcats would be Big 12
Shalee Lehning: That
is a day that I will always remember. Growing up a Kansas
girl, I seriously considered going to Kansas. So any time we
went to KU there was a lot of pride in that
Kimberly (Sauber) Dietz:
Everyone knew what was on the line. We knew we had
come so far and we had been playing so well the whole year. We
had beaten some great teams. We weren’t going to let this game
stand in our way. It wasn’t going to
Shalee Lehning; Honestly, I
feel like it’s a storybook ending for us. Not only did we have
a chance to win the title but we got a chance to do it against
our rival. I feel like it was just a script that now you look
back and smile. It was really one of those moments that you
dream of as a kid. When I came to Kansas State, I chose that
school because I believed we’d be winning championships. To be
in that position really was a dream come true in so many
Marlies Gipson: Starting the
game, I remember our fans were amazing. It was all purple.
Running out of the tunnel and seeing that, that just lit a
Shalee Lehning: I remember going
into it there was a lot of focus. There was not a lot of talk
about not winning the championship. That was just an
understood expectation. But I think this is what championship
teams are built on. We just had a laser-like focus on doing
our job, and it was the next game. Naturally, there were a lot
of nerves going into that game, but there was also a
confidence from our team and from our coaching staff that we
had prepared for this. We were not surprised to be in that
spot. That was our goal all year. It was a very
mission-in-mind focus for us.
Every shot, there was that feeling in your stomach
of, ‘We’re one play closer. We’re one play closer.’ No other
game had this same feeling.
Sweat: I remember feeling really confident. Toward
the end of the game, it was pretty close but I remember
feeling as the time was winding down, even though it was
close, that we had it under control.
(Sauber) Dietz: That game was super, super tough.
Shalee Lehning balled out and had 29 points. She definitely
led that game and pushed us home for the (61-50)
Shalee Lehning: I remember
running around the gym and the celebration in the locker room.
I still get the goose bumps when I watch a highlight tape or
see that celebration in the locker room. It’s still very vivid
and a moment I truly believe I’ll never
Marlies Gipson: That will be
something I remember for the rest of my life. When that trophy
came in, we could breath.
To get to celebrate that… we’re 30 years old now and
it’s still one of my favorite memories. I still have pictures
up in my house of it. It’s basketball, but it’s so much more
With its win at Kansas, K-State clinched
at least a share of the Big 12 title, completing an incredible
journey from worst to first from the previous season. When
Baylor lost to Oklahoma State the next day, the Wildcats were
all alone at the top with the program’s first solo Big 12
championship and second overall. It was but a small caveat in
a season that represented more than any celebration, trophy or
postseason honor could, as the relationships and bonds
developed still hold strong 10 years later.
Ashley (Miller) Sweat (married in
Lincoln, Nebraska, working part time as a physician’s
assistant, and due to have her second child in
February): We’re all still really close and I think
we will be forever. I don’t ever see that changing. We were
just a really, really tightknit group. I still keep in touch
with a lot of our practice players.
Zanotti (in her final year of receiving a doctorate in
clinical psychology at the University of Tulsa): We
had three players — Kari (Miller) Kincaid, Kimberly (Sauber)
Dietz and Ashley (Miller) Sweat — all have babies within about
a month-and-a-half span of each other. We had a triple baby
shower for them in Manhattan, and then we all got back
together last year for a triple first birthday party for all
of them. It’s fun to get to continue to celebrate and cheer
each other on in really deep and meaningful ways that I know
are going to keep us connected for the rest of our
Kimberly (Sauber) Dietz (vice president
for BD4 Distributing in Manhattan; married to K-State men’s
basketball athletic trainer Luke Sauber): I’m so
happy I chose Kansas State for my school to go to because the
people I met are amazing and great people with great hearts. I
think it’s a lot of fun now because we’re all getting older
and going our separate ways. Some of us are even having kids
now, so even being able to follow that and share our stories
as mothers is a lot of fun. It’s a different bond than you
have with any of your other friends because you’ve gone
through so much together — blood, sweat and tears type stuff.
Even just talking to Ashley or Kari about being moms, it’s fun
and it’s encouraging because you’re, like, ‘OK, if they can do
it, I can do it.’
Shalee Lehning (an academic
coordinator at the University of Wyoming): The bonds
we got to form and share are very rare and unique. The fact
that we’ve stayed in touch, again, I think that’s part of why
we were successful is we really, genuinely enjoyed each other.
We really didn’t have to deal with what a lot of teams dealt
with, of a lot of egos and a lot of jealousy and a lot of girl
drama. This was a team that built friendships. This was a team
that loved hanging out and spending time with each other off
the court, and I think it’s rare. I knew it was rare then, but
I feel like I have a greater appreciation now as we’ve grown
into women that have gotten married and started families or
are pursuing doctorates or whatever all of our girls are
doing, to still stay in touch, to be able to come back and
Marlies Gipson (a fourth-grade
teacher at Fort Riley who coaches eighth grade girls
basketball; engaged to K-State rowing assistant coach Hanna
Wiltfong): We will be lifelong friends forever and it
was the sport of basketball. I don’t have any sisters but I
definitely gained sisters and best friends, and I think
everyone feels the same way.
We hope you enjoy K-State Sports Extra. We would like
to hear your comments and any story ideas for future emails,
so fire them our way. Contact Corbin McGuire, or K-State
Associate AD for Communications Kenny