CLEVELAND, Ohio — Central Michigan continued its run through the Mid-American Conference Tournament in the semifinals Friday afternoon, defeating No. 1 seed Bowling Green, 69-66.
The Chippewas (20-14) will play the winner of the second semifinal contest between No. 2 Eastern Michigan and No. 3 Toledo in tomorrow's championship game at 1 p.m., inside Quicken Loans Arena.
"We survived," head coach Sue Guevara said. "I'm very happy with this team right now. Bowling Green played a hard game and they are a great program, but this is a big step for our program to get into the championship game."
Freshman Crystal Bradford scored a game-high 20 points in the contest, including seven straight down the stretch, grabbed 12 rebounds and dished out eight assists, helping the Chippewas into their first title game since 1991.
Central Michigan led the entire second half but it was never comfortable. A 9-0 run by the Chippewas in the last 4:40 of the first half turned a 26-20 deficit into a 29-26 lead going into the break, then a 7-2 run to open the second half extended their lead to eight, 36-28, at the 18:00 mark.
The advantage reached double-digits twice, at 12:49 and 10:18, but both times the Falcons (24-6) fought back with a significant run. When the Chippewas were able to go up 54-43 with just over 10 minutes left, Bowling Green responded with a 7-0 spurt that brought the Falcons within four, 54-50.
A layup by Jillian Halfhill and a pair of free throws by Jessica Slaggle with 2:08 remaining cut the Chippewas' lead to one, 60-59, but Bradford took over for the Maroon and Gold by scoring on three-straight possesions and coming up with a steal and assist on a fastbreak layup by freshman Jessica Green to put the game away, 69-64.
Sophomore Taylor Johnson scored three-straight buckets to start the contest and give the Chippewas a 6-0 lead just 1:47 into the game before BGSU came roaring back with a 8-2 run capped by a Slagle layup to tie the game at 10 at the 14:46 mark of the first half.
The Falcons took their first lead at the 13:12 mark when Chrissy Steffen hit a three and extended the lead to six, 21-15, by Slagle at the 10:09 mark. The field goal would be the last of the half for the Falcons, as CMU's defense clamped down and helm them to just five free throws the last 10-plus minutes, sparking the 9-0 run to claim the 29-26 halftime lead.
In addition to Bradford's near triple-double, freshman Jas'Mine Bracey scored 12 points and pulled down 12 boards, while Johnson finished with 14 points on 5-of-10 shooting. Sophomore Niki DiGuilio scored 12 points off the bench and freshman Jessica Green scored eight points and pulled down eight boards.
Alexis Rogers led the Falcons with 14 points and 11 rebounds, while Steffen scored 14 and Slagle 12.