BREAKING: Cowgirls win WNIT championship
Mar 31, 2012 (Menafn - Stillwater NewsPress - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --STILLWATER, Okla. -- A season that started with the lowest of lows ended with the highest of highs as the Oklahoma State women's basketball team clinched the Women's NIT championship with a 75-68 victory over James Madison Saturday at Gallagher-Iba Arena.
"I have never been more proud of a group of young ladies than I have this group," Oklahoma State coach Jim Littell said. "We set a goal in November to pay honor (to coaches Kurt Budke and Miranda Serna), and I promise you they paid honor today and in this tournament."
Toni Young scored 25 points and grabbed nine rebounds to lead the Cowgirls (22-12) and earned WNIT Most Valuable Player honors. Tiffany Bias added 17 points and 11 assists -- breaking Andrea Riley's single-season assist record early in the first half. Liz Donohoe also recorded her fifth-straight double double with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
But this championship was about more than basketball.
"It's a feeling words can't describe," Bias said. "It's really hard to explain. There's so many emotions going through your head about so many different things. You're just happy. You have a smile on your face. You know you've done it for a team and for our whole community."
In a fitting tribute to coach Kurt Budke, who was killed in a plane crash in November along with assistant coach Miranda Serna and Oklahoma State alums Paula and Olin Branstetter, Budke's wife Shelley Budke finished cutting down the net before pointing toward the sky with tears rolling down her cheeks.
"We wouldn't have had it any other way," Littell said choking back tears. "She's been a rock for us the way she's come to the games and supported the Cowgirls. ... I commend her for that. I don't know how she does it sometimes, the way she's done it. I've known her for a long time -- she played for me. She's just a special lady and we love her to death."
Much like the season, at time it was a struggle for Oklahoma State. But every time it looked like the lead might slip away, the Cowgirls found inspiration through each other and their late coaches.
"I think they're always on our mind," Bias said. "They're always in the back of head just always being there. They were really watching us today, and it showed out there on the floor. They were both on our minds the whole time."
As emotional as the season has been for Oklahoma State and its fans, Bias said it actually made them a much better team in the end. Oklahoma State won nine of its last 10 games, but it was the bond that she and her teammates formed that will stick in Bias' mind.
"It was a rollercoaster," Bias said. "We all experienced sadness when we were sad and happiness when we were happy. I think we all went through that. It was a tough spot, but I think we got through it as a team and as one."
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