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WNIT: OSU women keep playing for Budke family, each other

OSU WOMEN'S BASKETBALL: The Cowgirls enter Wednesday night's WNIT semifinals on a gritty, gutty run.
by Jenni Carlson Published: March 27, 2012

STILLWATER — This Oklahoma State women's basketball team has plenty of reasons to keep this season going.

But six of the best reasons sit behind the bench for just about every game.

Section 109 is where you can find Kurt Budke's family whenever the Cowgirls are playing. That top row is where his wife, his three children and his parents sat before the Cowgirl basketball coach was killed in a plane crash last November, and that is where they continue to sit.

As long as the Cowgirls are playing.

On a night when OSU hosts San Diego in the semifinals of the WNIT, it hopes to extend what is already an improbable postseason run. Where have the Cowgirls found the energy to keep playing after losing both Budke and assistant Miranda Serna in that plane crash? How have they managed to find that focus that so understandably eluded them at times throughout this season?

“Just with their actions, I can tell that they're still trying to make those coaches proud,” said Larry Reece, the Gallagher-Iba Arena announcer who's had a front-row seat for every WNIT game. “But they also want to continue it for those family members and for each other.”

As long as this season continues, so does the strongest link to Budke and Serna.

There will never be another season so directly linked to those two coaches. Sure, the Cowgirls will look largely the same next season as they do right now. Go looking for a senior on their roster, and you'll find nary a one. But there will be change. There will be at least one new recruit. There will be at least one new assistant coach.

Next year will be different.

This season is the last one in which Budke and Serna coached. They were involved in the preseason practices. They were on the bench for the season opener. They left fingerprints on this team.

That has been evident in this gritty, gutty run in the WNIT.

“It has been amazing to me,” said Reece, whose ties to women's basketball are long and deep. The Cowgirl program was the first to give him a crack at announcing at OSU, where he now is the voice for football and all basketball. “I've never been prouder of the Cowgirl program.”

Agatha Adams, the team's academic counselor, said, “I'm still amazed, but ... they wanted some good to come out of this year.”

They didn't play well in the Big 12 Tournament. They didn't squeak into the NCAA Tournament. They were left with a WNIT invite.

A lot of teams would've cried “uncle” at that point.

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by Jenni Carlson
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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