Sunday marked the end of an era as fans filed through the doors of the Convocation Center for its final basketball game. JMU women’s basketball defeated Delaware, 69-64.
The Convocation Center opened its doors on Nov. 28, 1982, when men’s basketball defeated VMI. “Convo,” as its typically called by the JMU community, was the first major university building on the east side of I-81.
Head coach Sean O’Regan has been a part of JMU basketball for 10 years and attended the school before becoming a coach. O’Regan was a student manager for men’s basketball and eventually returned to JMU in 2007 to serve as an assistant coach. He earned promotions to associate head coach in 2012 and head coach in 2016.
“It’s an emotional day,” O’Regan said about Convo closing its doors. “I think that it’s harder than everyone anticipated.”
The stands were packed for the game with an attendance of 3,844. Among those in the stands were family members, students and alumni.
In addition to it being the final game in Convo, it was also senior day for the Dukes. The five seniors on the team were honored in a pre-game ceremony, where they received flowers, framed jerseys and a roaring standing ovation.
“[We] just told each other how much we meant to each other and how much the day meant overall,” senior guard Lexie Barrier said. “We’ve all been through so much together.”
Women’s basketball alumni gathered on the court to change the countdown of games remaining in Convo for the final time, moving the number to zero. The women cheered and hugged each other while taking in their final moments on the court, even taking selfies with Duke Dog.
With four seconds left in the game, senior Kamiah Smalls drew a foul and got two free throws. She made both of them, becoming the last person to ever score in the Convo.
“It’s an honor, it’s very special,” said Smalls. “I was so nervous shooting those free throws.”
Smalls said she probably would’ve been punching herself in the face if she had missed those final free throws. She also added that before she shot them, she looked at her teammates and told them how much she loved all of them.
Waynesa Drewry, a fan of women’s basketball, brings her young daughters to games frequently. Her daughters are part of the Duke Dog Reader Program, which she said encourages them to read because they’re rewarded with free tickets to games.
“It’s hard to believe that this is the last women’s basketball game here,” Drewry said. “It is so bittersweet because this [arena] has been here so long and this is where [my daughters] have come for all of their games since they were born.”
As the final buzzer went off, the crowd jumped to their feet and erupted in cheers. Shortly after Delaware made its way off the court, the crowd showered the court with streamers and the pep band played “All I Do Is Win” as the celebrations began.
Some players were crying as they took in the scene and absorbed the moment. Smalls said the tears were a combination of happy and sad one. Smalls celebrated by laying on the court and making a snowman in the streamers.
“I’ve just been trying to take in all the emotions,” Smalls said. “It’s just been a bittersweet feeling. A lot of emotions going around.”
JMU ended Convo the way it started it, with a win. Next season, the Dukes will play in the Atlantic Union Bank Center, which is currently under construction.
Contact Courtney Ryder at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more basketball coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.