Three years ago the Savannah State women’s basketball team traveled to Koch Arena to be another nondescript opponent for Wichita State.
Except it changed the life of the woman in the road uniform that the Shockers could not handle.
Darice Fountaine scored 25 points, and it didn’t matter it was in a losing cause because the emotion was overwhelming.
“Wichita is my hometown, where I was born and raised,” said Fountaine, who moved 1,200 miles to the east after graduating from Kapaun Mount Carmel in 2009. “I’ve always in my heart wanted to be a Shocker.”
Fountaine’s supporters came out in full force that December day, and having her own cheering section was moving.
After that season Fountaine decided to transfer home, and Saturday night she will be one of six seniors honored in WSU’s final home game of the season against Southern Illinois.
“The most exciting thing now is that my son (1-year-old Andrew) can come and watch me play on the court,” Fountaine said. “That’s so exciting to me. And my mom and my family. They’re the reason why I am where I am and I’m forever grateful for that.”
It is sure to be an emotional day for WSU, which has a one-game lead in the MVC with a 12-2 record. The Shockers will send off four-year seniors Jessica Diamond, Chynna Turner and Jazimen Gordon, who have been the backbone to WSU’s rise to the top.
Jasmine Jones and Nicole Wells are both finishing two-year careers at WSU.
“I don’t think it has hit me yet,” Diamond said. “I think it will hit me later when the season is over, but right now we’re all just completely locked in.”
Fountaine has been locked in since the calendar flipped to February.
In the seven games this month Fountaine is averaging 7.4 points — up from her 5.8 season average — and has connected on 11 three-pointers.
“She stretches the defense because you can’t double off of her,” WSU coach Jody Adams said. “When she’s in rhythm, she’s not going to miss. And she wants to take that shot. If you draw up a play, she wants it to come to her.”
Whether or not she could fulfill that crucial role on the team was in question at the start of the season. Fountaine struggled with Adams’ defense-first mentality and went five games in November without playing more than three minutes, not even suiting up for one.
Fountaine averaged 14.0 points at Savannah State, so her scoring ability was not in question.
“With the game of basketball, there’s always a point when you’re going to get frustrated,” Fountaine said. “But I’ve been around the block and I’ve seen a lot of things. I know you just have to stick it out and not get frustrated. I want to do whatever it takes to help my team win.”
Fountaine is excited about the possible storybook ending to her career — the hometown kid comes back to play a role in the team’s first conference title.
But she’s just as excited about life after basketball, watching her son grow up and pursuing a career in marine biology after graduating with a degree in biological sciences.
“That’s the ultimate goal,” Fountaine said.