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The Daily Ardmoreite
  • Healdton alum helps Tulsa to women's NCAA Tournament

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  • University of Tulsa sophomore Kadan Brady can remember the times at Healdton when not many people outside of its city limits gave the Bulldogs a chance.
    It's been close to two years since she's suited up in the small ball of Class 2A, but she still doesn't bat an eye at being overlooked. That mentality has spurred her and the rest of her teammates at Tulsa to an improbable run to a Conference USA Tournament championship and an NCAA Tournament bid.
    "We've kinda played as the underdog all year," Brady said Wednesday from Tulsa. "We knew we were gonna play as hard as we could no matter what."
    In her second season with the Golden Hurricane, Brady has averaged 6.3 points, 2.4 assists and 1.5 assists per game. Despite only 16 starts, Brady is third on the team in minutes per game (26.5), acting essentially as a starter in what's been a year of emergence for the 5-foot-9 forward/guard.
    "It's a great opportunity coming from Healdton and being able to contribute," Brady said. "It didn't matter what role I played; I just wanted to help the team."
    The Hurricane will need everything Brady has today, as Tulsa will suit up against one of the true blue bloods of women's college basketball.
    Awaiting Tulsa in the NCAA first round is Stanford — the Pac-12 Conference champion and the No. 1 seed in the Spokane Regional. The perennial power Cardinal won't intimidate Tulsa, however, as the Hurricane have been well-versed in adversity during a 17-16 season.
    Tulsa started the year with five consecutive losses — two to major-conference foes Arkansas and Illinois — and entered the Conference USA Tournament with a losing record. Brady said that despite its sub-par record, finishing sixth in its conference in the regular season and having to win four games in four days just to make the Big Dance, her team still had confidence it could make a magical run, particularly since the C-USA Tournament was in Tulsa.
    Paced by senior Taleya Mayberry, who scored 25.0 points per game in the C-USA Tournament, the Hurricane ripped off wins against Rice, Tulane, East Carolina and Central Florida en route to the title.
    Mayberry earned tournament MVP honors, and Tulsa's women earned their first NCAA Tournament berth since 2008.
    "We knew with the group we had we could win the championship," Brady said. "We just needed to put in a lot of hard work.
    "Seeing as how the rest of us are all young, we just needed experience."
    Brady scored 10 points in the 72-59 semifinal win over East Carolina, the game in which the Hurricane really started to believe.
    Trailing by 11 at halftime, Tulsa shot close to 60 percent in the second half against East Carolina, with Brady hitting one of her two 3-pointers in a key stretch to whittle the deficit down to single digits.
    Page 2 of 2 - "We just came back fighting," Brady said. "After we came back and won that game, we knew the tournament was meant to be won by us."
    The pressure of the moment is familiar to a player that handled it with calm and grace her entire high school career. Brady was the two-time All-Ardmoreite Player of the Year at Healdton, helping the Bulldogs to the state tournament as a sophomore and capping her career with All-State honors as a senior.
    Current Davis girls basketball coach Jeff Brown coached Brady her entire high school career at Healdton. He remembers a player that he knew had more than enough ability to not just play, but be a major contributor at the Division I level.
    "Without a doubt she's a Division I athlete. Athletically she can go play anywhere she wanted to," Brown said. "I knew eventually it (success) would come, but as a sophomore getting to go play at Stanford against the No. 1 seed on national TV, it's a little more than we thought."
    One thing Brown didn't doubt was that Brady would someday reach these heights.
    "She always held herself to a really high standard and she was going to be a winner no matter what," Brown said.
    And no matter the outcome against Stanford today, Brady can say that she and the Golden Hurricane made it to the tourney.
    "I was shocked, just amazed," Brady said of finding out Tulsa's first-round opponent. "It's just gonna be a great experience for everyone.
    "I get a chance to play Stanford. Coming from a small town, I'm grateful for it."
    Follow Horne on Twitter: @ekhorneARD
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