STILLWATER, Okla. – Toni Young scored 25 points, Tiffany Bias added 17 points and 11 assists and Oklahoma State ended a season marked by tragedy by beating James Madison 75-68 on Saturday to win the program's first WNIT championship.
Liz Donohoe notched her fifth straight double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds, and the Cowgirls (22-12) and made it through the tournament without trailing in the second half despite a late charge by the Dukes.
Oklahoma State lost head coach Kurt Budke and assistant Miranda Serna in a Nov. 17 plane crash that also claimed the lives of pilot Olin Branstetter and his wife, Paula.
The season ended with a triumph, though.
Jim Littell, the Budke assistant who took over after the plane crash, said during the trophy presentation that his team promised in November to pay honor to those who died and the tournament run was the fulfillment of that promise.
Budke's wife, Shelley, attended the game and got hugs from the players and Littell afterward. She was allowed to cut down the final piece of the net in the postgame ceremony.
Tarik Hislop scored all 16 of her points in the second half to lead James Madison (29-8), but it wasn't enough to overcome a 17-point deficit.
Hislop hit a 3-pointer to spark an 11-1 comeback, and her runner along the right side of the lane brought the Dukes back within 64-59 with 2:21 to play. She also missed a pair of 3-pointers in the final 2 minutes that could have brought James Madison to within three.
Bias and Young, who each make less than two-thirds of their free throws, made enough at the foul line to close it out down the stretch.
The Cowgirls finished 8-10 in Big 12 play — just like league foes Kansas and Texas, which both made the NCAA tournament — but a loss to last-place Missouri in the conference tournament likely knocked Oklahoma State into the WNIT.
The Cowgirls found a new level in the postseason, with Young — who had been hampered by her recovery from a broken arm suffered in practice for last year's WNIT — moving into the starting lineup and doubling her production. The tournament MVP averaged 20.6 points after scoring only 10 per game in the regular season.
Oklahoma State held a 38-20 scoring edge in the paint — outdoing every opponent in that area throughout the tournament. The Cowgirls became the second straight WNIT champ to win the title by playing six straight home games.
Toledo won the WNIT last year.
Kiara Francisco scored 14 and Nikki Newman added 13 for James Madison. Kirby Burkholder, who averaged 18 points through the first five tournament games, had only eight on 3-for-14 shooting with five turnovers.
The Cowgirls surged ahead to stay about five minutes into the game, ripping off a 17-4 run while allowing just two James Madison baskets over a span of about 10 minutes. Young hit a jumper and then score inside off of Bias' lob, and Bias followed by scoring off a backdoor cut to finish a string of 11 straight OSU points to make it 23-13 with 7:39 to go before halftime.
Young had the final two baskets before halftime, including a transition layup just before the buzzer when James Madison failed to hold for final shot, and then added a jumper to start the second half.
Donohoe connected on a 3-pointer from the left wing to finish a stretch of nine straight Oklahoma State points spanning halftime and push the lead to 40-26.