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Last dance: ASU women's basketball senior class preps for final postseason

The Sun Devils look to build upon their already impressive legacy

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ASU senior guard Reili Richardson (1) and senior guard Robbi Ryan (11) cheer after the game in a Sun Devil's 76-75 win after three overtimes against the USC Trojans at Desert Financial Arena, on Friday, Jan. 31, 2020.

As ASU women's basketball's senior class wraps up its final games in maroon and gold, the Sun Devil seniors look to close out four eventful years in the program with a deep tournament run.

The trio of senior guards, Reili Richardson, Robbi Ryan and Kiara Russell, and senior forward Jamie Ruden have seen it all in their four years in Tempe. 

From making three consecutive NCAA Tournaments, reaching the Sweet 16 last year and defeating then No. 2 Oregon and No. 3 Oregon State in the same weekend this season, the group has had their fair share of on-court success. 

As they near the final two home games of their careers at Desert Financial Arena, they've begun to reminisce on their four years in Tempe. 

“It is really special to look back and just see all the memories we’ve shared on the court and off the court and just the goofy moments and just to see how everybody’s grown up,” Ruden said. “It’s been really special to have all four of us look back and see all those memories.” 

The four R's, Richardson, Ryan, Russell and Ruden, have been an integral part of ASU head coach Charli Turner Thorne’s culture. Also graduating this year is transfer senior forward Ja’Tavia Tapley, who played her first three seasons at USC. 

Since the beginning of Pac-12 play, ASU has played in 10 games decided by two possessions or less. In almost every one of those contests, Turner Thorne has leaned on her seniors, specifically Ryan and Richardson, to take and make shots down the stretch.

“We are very fortunate. I think we have some good senior scorers,” Turner Thorne said. “In any given game, any of those four people we’d be happy taking the final shot.”

Ryan has transitioned from wide-eyed freshman to key player for Turner Thorne.

“Sometimes we’ll bring up memories of our freshman year and stuff, it's just crazy how fast time has flown by and how much each person has grown since freshman year," Ryan said. “It’s different being an upperclassmen ... So it’s been a fun challenge for everybody as seniors to help the underclassmen and be the best team we can be."

Richardson recently became the program's all-time leader in assists, something she never imagined when she first arrived. 

"I came here, and I was very quiet, didn't say a lot of things on and off the court," Richardson said. "I think I've grown, not only on the basketball court but in life."

Turner Thorne has reached 14 NCAA Tournaments,  two Elite Eights, three Sweet 16's and is the all-time winningest coach in program history with 503 wins. 

The one thing she has yet to do is reach Final Four, the pinnacle of women's college basketball.

It remains to be seen if her team can reach that pinnacle, but one thing is for certain; she has a group that, when playing its best, can compete with the upper echelon programs of women's college basketball.

The group has already cemented an impressive legacy for itself chalked with postseason success, but they have the potential to further imprint their stamp on the program.

“I keep challenging them on that every day because it’s still being defined, their legacy. I would say up to this point, the four that have been here have a really good legacy," Turner Thorne said. "It’s not over yet, so I’m just challenging them every day to set the standard and live up the culture. Everybody gets remembered how they finish."

Turner Thorne and the seniors know their career at ASU will ultimately be defined by how they perform in college basketball's second season.

“I’m very confident they are going to finish strong, but we’re still going, we’re still on this journey,” Turner Thorne said. “I will say this, they have a good legacy, and we are going to miss them a lot.”

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