"They have something very tangible to show for persevering: a trophy that would make both their fallen coaches extremely proud." ~ESPN
Last November, the Oklahoma State Cowgirls began their season in Gallagher Iba Arena. They were not there for a game, but instead for a memorial service honoring their fallen coaches, Kurt Budke and Miranda Serna, and fans Mr. and Mrs. Brandstetter. The plane crash, the second to strike the OSU basketball family in 10 years, dealt a devastating blow to the OSU family. Last weekend, the Cowgirls were back in Gallagher Iba Arena to finish their season by winning the WNIT tournament championship. The words tragedy to triumph only seem fitting. When it came time to cut down the nets, it was not an Oklahoma State player who snipped the final string. It was instead, as it should have been, Coach Budke's widow, Shelley, who did the honor.
We preach about Oklahoma State being a family. But that's not just talk. It wasn't talk when the orange faithful croweded into Gallagher Iba arena for the memorial service. It wasn't just talk when Shelley Budke joined coach Gundy on stage to accept the Fiesta Bowl trophy in January. It wasn't just talk when the local radio station gave airtime to the crazy funeral protestors to prevent them from showing up at the memorial service in Stillwater. And it wasn't just talk last weekend, as a gym full of people--and thousands more watching from across the country--wiped tears from our eyes as Shelley Budke triumphantly hoisted the net into the air, and then broke down into tears.
Most years, I would not care less who won the NIT. (For those of you non-sports fans, this is the tourney for the teams not making the NCAA Tournament). But this year, I'm reminded again, as I said about high school basketball, that basketball is about so much more than basketball. It's about overcoming adversity, keeping someone's memory alive, and about a school and community rallying in times of tragedy. As our alma mater proclaims, "Ever you'll find us, loyal and true, to our alma mater, OSU." That means in tragedy and in triumph. Go Pokes!
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