Women’s basketball wins fourth-straight with career night from Bird
As the buzzer went off, senior forward Gabi Bird checked out of the game for the final time of the night.
While she walked towards the bench, the fans at McGuirk Arena rose to their feet, roared and applauded Bird for her amazing effort.
After trailing Iona by as many as seven in the first quarter, the Central Michigan women's basketball team quickly erased the deficit with 14 points in the second quarter from Bird.
The Chippewas (4-3) defeated Iona 70-50 Thursday night in McGuirk Arena. The Gaels (1-6) were unable to keep pace after building the lead in the first five minutes of the game.
Bird was the big highlight for the Chippewas as she finished with a career-high 21 points with six rebounds and a block.
Most of the rebounds came in the pivotal second quarter when coach Heather Oesterle needed someone to step up and lead the team.
”(Bird) gave us a huge spark in the game, 17 points in the first half,” Oesterle said. “I thought we came out a little flat, but we started the game with two turnovers, she came in and she gave us good minutes.”
The win was the fourth straight for a Central Michigan team that seems to have finally found its footing.
A big second quarter in which CMU outscored Iona 25-6, propelled the team to the win.
“I thought it was good to win this fourth game, this was a big home stretch for us,“ Oesterle said. “To take care of business for four games at home was huge considering we go on the road for the next six.”
Senior guard Morgan Rachu did all she could for the Gaels leading the team in scoring with 20 points, but it would not be enough.
Bird began the second quarter with a turnover before scoring the first bucket of the quarter for CMU, tying the game at 17. After the big performance in the second frame, Bird scored four more points in the second half to bring her total to 21.
“I just came in and did what I needed to do,” Bird said. “That’s pretty much my role on this team, is to give what needs to be given and tonight it just looked like this tonight.”
Bird was the beneficiary of quality ball movement from the Chippewas. The team finished with 13 assists while going 28-of-58 from the field.
CMU shot 27 times from 3-point range, many of which were open shots because of the cross-court ball movement.
Junior guard Micaela Kelly had another solid performance for CMU, Kelly finished with 17 points, five rebounds and six assists. Following the game, Kelly was awarded a commemorative basketball to celebrate scoring over 1,000 points in her career.
The large second-half lead allowed Oesterle to get bench players plenty of minutes, more so than they have at any point this season.
Bird finished with 27 minutes, senior forward MacKenna Kelly had 19 minutes and freshman forward Shine Strickland-Gills had 14 minutes coming in off the bench.
“I was able to get a lot of players in today,” Oesterle said. “Which was nice to get some people game experience.”
The Chippewas ended a four-game home stretch with a 4-0 record, but will now begin a six-game road trip that stretches out over a month.
The first game of that road trip will take place Dec. 14 against South Dakota State. The Jackrabbits are currently ranked No. 12 in the Mid Major Top 25.