T-Birds taken to overtime, but grind out win

Cloud County Athletics
Matt Kinney, Sports Information Director

CONCORDIA – Pushed to overtime after holding a 34-18 halftime lead, the Cloud County men’s basketball team would hit on four of six shots in the extra frame to secure a 68-64 Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference victory over Northwest Kansas Technical College inside of Arley Bryant Gymnasium in Concordia, Kan. on Saturday.

Improving to 8-7 overall, Cloud County is now 2-4 overall in the KJCCC while the visiting Mavericks fell to 2-11 overall and 0-6 in conference play.

“Today the disappointment comes from how specifically we talked about how we wanted to come out and play in the second half and we ended up doing exactly what we warned our players not to do” said head coach Jordan Altman in a post-game interview. “We need some of sophomore leadership to step up as our mentality wasn’t right coming out of the locker room and we found ourselves in a dogfight that we had to go to overtime to earn a win.” “We want our players to have an aggressive mentality in everything they do including basketball, so I want to see our players not be so content or complacent on the court moving forward.”

Defense would shine in the first half for the T-Birds as Cloud County would score the first eight points of the game while holding Northwest Kansas Tech without a point for the first 8:33 of the game. CCCC would allow just five points in the opening 10-plus minutes of action, grabbing an 18-5 lead at the first half media timeout with 9:51 left in the first before taking their largest lead of the game in the waning moments of the first half to go up 16 at intermission.

Northwest Kansas Tech wouldn’t let the slow start to game affect them, going a 14-2 run to open up the second half of play to pull within four at 36-32 with 14:42 remaining in regulation. A pair of Denzel Ndongosi free throws would break the run by the Mavericks and get Cloud County back in the scoring column, but it would short-lived as Northwest Kansas Tech would take a 41-40 lead with 11:28 left in the second half.

From that point on, things would manage to stay close with five lead changes and three ties occurring over the next eight-plus minutes of play. Neither team would be able to push their leads out to more than three as the Mavericks would get a transition bucket to tie things up at 54-54 with 2:51 left in the second period. The back-and-forth would continue in the final minutes of regulation as Iyen Enaruna would give Cloud County a 56-54 lead off a layup, but the Mavericks would respond with a pair of free throws to tie things at 56-56. Following a timeout with 90 seconds left in the second half, Enaruna would go back to work and get another layup to put CCCC up briefly as Northwest Kansas Tech had yet another response to tie things up. Each team would get opportunities at a game-winning shot in the final minute, but none of the three total opportunities would find their way inside the cylinder with things ultimately going to overtime.

Cloud County would waste no time in the opening moments of the extra frame, getting a bucket 17 seconds in while keeping Northwest Tech from a bucket in the opening minute of extra time. A tip-in from Tadas Baracevicious tied things up one last time at 60-60 as Dyelan Reed would respond with a go-ahead triple with 2:50 remaining to spark a 7-2 run that would allow Cloud County to build a five-point advantage that would be just enough in overtime.

Points off turnovers would prove to be the ultimate difference in the game as Cloud County would outscore the Mavericks 17-4 in what would otherwise be an extremely close statistical game. Both teams would shoot under 35 percent from the field with the T-Birds connecting on 23-of-70 (32.9 percent) of their shots which included a six-of-27 (22.2 percent) mark from beyond the arc. Rebounding would help keep the short-handed Northwest Tech team in the contest, as NWKT held a 51-45 advantage despite entering the contest with a -3.9 per game average in caroms.

Heavy minutes would be played by three of CCCC’s five starters as Enaruna would lead the T-Birds with 17 points and 12 rebounds in 35 minutes of action. Jay Lewis would score 12 points in his first action since December 4th while Ndongosi would add nine points and two rebounds off the bench.

A chance to avenge an earlier season loss to Barton Community College is next up on the T-Bird schedule with Cloud County traveling to Great Bend to take on a 12-2 overall Barton team at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, January 8th. The first meeting of the season would come on Nov. 21 in Council Bluffs, Iowa and see the Cougars earn an 87-81 win in a non-conference game between the two KJCCC schools. Barton’s lone conference loss this season came back on November 30th against Cowley as the Tigers earned a 122-112 victory over the Cougars.

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