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Winning on night about loss: OSU wins on 10th anniversary of 2011 plane crash

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Miranda Serna and Kurt Budke

From left to right: Oklahoma State women's basketball coaches Richie Henderson, Miranda Serna, Kurt Budke and Jim Littell sit courtside at a Cowgirl basketball game.

The Oklahoma State Cowgirls always play games in November.

At that point, the season is in its infancy; coach Jim Littell is often still tinkering with the starting lineups and observing how young players react to what can be their first taste of college basketball.

That was the case on Wednesday night. OSU played its third game of the season against Missouri State.

The MSU Lady Bears — the best team OSU has played in the young season according to the AP coaches poll — jumped out to an early lead on the Cowgirl team that was without its top two players from a year ago.

Games in November are about building for the future, for getting a cushion of wins and an experienced team to take into conference play.

But once a year in November, there is a game about the past.

OSU beat MSU 44-40. The Cowgirls orchestrated an impressive comeback. The Bears walked off the court slouched, carrying the weight of a blown lead.

But it was a non-conference game. Both teams play games this weekend. In due time, the game will be remembered just by an archived stat sheet.

Then there is the other thing that the game was about. The reason a memorial was constructed outside of where the game was played.

Ten years ago, on Nov. 17, 2011 four people connected to Oklahoma State Cowgirl basketball were killed in a plane crash.

“(The win) is nice, but this this night was a lot more than a basketball game,” Littell said.

The memorial video at halftime reminded that the four victims, coach Kurt Budke, assistant coach Miranda Serna and supporters Olin and Paula Branstetter, are members of the broader OSU family.

Littell said Budke was his best friend and he knew Serna well.

“I miss those two on a daily basis,” Littell said. “I mean, just incredible people and I'm glad for the people that came out to show remembrance for those four special people.”

The crowd shot of the memorial service in that video backs that up. It shows Littell — with slightly less gray hair than he has now — asking the mass of people packed into the lower bowl of Gallagher-Iba Arena to recognize the four with a cheer.

“(Budke) had a dynamic personality and his charisma was unbelievable,” Littell said. “He was a players coach. A lot of times that when you're at a ceremony and you're paying honor to people, it's a moment of silence, but that wasn't his personality. He liked to have in this place rocking.”

The game felt different. Orange rubber wristbands inscribed with the initials of the four people killed were passed out to spectators. A message from current students who won the scholarships bearing the names of the victims played during a timeout.

There were impressive performances. Sophomore forward Taylen Collins led all players with 16 points and MSU senior forward Jasmine Franklin pulled down 19 rebounds.

It was an exciting game. MSU and OSU, two teams with legitimate NCAA tournament aspirations both went on strong runs and played down to the wire. Junior guard Lauren Fields blocked the MSU game-tying 3-point attempt with 10 seconds remaining to seal the won.

“We've been working on stagger screens in practice and she ran a stagger at the end of the game and so I just got through it and got to the ball before she shot it,” Fields said.

And yet, the game on Nov 17, 2021 will eventually be forgotten; lost to the statistical archives documenting thousands of games.

What the yearly "Remember the 4" game commemorates, though will not be forgotten.

“It's a lot to think about, because you want to you want to win every game,” Collins said. “But just for this game, winning it for the community and in honor of them is so important.”

sports.ed@ocolly.com