OU’s Nyeshia Stevenson, right, and Jasmine Hartman celebrate after Stevenson made a basket in the final seconds of overtime in Kansas City, Mo., on Sunday. Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman
"She didn’t want to say bye to us, and we didn’t want to say bye to her.”
Stevenson scored seven points in the final 45 seconds, after Notre Dame forged a 70-70 tie. Two foul shots to break that tie, then two foul shots with three seconds left after she intercepted the Irish’s desperation inbounds pass. Stevenson finished with 21 points on 6-of-10 shooting.
The NCAA Tournament is many things, and on this night, it was redemption for a player with a history of March nightmares.
"It couldn’t have happened to a better kid in a better situation,” said OU coach Sherri Coale. "I just wanted her to soak it all in.
"Most of the success in life is about being confident ... the really superior part of athletics is that it can teach you that. It teaches you that confidence is something you give yourself.
"And if you can learn that lesson through collegiate athletics, you can be successful at anything you do.”
Corny stuff, yes. But still true.
When the final buzzer sounded, Stevenson rejoiced and found Coale. They hugged at midcourt, knowing that someone who had suffered March’s misery now was celebrating its madness.
"She said that basically, she was just very proud of me,” Stevenson said. "She was like, ‘Are you mature or what? Are you mature or what?’ And I’m like, ‘I’m mature, Coach. I’m mature.’”
Then Stevenson was the last Sooner off the court. She blew kisses to the OU fans and gave exaggerated waves. They weren’t waves of farewell. Stevenson wasn’t ready to say good-bye.
405-760-8080; Berry Tramel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1.