Hempfling, Fleming overwhelmed by fan support


When Bowling Green State University junior guard Lexi Fleming arrived here from Cincinnati McAuley High School, the reputation of BGSU’s former basketball venue, Anderson Arena, preceded her.

Now Fleming has heard what a BGSU crowd can potentially sound like during the Falcons’ 69-52 WNIT Great Eight win over Florida at the Stroh Center last Monday and then the sold-out crowd of 4,155 during their 77-70 semifinal loss to Columbia on Thursday.

To say the least, Fleming is impressed.

“As coach (Robyn Fralick) said when she got here, I always heard about how loud Anderson Arena was. I see it on social media, the tweets saying this is the roar at Anderson Arena,” Fleming said.

“This is what we have brought to the Stroh, and I just think it’s really cool that womens basketball is able to bring in that many people and bring the BG community together. I just want to see that trickle to all the other sports as well.”

BGSU fifth-year senior forward Kadie Hempfling alraedy knows how a large fan-base can help motivate a team from her high school days at Ottawa-Glandorf.

Every high school basketball fan in Northwest Ohio knows that when O-G appears at the Stroh for a regional boys basketball tournament game, their fans are going to fill over half of the arena.

Even at their own gym in Ottawa, aptly nicknamed “The Supreme Court”, finding a seat before the junior varsity game is difficult. At the Stroh, BGSU fans were filling the arena for a womens game.

“It’s an incredible feeling. Just all the fans, all the time, and they are all-in,” Hempfling said. “Just the roar of the crowd is incredible and it’s just another thing I never want to forget. When I do get called upon and hearing that roar is really special.

“I’ve played here for five years, and I’ve learned a lot, and I’ve loved the community and the fans,” Hempfling continued.

“The past two games are the most fans that have been at a women’s basketball game for the past five years that I’ve been here and it’s been amazing to see.

“I love the support and everyone rallying behind us. You know, it’s like our sixth man out there. You guys get our momentum going and then we give off energy, we feed off energy from each other, and I think that shows.”

Hempfling said her joy was raised another level after the Florida win when the student-body picked up Fleming and sophomore guard Amy Velasco onto their shoulders and paraded them around the Stroh. It will be among her favorite memories.

“It’s easily top three. I mean, the MAC championship always, but top three moments of my career forever,” Hempfling said.

“I was just trying to enjoy it, soak it in, that moment. To see Lexi and Amy in the air obviously made me chuckle and it was just so fun to just celebrate with all the student section.”

‘No magic potion’

The Falcons finished the season 31-7, losing in the MAC championship game to Toledo and WNIT semifinals to Columbia. Fleming said the only way that is achieved is through hard work and effort.

“We have seen what we can do, and it only motivates us to do that exact same thing (next year),” Fleming said. “It’s funny because I don’t think that anything we did was special.

“She’s (Fralick) a great coach, but she didn’t put some magic potion in our water or anything to make us (successful), it just came with the team and that’s what we have seen. With us being us, that’s what we are going to get, was the atmosphere.

“We’re hoping that we just have to keep coming, we have to keep grinding. We have come so close, at least the three years that I have been here, to achieve what we wanted to achieve, which is a MAC championship,” continued Fleming.

“We just have to keep working hard and eventually our work is going to pay off. It obviously has with the atmosphere, so that is something that is also a part of our success.”

Both said they always looked forward to practice, even as the season got stretched out during their run through the WNIT, which included wins over Liberty, Green Bay and Memphis.

“We enjoy doing everything. We didn’t go like, ‘Oh, practice today,’” Fleming said. “It was never like that.

“We were like, after the MAC championship game, coach just told us to have way more fun. We’re like, ‘We weren’t having fun before the tournament?’ We were just joking with her.

“She just did a great job of having us have fun and I think that’s what I am going to miss the most. It’s not one pin-point thing. It’s how much fun this team had together.

“And it was one through 15. It wasn’t the starting five, it wasn’t the bench, it was a collective group. It’s unbelievable how much fun we had, and you guys see that because of what we have earned and created around us.”

Fleming said it helped that this was a team that did not like to lose.

“That’s how everyone is on the team. No one wants to be a loser so you keep working hard and hard work is going to pay off, and it eventually will,” Fleming said.

Hempfling said there is no better example of that than Fleming, despite standing 5-foot-5 and playing against women a foot or more taller.

“Lexi is one of the most tough and resilient players I’ve ever played with and she shows that,” Hempfling said.

“She gives 110% every day. To be able to watch her grow ever since last year, being out (injured), and then this year she’s just flourishing and I’m so proud of her.

“For her, it’s never about her size. She’s always been that same size. It’s about her fight and her want to get the ball and her pursuing of trying to get a steal or turnover. If things aren’t going her way, she’ll make it up somehow and that is one of the best qualities of Lexi.”

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