Birks reflects on her run

SCC grad was four-year starter for Northwestern College

Photo courtesy Northwestern College Sports Information Department

Photo courtesy Northwestern College Sports Information Department

ORANGE CITY — Haley Birks finished her four-year career at Northwestern College recently competing in the NAIA Div. II Final Four.

While the end result wasn’t what Birks or the Red Raiders wanted, it didn’t put a damper on ability to remember all the key moments along the way.

“I’m going to miss my teammates most of all,” said Birks, a South Central Calhoun graduate. “It’s pretty awesome how a group of girls who don’t know each other but have a common love for basketball can come together and create strong relationships that will last forever. Getting to play together was pretty cool, but getting to spend time together off the court was the best.

“I will also miss my coaches, who over the years have challenged me to become not only a better player, but a better Christian, sister, daughter and friend. They have created a culture at Northwestern that is hard to find in most programs.”

Birks and classmates Kassidy De Jong and Darbi Gustafson were four-year starters for Northwestern, reaching three national tournaments and two Final Fours. They went 89-40 overall, won 46 games at home and 55 in the conference, including seven national tourney victories.

“Kassidy, Darbi and I have been starting since we were freshmen and since then we have become best friends and grown as people and basketball players together,” Birks said. “I never could have done it without them. We went through a lot together in the past four years and I wouldn’t have wanted to do it with anyone else. I will definitely miss them a lot.”

This past year, Birks scored 375 points with 112 rebounds, 60 assists, 25 blocks and 22 steals. She finished her career with 1,306 points, 540 rebounds, 156 assists, 131 blocks and 110 steals in 125 games played.

“This was an incredible year even though it didn’t end like we wanted it to,” she said. “I’ve never won a conference championship in high school or college until this year so that was really special for me and the team. After losing two starters last year, I never would have imagined the season going as well as it did. Being in the Final Four was an amazing experience and I’m so blessed to have had the teammates, managers and coaches that I did.

“The big games we had during the regular season and nationals this year just add to the long list of memories I have made. We worked extremely hard in the offseason and during the season to prepare us for those moments.”

Northwestern scored wins over Concordia and Dakota Wesleyan, teams ranked No. 1 during the year. They also claimed a thrilling 71-70 victory on a last-second shot to defeat College of the Ozarks at nationals.

Birks was a four-year starter at South Central Calhoun for her father, Dave. Her younger sister, Allison, is a member of the Northwestern volleyball and track teams, while brother, Jared, is a senior at SCC.

“I owe everything to my parents (mother, Jill) and my siblings who took me to the gym and tournaments more times than I could count, and played numerous games of one-on-one with me,” she said. “They encouraged me to do the best that I can and make others around me better.

“They sacrificed a lot and experienced a lot of stress over the years and I am forever thankful.”

Haley Birks By The Numbers

Senior

375 points, 112 rebounds, 60 assists, 25 blocks, 22 steals (30 games)

Junior

279 points, 160 rebounds, 53 assists, 41 blocks, 17 steals (34 games)

Sophomore

385 points, 159 rebounds, 32 assists, 44 blocks, 42 steals (32 games)

Freshman

267 points, 109 rebounds, 11 assists, 21 blocks, 29 steals (29 games)

Career Totals

1,306 points, 540 rebounds, 156 assists, 131 blocks, 110 steals (125 games)

COMMENTS