Hoop Queens

How a tiny Baptist school in the Panhandle created the most dominant team in the history of women’s college basketball.

In November, at Baylor University’s Ferrell Center, the Lady Bears jogged onto the court to take on the visiting University of Kentucky Wildcats in a basketball game that would be televised across the country on ESPN2. More than 8,500 Baylor fans stood and roared for a group of young women who hadn’t lost a game the previous season, who had won the NCAA Tournament, and who, by almost all accounts, were likely to go unbeaten for another season. 

No one seemed to notice a 93-year-old man and seventeen ladies in their mid- to late seventies carefully making their way toward their seats. A few of the women paused before heading up the stairs, and a few others held on to a handrail to keep their balance, gingerly taking one step at a time. The man used a cane. “Now, everybody, we’ve got to look good,” said one of the women, Faye Wilson Gould, who had been a well-known Dallas socialite during the years her husband was alive. With one hand she fluffed up the back of her white hair. “They might turn the television cameras our way.”

“Actually, I think they’re only going to mention us during the first time-out,” replied Cookie Barron, a retired school administrator who lives in Lakewood, Colorado, a Denver suburb. 

“The first time-out?” said Rita Alexander Colman, the widow of a diplomat. “How in the world are they going to talk about us in just one time-out?”

The crowd let out another roar as Brittney Griner, Baylor’s six-foot-eight-inch star, dunked the basketball during a warm-up drill. Seconds later, another Baylor player fired a behind-the-back bounce pass to a teammate, who passed it to another, who made a reverse layup, not even looking at the basket. 

“My goodness, they’re tall. And fast!” exclaimed Patsy Neal, a former college instructor who lives in eastern Tennessee.

“A lot taller and faster than we were,” said Judy Bugher, who runs a cattle ranch in Oklahoma.

The man, whose name was Harley Redin, turned and grinned at the women. “Now, come on, girls, you knew how to move in your day. Of course, I had to stay on you to keep moving.”

“Oh, Harley, you know you loved us,” said Faye’s identical twin sister, Raye Wilson Ayers, a Houston widow whose husband had been an oil company executive. She too plumped up her white hair. “You know you loved coaching us more than you did the boys.”

The buzzer sounded to signal the beginning of the game, and the women sat up a little straighter in their chairs, waiting for the moment when they would be introduced to the crowd. A couple of them pulled out tissues to wipe their noses or dab the edges of their mouths.

“We look like a bunch of little old ladies in tennis shoes,” said Mona Poff Biscoe, a retired teacher, her eyes blinking behind her thick glasses.

She glanced around the arena

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