Cloud County Women Hold Off Late Northwest Tech Rally for 66-60 Win

Cloud County Women Hold Off Late Northwest Tech Rally for 66-60 Win
Cloud County Women Hold Off Late Northwest Tech Rally for 66-60 Win

Playing a second straight opponent from the northwest region of the Sunflower State, the Cloud County Community College women's basketball team would fend off a pesky Northwest Kansas Technical College squad by a final score of 66-60 at home inside of Arley Bryant Gymnasium on Monday, January 17th.

Getting back into the win column after having their three-game winning streak snapped on Saturday afternoon at Colby, the T-Birds improve to 10-8 overall and 6-6 in the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference while NW Tech is now 2-15 overall and 0-13 in the KJCCC.

A scoreless opening minute would quickly be shaken off by the Cloud County offense as Makayla Twyman and Rori Cox would score two points each while forcing the Mavericks into two early turnovers and two fouls to force head coach Annie Kassongo to call an early timeout. CCCC would then score six of the next eight to extend their lead to 8-2 as Cox would connect on four straight layups to have eight points in the first four minutes of action while staking the T-Birds to a 10-2 lead. Cloud County would eventually push their first-quarter lead out to double digits with just over two minutes left in the opening period but would give up five of the final seven points to NW KS Tech to see their lead cut down to 18-11 heading to the second.

Offensive struggles to begin the second quarter would find the T-Birds as CCCC would be held scoreless for nearly the first three minutes of the quarter and held to just three total field goals in the frame with two of the field goals coming in the final 1:14 of the first half. The drought would allow the Mavericks to cut the lead down to four on two separate occasions, but free-throw shooting would allow Cloud County to maintain their lead as the T-Birds would go a perfect seven-of-seven from the charity stripe in the second quarter and would hold a 31-20 lead entering halftime.

Northwest Tech would then cut the deficit back down to single-digits on the first field goal of the second half as Natalie Lara would connect on a triple, but sophomore Te Araroa Sopoaga would answer back with a three-point play to give CCCC a 34-23 lead 92 seconds into the third quarter. The next two minutes would see both teams suffer through another scoring drought as the squads would go nearly five minutes apiece while hitting just one field goal. Cloud County would seemingly have an answer for every Northwest Tech bucket before going on a 6-2 spurt to go up 43-30 and threatening to blow the game open before the fourth quarter. The Mavericks would not allow the T-Birds the opportunity however as two late hoops from NWKT would once more bring the score back within single digits at 43-34 with 10 minutes left in the game.

As the back-and-forth continued on into the fourth quarter, the Mavericks would eventually find a way to get within six at 51-45, but back-to-back Sopoaga buckets would give CCCC a double-digit lead yet again. Northwest Tech would manage to hang around for the next three minutes of game action before connecting on a Lara jumper and Chloe Andrew three out of an inbounds play to get within five and eventually four at 62-48 with 1:09 left in the game. Cloud County would then squander a pair of opportunities on the offensive end as a missed layup and two missed free throws would keep things at a four-point game before another layup for the Mavericks would make it a 62-60 game with just 22 seconds remaining. With Northwest Tech being forced to foul and try to extend the game, CCCC would get a pair of free throws from Cox to make it a two-possession game again and then force NWKT into an empty possession as Paula Puzule would be fouled with 12 seconds left. Hitting the first free throw and missing the second, Puzule would see teammate Sopoaga grab her 20th rebound of the game and get fouled as another free throw would be tacked on to allow the T-Birds to hang on for a six-point victory.

Going 23-of-59 (39.0 percent) from the field, the T-Birds would also struggle from beyond the arc, going one-of-16 (6.3 percent) from beyond the arc and 19-of-26 (73.1 percent) from the charity stripe. The biggest difference in the game would be a 40-16 advantage in points in the paint for the T-Birds who would also never trail in the game despite committing 18 turnovers compared to 15 for Northwest Tech.

A 22-point, 20-rebound game for Sopoaga would lead Cloud County as Kay Hauata Phillips would add 17 points and 13 rebounds of her own to combine for 37 points and 33 rebounds. Cox would pitch in 14 points and eight rebounds of her own with Twyman providing three points, two rebounds, and one steal. Northwest Tech would be led by a game-high 25 points from Lara and also get 11 points from Neylan Delicado off the bench.  

What's Next?
The next two games for the T-Birds will come away from Arley Bryant Gymnasium as CCCC travels to Hutchinson for a 5:30 PM matchup on Wednesday, January 19th. The Blue Dragons handed league-leading Hutchinson just their second KJCCC loss of the season on Monday night with an 80-49 win to improve to 15-4 overall and 9-4 in conference.