Women's basketball: Plane crash leads to different kind of Bedlam for Cowgirls, Sooners

After OSU coaches Kurt Budke and Miranda Serna were killed in a plane crash, the Sooners went to Gallagher-Iba Arena under much different circumstances than usual. This is the first time they'll be back.
by Jenni Carlson Published: January 13, 2012
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“I wanted to see them,” she said.

McFarland the rest of the Sooners got that chance. After the memorial, an usher who escorted the team out of the arena told them that Cowgirl coach Jim Littell wanted them to attend the reception for family and friends. He wanted them to know how much their presence meant. He wanted to thank them personally.

Before they went to the reception, they headed for the Cowgirls' locker room. No one remembers exactly who led them that way or precisely how they got there.

The Sooners just knew they had to see the Cowgirls.

The Cowgirls were gathered in the lounge area of their locker room when the Sooners came in through the meeting room. It might've seemed strange, an OU team in one of OSU's inner sanctums, a place awash in orange and black where you'd never expect to see a Sooner.

But in that moment, there was nothing odd about it.

Coale talked to the Cowgirls, telling them that the best way to honor their coaches would be to compete with passion and take advantage of every day in the gym. Knowing Budke and Serna, she knew those were the things that they loved most about the game.

Then — and maybe most importantly — there were hugs. Lots of them. Few words were spoken, but the hurt on the Sooners' faces made it clear to the Cowgirls that the pain was real.

“There is just such a natural empathy there,” Coale said.

No one felt the loss more than the Cowgirls, but the Sooners could identify with them as well as anyone.

“You're a team. You're a family. You compete together. You eat together. You live together. You travel together,” Coale said. “Now suddenly the patriarch of your family is gone, your matriarch is gone.

“Nobody really gets that, not in the way they do, unless you do this.”

That's why the Sooners had to be there, why the Cowgirls appreciated the visit, why an always-intense rivalry was completely forgotten then.

“On a day like that,” Littell said, “it showed there are things more important than basketball.”

That will surely be in the back of everyone's mind Saturday morning when these two teams tip off. What will it be like being back together in the arena? How will it be seeing each other now in light of a day unlike any other?

No one knows.

Both teams want to win. Of that, there can be no question. The Cowgirls want to protect home court. The Sooners want to steal one on the road.

But the fact remains that this is a rivalry changed.

“It's just richer, deeper, fuller,” Coale said.

A rivalry changed for the better.

by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
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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WOMEN'S BASKETBALL

OKLAHOMA AT OKLAHOMA STATE

When: 11 a.m., Saturday

Where: Gallagher-Iba Arena, Stillwater

TV: Fox Sports Net (Cox 37)

Radio: KREF-AM 1400, KGFY-FM 105.5

Three things to know:

* Oklahoma is oh-for Bedlam this academic year. It has yet to beat Oklahoma State in any sport, losing in women's soccer, cross country, football, wrestling and men's basketball.

* The Cowgirls are undefeated at home this season, but the Sooners have won the last three Bedlam games in Stillwater and 12 of the past 13.

* Both teams have a super frosh — Cowgirl Liz Donohoe and Sooner Sharane Campbell. Donohoe leads OSU in scoring while Campbell averages 8.4 points off the bench.

PROJECTED STARTERS

Oklahoma (10-4, 2-1 Big 12)

Pos.;Player;Ht.;Cl.;Pts.;Reb.

G; Morgan Hook; 5-10; So.; 11.2; 4.0*

G; Aaryn Ellenberg; 5-7; So.; 17.7; 2.5

G; Whitney Hand; 6-1; Jr.; 12.4; 6.8

F; Joanna McFarland; 6-3; Jr.; 8.1; 7.9

C; Nicole Griffin; 6-6; So.; 5.1; 4.6

Oklahoma State (9-3, 1-2)

G; Tiffany Bias; 5-6; So.; 9.6; 8.1*

G; Taylor Schippers; 5-8; Fr.; 5.1; 1.7

F; Kendra Suttles; 6-1; So.; 10.8; 5.5

F; Liz Donohoe; 6-0; Fr.; 14.7; 6.3

C; Vicky McIntyre; 6-6; So.; 4.8; 5.8

* assists

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