OKLAHOMA CITY — Moon Ursin walked over with a huge smile on her face, while Dekeiya Cohen watched from the back. Natalie Chou danced on top of a locker, before hitting the running man on the floor, and the rest of the Lady Bears watched, some with their phones out to capture the moment. The glee inside No. 3 Baylor’s locker room didn’t have much to do with the Lady Bears’ 83-54 win over Kansas State in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Championship.
All their attention surrounded Darrlyn McDonough and Michelle Kahue, who were sitting side by side in their lockers. The two are managers for the Lady Bears. On Saturday afternoon, they donned Baylor uniforms and played against the Wildcats. The celebration as McDonough and Kahue were interviewed in the locker room was similar to the elation shown by the Lady Bears when the two subbed into the game. Everyone on that Baylor bench, player and coach alike, stood and cheered while their fellow managers celebrated behind the bench.
“Even before Kristy’s injury those kids have been on the roster for NCAA practice purposes, NCAA doesn’t allow us to practice four coaches on the floor making passes and you can’t have managers do this and graduate students do that,” Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey said. “If the opportunity ever presented itself in a game where we could rest kids you just have the uniform in a bag behind the bench and I just thought today was a good day to do it.”
Neither one ever expected they’d play in a game for Baylor.
“At the beginning of the season, as a manager, I never even thought about this,” Kahue said. “Just getting on the court and playing in a D-1 basketball game with incredible athletes like them has just been a great time, just living every single moment.”
Kahue then looked at Chou, who was behind the reporters, and added with a grin, “Shout out to Nat. It’s been a great time.”
McDonough and Kahue, a junior and a sophomore, played together in high school at The Bear Creek School in Redmond, Wash. Baylor was in a timeout when (Toyelle) Wilson walked up to them and told them to get their jerseys on.
“We were like, ‘We’ve got ‘em on. We’ve got ‘em on,’” McDonough said. “So we just went into the tunnel, took off our sweat pants and laced up our shoes and got ready and came back and we were just waiting. Coach Wilson helped us out, telling us what offense, what defense we’d be in. It was a very exciting moment.”
Baylor built up a double-digit lead with less than a minute left in the first quarter. Behind Kalani Brown and Lauren Cox, the Lady Bears dominated the paint. At halftime, Baylor owned a 28-0 advantage inside. Brown finished the game with 26 points in 27 minutes, while Cox added 10 points.
Dekeiya Cohen and Juicy Landrum also finished in double figures for Baylor as the senior had 19 and the sophomore had 14.
Alexis Morris took over point guard duties with Kristy Wallace out with a torn ACL. The freshman finished with six points three rebounds, three assists and a steal.
“Her defense (stood out),” Mulkey said. “I thought her defense, getting over screens, she didn’t have to rely on the post helping her a lot. Secondly, I thought she made crisp passes, or should I say the right pass at the right time. Thirdly she pushed the ball. She looks to run. She’s very composed as a freshman. ... I think Alexis Morris is competitive enough, confident enough, good enough. ‘Okay, Coach, I will be your freshman quarterback and try to get you there.’ She is not afraid to fail. She is not afraid of the challenge because she’s been trained by Kristy.”
After Natalie Chou subbed in for Morris, McDonough and Kahue entered the game.
“You saw our kids passed up shots to try to get them shots,” Mulkey said. “That’s the kind of bunch this team is. That’s the kind of group I get to go in the locker room with every day and just unselfish kids that want to see people have fun and do good.”
Kahue pulled down a defensive board and McDonough put up a shot.
“It was definitely an incredible moment,” McDonough said. “Being a manager has been such an incredible experience, but now to be on the roster, a part of the team, it’s just been incredible. It’s definitely a moment I won’t soon forget.”