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Sooner women head on to the Sweet 16

by Berry Tramel Modified: March 25, 2009 at 8:26 am •  Published: March 25, 2009
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Pressure rose on Sherri Coale’s Sooners like the floodwaters of the nearby Iowa River.

Halftime. Tie score; 20 minutes left to get to Oklahoma City, or 20 minutes left in an era of broken dreams.

Georgia Tech had uglied up the second-round NCAA Tournament game, and the Sooners seemed in danger of answering the $64,000 question two weeks premature.

But a determined Oklahoma team emerged from the Carver-Hawkeye Arena locker room Tuesday night. Danielle Robinson stole a pass and zipped to a layup. Whitney Hand sank a 3-pointer. The Paris sisters hit back-to-back layups. Robinson scored on a nifty reverse.

The rout was on. The Sooners won 69-50, and Oklahoma City, here they come.

"We came out with the mindset, we gotta get back home,” Hand said. "We gotta get home.”

Home it is, to the Ford Center regional, where the Sooners will be prohibitive favorites to reach the Final Four. In OKC, OU will face no foe much better than these tough Yellow Jackets, and instead of a near-empty gym, the Sooners will play in front of maybe 18,000 zealots.

"We’re going to the Ford Center,” said Ashley Paris. "It’s the best feeling in the world as far as basketball goes. Couldn’t put us in any better position.”

This victory lifts a cloud from the Sooners. Last year, they didn’t make it back to Oklahoma City, losing to Notre Dame in the second round. And Courtney Paris’ ill-advised, money-back guarantee of an NCAA title ($64,000, the cost of her scholarship) seemed to shift even more of a burden onto this team.

But now OU goes home in triumph, to a brokedown bracket that includes teams seeded fourth (Pitt), sixth (Purdue) and seventh (Rutgers).

"We feel very blessed to have the opportunity to go back there and play,” Coale said.

by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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Oklahoma City Regional: At the Ford Center Sunday →Purdue vs. Rutgers, 6:30 p.m.

→Oklahoma vs. Pittsburgh, 9 p.m.

Tuesday →Regional final, 8 p.m.

→$52 and $34 and available at and the Ford Center box office (10 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays).

Attendance was listed as 2,853 but was closer to 1,500 with hometown Iowa knocked out in the first round, with perhaps 200 OU fans on hand.

"Our guys would be motivated if they locked the doors and kept everybody out,” said Sooner coach Sherri Coale.

Strange but true. Courtney Paris went out with foul trouble in both halves, and the Sooners didn’t wilt without her.

Carlee Roethlisberger again played well off the bench, and Abi Olajuwon provided valuable minutes. "It was everybody taking responsibility,” Coale said.

Both teams were missing starters. Georgia Tech’s leading scorer, Alex Montgomery, didn’t make the trip due to a knee injury. OU’s Amanda Thompson played only three minutes, due to a foot injury.

The Yellow Jackets missed Montgomery more. With no 3-point threat for Georgia Tech, OU played a sagging defense. The Jackets were 1-of-13 from 3-point range.

OU’s Nyeshia Stevenson ably replaced Thompson in the starting lineup and scored eight points, with just two turnovers.

By Berry Tramel


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