Obviously lots of emotions and comments following Oklahoma State’s 75-68 victory over James Madison to win the WNIT championship Saturday afternoon. Way more than I could fit into one game story.
Here’s the full transcript of the postgame press conference.
Jim Littell’s opening statement:
I’m so proud of this group, what they’ve accomplished this year. When you’re talking in terms of the heart, it’s been a long, tough year. When you’re talking in terms of basketball, this group has accomplished so much and gotten so much better. They were exciting to watch. This stretch in the WNIT did so much for our program, the confidence level, allowing a young group to continue to play, a chance to build our fan base.
I’ll be honest with you. Today Coach Budke, Coach Serna, the Brandstetters, my dad have been on my mind a lot. As I said out there a little while ago, our group decided in November that we were going to pay honor, and I don’t think there’s any question that these young ladies paid honor and did things right.
On seeing Shelley Budke finishing cutting down the net:
Littell: We wouldn’t of had it any other way. She’s been a rock for us, the way she’s come to the games and supported the Cowgirls and been there for these kids and been there for the coaches. 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. Just a special lady, and we love her to death
Toni Young: It’s really emotional. This will be my third year knowing her, and every game you see her up in the stands cheering for us. For her to be able to cut that net down and still see a smile on her face, it means a lot to us.
On how it feels to win the WNIT:
Young: We set out to accomplish a goal at the beginning of the year, even after everything we’ve been through. It feels good to win our last game. Like my coach said before, a lot of teams don’t get to do this, win their last game. Coming off on a win and being able to honor our coaches, it feels great.
Tiffany Bias: It’s a feeling that words can’t describe. It’s really hard to explain. There are so many emotions that’s going through your head about so many different things, going (every) which way. You’re just happy. You have a smile on your face. You know that you’ve done it for a team and for our whole community.
On the emotions of this season:
Littell: It was hard, but the kids wanted to represent and do the right thing. It would have been awfully easy for this team to just say, ‘You know, we’ll 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. It just tells a great deal about the character of the two people beside me (Young and Bias) and our whole locker room, our whole team.
Young: It was pretty tough, but having the support of your team and our community behind us, it helped a lot. We got through it all together as one. We stuck around each other, pretty much this whole season, and we’re still growing and getting stronger together.
Bias: It’s a roller coaster. I think we all experienced it. When we were sad, we were sad. When we were happy, we were happy. I think we all went through that. I think it was a tough spot, but I think we got–we’re getting–through it as a team, as one.
On the Budkes being on the minds of the Cowgirls Saturday:
Bias: I think they’re always on my mind. They’re always in the back of our head, just always being there. I think they were really watching us today. It showed out there on the floor. They were both on our minds the whole time.
On James Madison:
Littell: Let’s give James Madison credit. They’re a very good team. Any team that wins 29 games, regardless of where you play, you’ve got a ball club. And they’ve got a lot of talented people that were hard for us to guard. Hats off to them, because they’re very talented to win 29 games and get to the finals. It’s a well-coached team that plays extremely hard.
On how this victory compares to Littell’s 2002 NJCAA National Championship at Seward County Community College:
Littell: I was fortunate enough to have the players to go 38-0. We did it a tougher way this time. Until we won the last three conference games, there was a lot of people thought that (on) March 7 we may be mowing the yard or something like that (during the postseason). These kids wouldn’t quit, and they were just saying ‘Hey, we’re not ready for our year to be over.’
On how the Cowgirls developed during the final 10 games of the season:
Littell: We kind of changed how we played. We opened it up a little bit more and trusted this one (Bias) to really cut loose and play like she’s capable of playing. And she’s got a big motor. And then we also, at the same time, about a month and a half ago made a conscious effort (to) get good balance between an inside-outside game and going to (Young). One person that doesn’t get a lot of attention sometimes for us is Lindsey Keller, and she’s just tough as nails. She solidifies so many things, gets so many rebounds and plays hard and screens and does a lot the things that don’t show up in the scorebook. It was a special effort out of a lot of people. Our young ones played well, too. The freshman Liz had a great WNIT Tournament, and she just continues to amaze me. I’m biased for Bias here, but I think she should have been on the All-Tournament team in my opinion. I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that.
On the crowd atmosphere:
Littell: It’s exciting. It creates a lot of adrenaline and gets you pumped up. I had goose bumps when I came out on the floor. I would have guessed it was more than that, but it’s just increased each game. I believe that our fans are really buying in to how hard these kids play and the way they lay it out on the court. I think they’re appreciative of our players, and I know our players are appreciative of all the people that were here today.
Young: It was exciting, because we saw the line an hour before. There were people outside waiting. We never see that at our games. To see that the number is increasing by thousands is really exciting. If we can get them to come back next year, we’ll get more used to playing in front of a lot more people. I was nervous, but I get nervous before every game. Seeing all those people out there, made me nervous, but it was exciting to know that they were there for us.
Bias: The support was great. I think we knew our community was going to be behind us 100 percent. We’ve gotten a bid to stay at home this whole time, so I think we were really excited and just thrilled to play in front of everybody and just show what we can do.
On Travis Ford and two anonymous donors buying 600 student tickets:
Bias: I wasn’t surprised. Travis Ford has been here for us this whole time, through everything. He’s a very generous man, and we couldn’t be more thankful for him and whoever else donated tickets for more students to come. We’re very appreciative of them.
Littell: They have been there for us all along. His wife, Heather, is a sweetheart. This isn’t the first time that they’ve done things for the Cowgirls. It just shows what type of person that Coach Ford is and his wife and how much class they have.