Benefield: Cloverdale's Tehya Bird shines in her 'other' sport
CLOVERDALE — It was not her finest game by any stretch, but longtime Cloverdale High girls basketball coach Rick Berry this week recalled a game two seasons ago in which Tehya Bird, his star post player who was trying to rally back from a right wrist injury, made a radical adjustment.
Her first game, back she shot everything with her off hand.
“She was shooting free throws with her left hand,” Berry said, nearly laughing. “And she was shooting 60%. That’s the kind of athlete she is.”
But I’d venture to say that this is the kind of athlete Bird is: The post player scored her 2,000th career point Friday night as part of her 33-point performance in the Eagles’ 59-37 win over Middletown that guaranteed Cloverdale at least a piece of the North Central League I title for the second year running.
The milestone puts Bird in rarified air among Cloverdale greats. The game was stopped. She was given the game ball. And this: Basketball is Bird’s secondary sport, the game she plays in the offseason for fun.
That’s the kind of athlete she is.
Her main sport is softball. She’s committed to play for the University of Oregon next fall — a deal that has been in the works since she verbally committed as an eighth-grader. That is the kind of athlete she is.
But to watch her play basketball is to assume you are watching a hoopster, not a hobbyist.
To hear Berry tell it, last season Bird caught wind of talk that some were slightly dismissive of her hardwood skills.
“They said she was a good athlete playing basketball and that kind of bothered her a little bit, like she’s not considered a basketball player,” he said.
She is no doubt an athlete. But she is also no doubt a basketball player. She’s a 5-foot, 10-inch post player of almost obvious physical strength. On Friday, Middletown collapsed three players on her under the basket and still she grabbed rebounds, got putbacks and kicked out passes to Eagles perched around the arc, ready to make the defense pay for being so focused on Bird.
“Basically, her way is will and determined,” Berry said of how she has scored all of those points over four seasons. “She’s active and she’s hard working. She keeps things going, she is relentless on the boards.”
Berry recalled a game against Clear Lake in which the defense seemed to get her number a little bit. They held her to 14 points. But, according to Berry, she grabbed 18 boards and kept her teammates shooting — and scoring — all night.
To hear Bird describe her game is mildly amusing.
“I’m not a great shooter,” said the player who just scored her 2,000th point.
Her midrange game is decent and her three-point shooting? Well, she’d rather not, thank you.
She took one shot from the behind the arc Friday. She missed.
She’s gotten almost all of those points from grinding. With her back to the basket, she works the defense down at will. On the boards, she’s up higher and faster than taller opponents. And in tangles for loose balls in the key? No one is ripping the ball from her hands.