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Cowgirls defeat Dukes for WNIT Title

Mar 31, 2012 - 11:10 PM Stillwater, OK (Sports Network) - A season that was marred by an early tragedy ended with a championship as Oklahoma State defeated James Madison, 75-68, in the WNIT Final on Saturday.

The Cowgirls' spent much of the season mourning the loss of head coach Kurt Budke, who passed away in a plane crash on November 17 along with assistant coach Miranda Serna along with two others just west of Little Rock, Arkansas.

Jim Littell took over behind the bench after the tragedy and guided the team to its first WNIT Championship.

Toni Young posted 25 points and nine rebounds, Tiffany Bias added 17 points and 11 assists while Liz Donohoe had 14 points and 11 boards for the Cowgirls (22-12), who improved to 11-0 in home games in the WNIT Tournament.

"I'm so proud of this group, (and) what they've accomplished this year," said Littell. "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. As I said out there, our group decided in November that we were going to pay honor, and I don't think that there's any question that these ladies paid honor and did things right."

Tarik Hislop had 16 points, Kiara Francisco scored 14 points and Nikki Newman added 13 points and eight boards for the Dukes (29-8), who were playing in a WNIT Final for the first time in program history.

"I thought it was a hard-fought game," said James Madison head coach Kenny Brooks. "I thought both teams played hard. I thought (OSU) played better than we did for longer stretches, therefore, when you come to a venue like this and a situation a like this, you can't have lulls. We had some lulls, and I thought that was the big difference, but give them credit."

Holding a nine-point lead coming out of the break, the Cowgirls extended that to 14 on a jumper from Young followed by a three-ball from Donohoe.

Oklahoma State extended the lead to 17 points on a Kendra Suttles layup that made it a 55-38 contest with 12 1/2 minutes left and it stayed in double digits till the Dukes made a late run.

Hislop hit a three and Francisco followed with a layup and two free throws to make it a 63-55 contest with 6 1/2 minutes left.

A few minutes later, Hislop put in a layup to cut the deficit to five, 64-59, but Donohoe hit a free throw and Taylor Schippers buried a bucket for an eight-point edge with 1:36 to play.

James Madison got as close as six down the stretch, but Oklahoma State was able to hit its free throws to hang on for the victory.

The game belonged to the Dukes early as they held a 9-4 lead 3 1/2 minutes in off a Lauren Whitehurst basket, but the Cowgrils kept it close and Vicky McIntyre's three-point play gave the team a lead they never relinqushed.

McIntyre's play sparked an 11-0 run that saw the team take a 23-13 lead off of Bias' basket with close to 7 1/2 minutes to play in the first half.

Crystal Ross put in a layup and free throw to kill the run and give the Dukes their first points in five minutes. Ross followed that with another layup and, after Young's layup, Newman's three-pointer made it a four-point game.

Oklahoma State, though, scored the next six points and eventually took a 35-26 advantage into the intermission.