Bench propels T-Birds to 75-65 win over Brown Mackie in season opener

Bench propels T-Birds to 75-65 win over Brown Mackie in season opener

SALINA, Kansas — The Cloud County Community College men's basketball team started the 2016-17 campaign on a high note Tuesday night, overcoming a tough start to earn a 75-65 non-conference road win against Brown Mackie College.

Few things went right for the T-Birds (1-0 overall) early on as they trailed by as many as 12 points and allowed 25 points through the first 10 minutes to a Lions' team that came out firing from beyond the arc.

"We still a really nice job of stemming the tide. (Brown Mackie) was making a ton of shots and I don't think we were very good defensively, got a little shell shocked," said Cloud County head coach, Chad Eshbaugh.

Cloud was able to right the ship, though, and get back to within five points at half time despite shooting just 30 percent from the floor.

In the second half, sophomores Lavar Harewood and Aamahne Santos spearheaded the comeback trail as Harewood poured in a team-high 19 points on the night, while Santos chipped in 14 points.

"Lavar can really score the basketball," Eshbaugh said. "On a night where we had some other guys struggle, it's great to see Lavar stand up there and make big shots when we needed him."

One of those big shots came with 2:39 remaining as Harewood nailed one of his four 3-pointers on the evening to give the T-Birds a 66-65 lead. Two possessions later, redshirt freshman Ramion Burt Jr. swung momentum in Cloud County's favor for good as he cashed in an offensive rebound to up the lead to 68-65, then blocked a shot on the other end of the floor to get his team the ball back with 1:25 remaining.

"Those were huge possessions there from Ramion. He gets a tough offensive rebound stick-back, then comes down and pins one on the square," Eshbaugh said. "I really thought that was the turning point at the end right there and kind of deflated (the Lions) a little bit."

Burt was the third T-Bird in double-figures with 10 points. Redshirt freshman Jordan McNelly was close behind with nine points and a team-high seven rebounds, aiding what was a dominating performance by the Cloud County bench.

 "I thought we got really good production from our bench. I think our bench outscored Brown Mackie's bench 42-8 and we got more points from our bench than we did from our starters (33)," Eshbaugh said. "I think that's one thing that can be a great strength for this team is our depth."

The T-Birds will now turn their attention toward Thursday's home opener against non-conference foe, Southeast Community College. It'll serve as an early season benchmark for a Cloud County team looking to challenge in the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference.

"We have a very good Southeast Nebraska team coming in on Thursday. We know they're going to be really good," Eshbaugh said. "It's that time now where (games) come fast and furious. Hopefully we got a little bit of that first game anxiety off (Tuesday). But at the same time, it's good to have a little bit of anxiety. It makes you compete."