The Hoops 4 Hope matchup between the Lady Flames (18-6) and Union Bulldogs (22-2) was a contest knotted evenly throughout the majority of the game. As if the intensity wasn't already enough, fans were also anxiously awaiting the promised unveiling of the centennial mascot.
The Lady Flames battled and at times looked to gain momentum over the first place Bulldogs; however, it was free throws and rebounding down the stretch that distanced Coach Marty Rowe’s team from revenge against their nationally ranked rival.
Lindsey Roddy carried the Lady Flames on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball and was charged with the tall task of shutting down GSC standout Chelsey Shumpert.
“It’s definitely a challenge guarding her,” explained Roddy. “It’s a one-on-one every time. You want to be able to stop her with help defense, and the whole offense ran through her. She just makes her shots.”
Despite the effort, Shumpert’s whopping 35 points, along with sharpshooter AnnaLea Little’s 17, propelled the Union Bulldogs to maintain full control over the Gulf South heading into the upcoming conference tournament. Not far behind are the Lady Flames, who sit at third in GSC standings and look to secure their highest seed possible come playoff time.
“We really need to find our edge as a team,” Roddy pointed out. When asked about the team’s versatility and schedule moving forward, she remarked, “You never know who’s going to have the big game that night, but it’d be nice if we could all have the big night all at once. Our coaches have been talking about coming together and getting the job done winning these next conference games.”
Senior Carrie Cheeks contributed to a second half rally and had a double-double by the end of the game, and Erin Walsh pitched in 10 points. Ultimately, the Lady Flames lost to the top-ranked Bulldogs by a score of 63-56.
As both the Lady Flames and Flames lost in hard-fought contests to Union teams, the highlight of the evening turned to the revealing of the centennial mascot: a ferocious Viking clothed in grey, scarlet and navy and holding a flaming torch. The costume design retraced Lee University’s steps, as the Vikings represented Lee before they became the Flames in 1983.
According to the Lee University website, moving on from the Vikings moniker was an unpopular change for students during the 1980s, so the new centennial mascot was sure to be a hit for students, faculty and alumni in particular.
Between the 3rd and 4th quarters of the Lady Flames basketball game, the Viking (who is yet to receive a name) emerged from the smoke like a hero, boldly waving his flame for all to see. The Viking received a roar of applause from all and remained an attraction in Walker Arena for the rest of the evening.
Rumors are flying—pending response from fans, faculty and alumni—that the Viking has the potential to stay around beyond the centennial year. It would be the second official mascot Lee University has had in its 100-year history.
Previously, the university attempted to create a dog-like mascot named Sparky. Lasting only three years, Sparky soon became old news as “the costume was very hot and volunteers to wear the costume became very hard to find,” according to the Lee University website.
Regardless of past mascot struggles, the new Viking for Lee’s 100th year as a university appears to be a hit among all who were in attendance Thursday night. Now, it’s only a matter of time to see how much good luck and spirit the valiant Viking can bring in his time with Lee Athletics.
You can catch the Flames, Lady Flames, and the centennial mascot in action Saturday afternoon at 2PM as Christian Brothers University comes to Cleveland for another GSC showdown.