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Oklahoma St. women win NIT in season marked by tragedy

Shelley Budke

Shelley Budke, the widow of Kurt Budke, the Oklahoma State women’s basketball coach who died in a plane crash in November of 2011, looks to the sky and raises the net after Oklahoma State defeated James Madison 75-68 in the WNIT Championship basketball game in Stillwater, Okla., Saturday, March 31, 2012. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)


On November 17th Oklahoma State experienced one of the saddest days in its history as a plane crash resulted in the deaths of four, including head coach Kurt Budke and assistant coach Miranda Serna.

The Cowgirls promised to play hard in their memory, and they did just that by winning the Women’s NIT championship on Saturday afternoon.

“I’ll be honest with you. Coach Budke, Coach Serna, the Branstetters, my dad have been on my mind a lot,” said Littell. “As I said out there, our group decided in November that we were going to pay honor, and I don’t think that there’s any question that these ladies paid honor and did things right.”

Led by Toni Young (25 points) and Tiffany Bias (17 points, 11 assists), Jim Littell’s team beat James Madison 75-68 to win the program’s first WNIT title.

In the net-cutting ceremony it was Budke’s wife Shelley who cut the final piece, a fitting finish for a group of young women who continued to fight in the face of tragedy.

It would have been awfully easy for this team to just say ‘We’ll just start next year’ or ‘We’ve had a rough year, and things have gone wrong, and we’ll just start next year,’ but they didn’t do that,” noted Littell.

“It tells a great deal about the character of our whole locker room.”

Raphielle is also the assistant editor at and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.