Cloud County Men's Basketball Scores First Jayhawk Conference Win with 66-59 Victory Over Independence
Ending the game on a 8-1 run over the final 1:50 of the game, the Cloud County Community College men's basketball team would come away victorious for the first time in three contests by defeating Independence Community College 66-59 inside Arley Bryant Gymnasium on Tuesday, November 23rd.
Picking up their first Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference win of the season and for first-year head coach Devin Kastrup, the T-Birds are now 5-3 overall and 1-2 in the KJCCC while the Pirates slip to 3-6 overall and remain winless in conference at 0-3.
"Coming into tonight's game Independence was averaging over 90 points per game and we are a polar opposite in that we like to depend on our defense and take teams out of their rhythm" said Kastrup in a post-game interview. "I thought our guys did a fantastic job tonight taking them out of what they wanted to do offensively which allowed us to get stops when we really needed them." "If we somehow could improve our jump shooting, we would be winning a lot more comfortably but I commend our team for battling and winning on the defensive side which is something that we can hopefully turn into a successful program." "Tonight was a positive in that we never really gave up a big run to allow our opponent to get back into the game or take the lead from us and our guys really showed mental toughness tonight." "We made the final push to win the game and although we made some mistakes to allow Independence to get back into the game, our guys were able to stay in the moment and make the plays that counted when we had to have them."
With the largest lead by either team in the game sitting at eight points late in the second half, neither team would be able to build a comfortable lead in the opening half as the opening 20 minutes would feature eight ties and three lead changes. Following three points from the visiting Pirates to open the game, Cloud County would respond by scoring six straight points to take their first lead of the contest at 6-3 before giving up an ICC triple to knot things at 6-6 five minutes into the game.
Independence would reclaim the lead with a free throw before a Nate Duckworth free throw would tie things again as the back-and-forth would continue with both teams going point-for-point through the opening 13-plus minutes. Tied at 17-17, Cloud County would use a Radovan Vidovic layup and Duckworth three to take their largest lead of the first half at 22-17 with 6:07 remaining before halftime as the lead would remain at five until the final two minutes of the first half. An Ian Hardy jump shot in the paint with 1:56 left in the opening period would spark a 6-1 run by the Pirates to tie things at 27-27 before Justin Graham would draw a foul in the closing seconds and sink a pair of free throws to put the T-Birds up 29-27 at the half.
In a similar fashion to the first 20 minutes of action, things would remain tight in the opening moments of the second half as CCCC would push their lead two possessions on two separate occasions before seeing the Pirates tie things up at 33-33. Layups from Malang Athian and Graham would put Cloud County back up four at 37-33 with 15:27 left in the game, but ICC would refuse to go away and manage to score the three points to get back within one. The T-Birds would then manage to match their largest lead of the first half following a Vidovic hook shot and Joe Kearney Layup before a steal and breakaway dunk from Jaelen Treml put CCCC up 43-36 midway through the second half.
Independence would respond by going on an 8-2 run to pull within one at 45-44 just two minutes later to keep within a possession of the T-Birds. The next five-plus minutes of game action would see Cloud County continue to push their lead out to seven points on three different occasions before seeing the Pirates have an answer to close the gap on each and every occasion. With the T-Birds holding a 57-50 lead heading into the final 4:29 of action, ICC would manage to score eight of the next nine points to tie things one final time at 58-58 with 1:50 remaining before calling a timeout to set up the final two-minute stretch of the game.
Needing a clutch bucket, Cloud County's Kearney would draw a foul by Jordan Clark to go to the free-throw line where he would connect on both free throws to put CCCC back out front before helping the T-Birds force a shot clock violation on the Pirates. Kearney would then have arguably his biggest basket of the night by hitting Cloud County's second and final three of the evening to make it a 63-58 contest with 30 seconds remaining as the T-Birds found a way to get points when needed most. Another defensive stop by Cloud County would allow Duckworth to be fouled and proceed to hit two free throws to make it a seven-point contest as Kearney would add one final point following another Independence empty possession to put the game out of reach and allow the T-Birds to earn the victory.
Connecting on a season-high in field goals for the second-straight game, Cloud County would shoot 51.9 percent (27-of-52) from the floor and hit 10-of-15 (66.7 percent) of their free throws including a six-for-eight (75.0 percent) mark in the second half. 50 of CCCC's 66 points would come in the paint while holding Independence to just 32 points in the paint while also using a 19-11 advantage in points off turnovers to overcome a 35-28 deficit on the glass.
Leading all scorers in the contest with 13 points would be Graham as the freshman would also grab a team-best five rebounds and add two of Cloud County's four blocks. Kearney (12 points) and Duckworth (10 points) would also reach double-figures alongside Vidovic who had 10 points off the bench as eight of the nine players for CCCC who saw action would score. Four of the five starters for Independence would reach double-figures, but the Pirates would get just nine points from their bench on the evening as the T-Birds would hold ICC leading scorer Rodney Munson to just three points in 23 minutes of action (Munson entered the game averaging 15.5 points per contest).
One final non-conference game on the 2021-22 schedule is set for Saturday, November 27th when Cloud County will play host to Northeast Community College for a 4 PM tip-off inside Arley Bryant Gymnasium. The Hawks fell to 2-5 overall on Tuesday night with an 87-76 home loss to Southeast Community College in Norfolk.