Just returned from the opening game of the 2009 NJCAA Women’s National Basketball Tournament at the beautiful Bicentennial Center. Saw Connors State (Okla.) take care of Vincennes (Ind.) in 74-64 fashion.

I sat with former Lady Cardinal head coach Kurt Budke, now the head women’s basketball coach at Oklahoma State, in the second half. We had a nice visit, remembering the “good ol’ days” at TVCC and about his squad’s upcoming venture in the NIT Tournament. He feels the Cowgirls’ first round game against UT-Arlington is one of opportunity, but the second round against Arkansas would pose a challenge. OSU is 16-15 on the year.

Also on hand for the tournament opener with TVCC ties were Miranda Serna (assistant coach at Oklahoma State), Danny Hughes (assistant coach at St. John’s) and Yolanda Wells-Broughton (head coach at Texas Southern).

This is the 11th national tournament I’ve had the privilege to attend, the last seven here in Salina. This is the first time I’ve been to one without Charles Stiff. His wife Euthema is very ill and he stayed behind to be with her. The trip isn’t the same without him and many have asked about his absence and sent their best for he and his wife.

It’s going to be a long day with the Lady Cardinals not playing until 8:15 tonight against North Idaho College. Hopefully th e wait will prove worth it. Anytime you have a nine seed (TVCC) playing an eight seed, it is usually a competitive game.If the Lady Cardinals win, they would play at 6 p.m. Thursday. A loss would put them in a noon game Thursday. Either way, Wednesday is an off day.

Gas prices averaged $1.79 this year. In the past, prices have been: 2004 -- $1.67; 2006 -- $2.42 and 2008 -- $3.11. Thankfully the trend of increasing each time the Lady Cardinals have made the journey to Kansas did not continue!

-- Benny Rogers

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