Benefield: Tehya Bird soars for Cloverdale hoops against Middletown
The only blemish on Tehya Bird’s game Friday night was on her face.
The senior post player was sterling — putting up 33 points in Cloverdale High’s 59-37 win over the visiting Middletown Mustangs. No points were, perhaps, as important as her fifth and sixth early in the first quarter. Bird was under the basket, scrambling for a loose ball, when she got it and got an easy little putback.
Those were her 2,000th and 2,001st points of her basketball career for the Eagles, but on Friday night, it was something else — it was a tone setter for the entire night. Bird’s 33 points came against an aggressive Middletown defense that brought all it could against her and nothing was good enough.
She emerged from the landmark play having put the Eagles ahead, but she was also bleeding from her face. It seemed oddly appropriate. It takes a lot to stop her.
“Her ability to get to the free-throw line is incredible,” Middletown coach Andrew Brown said.
Still, only seven of her points came from the free-throw line. The vast majority of her points were pure strength: Rebounds and putbacks, or swivels and underhand scoops. Middletown did not have an answer.
“I really just try to go hard for the ball no matter what,” Bird said. “As long as you go hard, good things will happen.”
The win moves the Eagles to 12-0 in North Central I League play with just two games remaining. They are a lock for at least a share of the league title. They play at Fort Bragg Tuesday and at Clear Lake Thursday. The Eagles beat Fort Bragg by 20 in their first meeting and beat Clear Lake 55-46 on Jan. 24.
Middletown falls to 10-2 in league, with their only two losses at the hands of the Eagles. The Mustangs host Willits on Tuesday and Lower Lake on Thursday.
“The girls were ready to play,” Cloverdale coach Rick Berry said. “We practiced hard this week. We were ready for their intense zone defense.”
The Eagles essentially played four guards and Bird down low against the Mustangs. Even with two and three players collapsing on Bird, she was still muscling up points.
Asked if there was any answer to Bird, Brown just shook his head.
“Not at this level,” he said.
Even after Bird and Middletown senior Bella Dubois had a violent collision right in front of the Eagles’ bench with just under six minutes to play. Dubois got up, but Bird stayed on the court for some time and when she got up, she was clearly shaken and holding her jaw.
She stayed in the game and scored on the Eagles’ next possession. It was that kind of night for her.
But the Mustangs made a game of it until the fourth quarter. It was 15-10 Eagles after one and 25-20 at halftime. After three quarters it was still only 37-31, but the Mustangs went ice cold in the final period. They managed only one field goal the entire quarter and dropped in four free throws as the Eagles’ defense held them to just six points.
“We let it slip away at many levels,” Brown said.