SAPULPA, Okla. — The Norman High School girls basketball team won the Class 6A state title game Saturday over Bixby, 48-37.
The Lady Tigers persevered after an especially trying two days. A NFHS Network announcer made racist remarks about the team during its livestreamed quarterfinal game vs. Midwest City on Thursday. The players had knelt for the national anthem as a form of silent protest.
Norman knelt once again in Friday’s 53-50 semifinal win over Union at Sapulpa High School, as well as Saturday’s game at Oral Roberts University. Union’s girls basketball team knelt, as well.
The Lady Tigers warmed up in custom-made, orange-and-black shirts Saturday that read “This Is Why We Kneel” with the school’s mascot logo.
“It was disappointing, especially the things that we heard and that were said about us,” senior guard Kelbie Washington said. “But I think it motivated us. We had a lot of people in our corner - our teachers, our staff, and a lot of people over Oklahoma just encouraging us.”
Washington scored a team-high 15 points.
“The thing that was said about us, we’re not going to let that define us,” Washington said. “It was, ‘everything positive’, and I think that’s the reason we won this game, because we were positive about it.”
Head coach Michael Neal and senior forward Chantae Embry spoke to the team’s inner strength in handling the comments.
“All of us, we have so much strength and so much perseverance,” Embry said. “We’ve been through so much together. We’ve been through so much individually. We did a great job out there, we’re very excited that we got [the championship.]”
Neal said he preached a strong mental foundation with his players before the season began.
“That’s what it’s about, man,” Neal said. “When we hit adversity and we hit lumps in the road, how are you going to act? How are you going to handle those situations? They did an excellent job of all of that.”
The Norman High community released a video on Friday condemning the announcer’s racist remarks and showing solidarity with the team, entitled #ThisIsWhyWeKneel.