Cloud Men's Basketball Avenges Season-Opening Loss with Home Win Over North Platte

Cloud Men's Basketball Avenges Season-Opening Loss with Home Win Over North Platte

Five players reaching double-figures would allow the Cloud County Community College men's basketball team to avenge a season-opening loss to North Platte Community College by holding on for a 73-67 win inside of Arley Bryant Gymnasium on Saturday, November 13th.

Capping off a four-game homestand, the T-Birds improve to 4-1 overall with the win as all four wins have come at home under first-year head coach Devin Kastrup. North Platte was held under 70 points for the first time this season and falls to 2-4 with the defeat.

"I came into today's game thinking that if we could keep North Platte to 65 points or fewer today that we would win the game and we ended up holding them to 67," said Kastrup in a post-game interview. "One of our big focuses today was holding their leading scorer German Plotnikov under his average of 30 points and he ended up only getting 14 which really shows that we prepared well and adjusted to what hurt us the first time we played them." "Looking at the rebounding margin of minus 10, that's something that we'll probably see most nights due to being a bit undersized and the style of defense we play." "We really emphasize battling as hard as we can and getting 85 percent of defensive rebound opportunities which we didn't manage to hit today." "Missing 11 free throws could have really hurt us especially when you look at the six-point margin of victory but I also think that might be more indicative of the fact that this was the first close game we've played this year and nerves showed in the late moments." "Focus and practice will help alleviate those issues so it's not something that I'm too concerned about yet as long as we keep battling and working our way through those issues."

It would be a back-and-forth blow-for-blow type of game in the opening eight minutes of play as neither team would allow the other to grab a lead of more than three as neither team would be able to string together more than three points at a time. Leading 10-7 on a Malang Athian triple with 15:37 left in the first half, Cloud County would see the Knights manage to score four of the next five points to tie things up at 11-11 just four minutes later. Athian along with Joe Kearney would then spark a 10-2 run for CCCC by hitting back-to-back threes as the T-Birds would take a 21-13 lead with 9:00 remaining before halftime. NPCC would battle back to get within four at 23-19 just 1:40 later and again at 26-22 with 5:21 remaining before seeing a 9-0 Cloud County run give CCCC their largest lead of the first half at 35-22. A Nico Felici three in the final minute of the half would bring North Platte back within 10 at 35-25 as the final two offensive chances for the T-Birds would be turned away.

Both NPCC and CCCC would open up the second half with 5-0 spurts as the Knights would get within five just 60 seconds into the half before allowing the T-Birds to respond with a layup and Savian Edwards trey to go back up 10 at the 17:36 mark of the second period. Cloud County would manage to push their lead out to 12 at 42-30, but North Platte would respond by scoring the next 14 points of the game to take their first lead at 44-42 with 12:02 remaining. A layup and free throw from CCCC's Justin Graham would allow the T-Birds to reclaim the lead at 45-44 before seeing the game knotted back up at 46-46 at the midway point of the second half.

Breathing room would be created by Cloud County again as a 14-0 run capped off by a Justin Graham layup with 6:23 remaining would give CCCC a 60-46 lead and on the cusp of breaking the game open for good. The T-Birds would go on to take their largest lead of the game 1:30 later at the 4:53 mark on a Nate Duckworth layup but would then allow North Platte to go on an 11-1 run to get back within six at 65-59 with 2:09 remaining. A fast-break alley-oop dunk by Athian would spark the crowd once more as the lead would go back to eight for CCCC with just 90 seconds remaining and the T-Birds needing to hit their free throws to ice the game away. Putting away the Knights wouldn't come easy however as neither team would be able to be all that successful from the charity stripe while NPCC would score six of the next nine to close within five at 70-65 with 34 seconds left. When needed most, however, the T-Birds would come through with three more free throws while allowing a last-second layup before running out the clock to secure the six-point victory.

There would be just six ties in the contest and two lead changes as the T-Birds would be held to zero second-chance points while dealing with a 47-37 deficit in rebounds. CCCC would make up the difference with a 40-18 advantage in points in the paint and 10 fast-break points while getting seven points off turnovers.

Both Athian and Duckworth would tie for the team lead on the day with 16 points as Duckworth would add two assists and two steals while Athian would grab four rebounds and record a game-high five steals. Kearney would tack on 14 points and team-best seven rebounds while Edwards (11 points) and Graham (10 points) also managed to reach double-figures. In total, the five players to reach double-figures accounted for 67 of Cloud County's 73 points.

What's Next?
The beginning of a 24-game Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference grind begins on Wednesday, November 17th with a road trip to Goodland, Kansas to take on the Mavericks of Northwest Kansas Tech. NWKT is 1-3 overall but has seen all three losses coming away from home and by single digits. Entering Wednesday's game, Northwest Kansas Tech will be hitting the floor for the first time in eight days after last playing on November 10th with a 76-75 road loss at Northeastern Junior College.