Vian girls nab emotional win after death of senior standout
BY KELLY HINES World Sports Writer
Sunday, February 19, 2012
2/19/12 at 6:56 AM
HASKELL - Inside the Vian girls locker room Saturday night, two words were written on a dry-erase board: For Whitney.
The day after senior starter Whitney Miller died unexpectedly, her teammates earned a Class 3A district championship in an emotional 63-52 victory against Haskell.
"Whitney would have been proud of them," coach John Mays said. "She was a fighter. She was a scrapper.
"There never was anything pretty about (how she played), but she was just a hustler and a hard worker. That was kind of what we did tonight."
Saturday marked the first time this season the Wolverines started a game without Miller on the court. She was taken to the emergency room Wednesday with the flu and on Friday doctors discovered she also had pneumonia. Her lungs filled with fluid and collapsed, and she died that afternoon.
After warming up in shirts that said "We (heart) 3," the team played with No. 3 patches on their shoulders and a piece of purple tape on their right shoes.
Miller's best friend and cousin Deidra Smith wore the No. 3 jersey that Miller's mother presented to the team earlier in the day. Smith scored 10 points before fouling out late in the game.
"When I fouled out, that hurt," she said, wiping away tears. "I hadn't been fouling out, but wearing her jersey I think it was part of it. She would always get three fouls in the first half."
Miller's death has crushed those who knew her. She was a popular student and homecoming queen at Vian, about 80 miles southeast of Tulsa.
"Everybody liked her," teammate Chelsie Drew said. "There's not one person I could ever think of that didn't like her. She was a girl who joked and put a smile on our faces."
Drew sparked the Wolverines to an 11-0 run in the first quarter that put Vian (10-10) up for good. She finished with 17 points.
"It was extremely hard," she said. "It just felt weird being the only senior on the court. It just didn't feel right without her there."
The Haymakers (4-16) staged a second-half rally and cut the lead to 52-47 midway through the fourth quarter on a 3-pointer from Nikki Bolding, who hit five treys.
But Vian didn't allow Haskell to get any closer. When the final buzzer sounded, the players gathered in a circle and shared a tear-filled moment in memory of Miller.
"I didn't know what to expect from the girls," their coach said. "I was going to be happy just if we competed.
"They wanted to win. I was more proud of that, that they came out there and they were kind of on a mission that they weren't going to get beat."
Said Drew: "She would do anything to win," Drew said. "I know she's smiling down on us right now for winning."
After the game, Haskell officials presented the Wolverines with purple and yellow balloons. They also took a collection from the crowd to help Miller's family with costs associated with the funeral, which has not been set.
Vian 63, Haskell 52
|Vian||16||13||14||20|| - ||63|
|Haskell||9||12||11||20|| - ||52|
Vian (10-10): Drew 17, Walters 12, Smith 10, Casey 9, Bolia 7, Barthalomeau 6, Brunson 2.
Haskell (4-16): Bolding 18, McHenry 13, Love 8, Shipp 7, Cheatham 3, Wheeland 3.
Original Print Headline: Vian nabs emotional win
Kelly Hines 918-581-8452
The Vian girls basketball team meets after defeating Haskell without senior standout Whitney Miller, who died on Friday. JAMES GIBBARD / Tulsa World
Members of the Vian girls basketball team fight back tears as they remember Whitney Miller before playing Haskell on Saturday. JAMES GIBBARD / Tulsa World