COLUMN: This women's basketball season a proud one to be a Chippewa
With the clock winding down in the Central Michigan women’s basketball team's 83-69 Sweet 16 loss to Oregon March 24, Chippewa fans in attendance at Spokane Arena started to chant.
“Ooh ahh, proud to be a Chippewa.”
This team made many people proud to be Chippewas. Many CMU fans made the long trip from Mount Pleasant to Spokane to witness history.
But more importantly, just to watch this team keep playing.
In the program’s 50th season, this team did something no other team had done — win an NCAA Tournament game. Not just one, but two.
This team kept climbing. They kept battling. They kept fighting. They never gave up.
But it’s a skill this team has always had, and it starts from the senior class.
When the seniors were freshmen in the 2014-15 season, they saw the talent of Crystal Bradford, an eventual WNBA draft pick. When they were sophomores in the 2015-16 season, they were relied upon to carry CMU to the Mid-American Conference Tournament championship, where they lost in overtime to Buffalo on a buzzer-beater.
The next season, CMU suffered an early exit to rival Western Michigan in the MAC Tournament. The Chippewas’ chances of making an NCAA Tournament game with this group was slipping.
They never gave up.
In this year’s MAC Tournament, the Chippewas had to scrap against Eastern Michigan and Miami (Ohio) to advance to the title game against Buffalo. The Chippewas got their revenge against the Bulls this time around, and even more importantly, made the NCAA Tournament.
This team surprised us yet again in the NCAA Tournament in Columbus, Ohio. They beat LSU and Ohio State — the latter on their homecourt — in dominating fashion.
Head coach Sue Guevara and her team had the whole country believing in the underdog and brought national attention to CMU.
Only true Chippewas, however, know this team has always been good. Their scrappiness and fight has been in its DNA all season.
So when the clock hit zero March 24 in a loss to the Ducks, there wasn’t total disappointment from anyone wearing CMU gear. Senior guard Cassie Breen, in her final game as a Chippewa, smiled with tears in her eyes while running down the line to thank members of the Sixth Man Band.
Despite the loss, the Chippewas did what they have always done. They fought and played until the final horn sounded. They didn't care who they were playing, they just wanted to play.
It's why a lot of people love them.
This team has set the standard for seasons to come. CMU women’s basketball is on the national map, if it wasn’t already. Guevara has earned the respect of her peers.
"She's a great coach," Oregon coach Kelly Graves said of Guevara. "What I really appreciate is you can tell those players love her and they play really hard for her. I wish Central Michigan all the best."
Maybe top recruits will flock to Mount Pleasant to play with junior guard Presley Hudson and junior forward Reyna Frost next season.
This season is over, and the tears from players were evident after the game. The loss will sting now, but the players, and CMU faithful, will never forget this season.
It was a proud one to be a Chippewa.