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Holly's last hurrah

Kansas senior Holly Kersgieter closes out her Allen Fieldhouse career with a game for the ages

5 min read
Kansas guard Holly Kersgieter collects herself before shooting a free throw during Saturday's Senior Day win over No. 20 Oklahoma at Allen Fieldhouse. [R1S1 Sports photo]

Throughout her final season with the Kansas women’s basketball program, Kansas guard Holly Kersgieter liked to joke — mock herself even — about her career-high in a game with the Jayhawks being just 29 points.

That’s just the kind of player and person Kersgieter is. No matter what mark she sets or aims for, she always believes that she can do better.

And on Saturday afternoon, during a crucial 83-74 win over 20th-ranked Oklahoma on Senior Day at Allen Fieldhouse, she almost did.


Behind a season-high 26 points from Kersgieter and a career-high 29 points from freshman S’Mya Nichols, the Jayhawks picked up a massive win in the regular season finale, all but cementing their spot in the NCAA Tournament and keeping their late-season surge rolling.

Kersgieter and the Jayhawks have now won 8 of their last 9 games heading into postseason play. And while winning has always been the bottom line for Kersgieter and her teammates, the sharp-shooting senior who played her best game of the year on Saturday admitted that she thought about her career high during a postgame conversation with R1S1 Sports.

“I thought about it at the end of the fourth, or even mid-fourth,” Kersgieter said. “We still didn’t have a super-comfortable lead and I was like, ‘All right, we’re still gonna need some big buckets.’ At the same time, though, I also wasn’t thinking about it.”

The reason it was on her mind was because, as she put it, “we needed the win.”

The reason it wasn’t the only thing on her mind was because there were so many other emotions playing in her head as the time wound down on her Allen Fieldhouse career.

“I was like, ‘Shit, this is my last few minutes at Allen Fieldhouse, I know I’m gonna burst into tears once the buzzer goes off,” she said. “If you looked at me at the end of the game, I was so in my head and I was thinking about so many things.”

KU senior Holly Kersgieter hugs a teammate after her final game — a win — at Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday, March 2, 2024. [Kansas Athletics photo]

The win was part of it. The number of friends and family members who were watching also danced in her brain. How importance her teammates and coaches have always been to her was in there, as well. And so was the fact that, while Senior Day marked the end of one chapter, there’s still so much more she wants to do and see before her time as a Jayhawk is officially done.

“I don’t think we use the word finish,” Kersgieter said of Saturday marking the end of something. “We got the senior day part out of the way. But we set out as a group to do big things and we’re not even close to done. It’s time to lock in. We’re happy to be where we are, today was a great day, but we’re really excited for more.”

There were four other seniors who were honored on Saturday. Record-holders and Kersgieter running mates Taiyanna Jackson and Zakiyah Franklin were two of them. Transfer and native Kansan Ryan Cobbins was another. And point guard Wyvette Mayberry, who still has the option of returning to KU for one more run next year was the other.

But that quartet barely combined to put up the same point production (28-26) that Kersgieter did on the stat sheet. That’s not to say Saturday didn’t mean as much to the rest of them. It clearly did.

Franklin (11 points in 36 minutes) was moved to tears during a pregame senior ceremony with their families on the court. Jackson (12 points and 15 rebounds in 29 minutes) was extra fiery throughout the game and extra smiley on the bench at the end. And Cobbins and Mayberry both competed like bulldogs like they always do.

KU seniors Holly Kersgieter, right, and Taiyanna Jackson, left, embrace after a pregame senior ceremony on Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse. [Kansas Athletics photo]

But Kersgieter, who has always been known as a scorer, even dating back to her freshman season, pushed herself the point of absolute exhaustion, bound and determined to make every play she could, come hell or high water.

During her trips to the bench or the free throw line, she often bent over trying to catch her wind and give herself a break. At the free throw line late, when she could have reached 28 points for the day, she missed both foul shots because she said she could not feel her hands.

That kind of maxing out of her mind, body and soul was what got her as close as she was to reaching her career-high. And that’s what helped the Jayhawks get the huge win.

That's what made it all the sweeter that, as the clock wound down to :00 in her final game on KU's home floor, it was Kersgieter who dribbled it out, casually flipping the ball to the official as the horn sounded on a KU win as her final act as a Jayhawk on that famed floor.

After the game, Kersgieter’s father, Chuck, waited outside the locker room for his daughter to emerge with a look of pride on his face.

“That was five years that flew by,” he told R1S1 Sports.

It may have, but Kersgieter did not waste a single minute of it. And all of that was on her mind on Saturday, before, during and after her final win at famed Allen Fieldhouse.

“I was thinking back of all the hard times where I thought what am I doing, what value am I bringing, what am I gonna get out of this,” she said. “And then on days like today, it’s literally everything I ever needed out there. I literally could not have asked for more.”

“I definitely didn’t think it was a coincidence that I played well on Senior Day,” she added, smiling. “I feel like it was just God’s reward of, ‘OK, you worked hard for five years, we’ll let you have a good day.’”

Next up, the Jayhawks (18-11 overall, 11-7 Big 12 play) will open play in the Big 12 tournament at T-Mobile Center in Kansas City, Missouri, next Friday night. KU is expected to be the No. 7 seed and will take on the No. 10 seed at 5:30 p.m.

The full bracket will be released on Sunday.

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