CHANUTE, Kansas — With the calendar about to flip to December, the Cloud County Community College men's basketball team is proving it's more than an early feel-good story as the T-Birds topped No. 13 ranked Neosho County Community College on Wednesday with an 85-80 come-from-behind overtime victory.
Cloud County, preseason ranked No. 11 in the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference (KJCCC), improved to 9-1 overall, 5-1 KJCCC with the win and to 5-0 on the road this season.
"It was one of those games where it feels like we dodged a bullet because we didn't shoot the ball well and we've been a pretty good shooting team up until this game," said Cloud County head coach, Chad Eshbaugh. "We guarded just well enough to keep us floating along there. Then at the end of the game we made big plays."
Cloud County managed to shoot 43.8 percent from the floor, but posted a season-low 19.2 mark from beyond the arc that included 0-for-11 in the first half.
The early shooting woes helped Neosho County (5-5 overall, 2-4 KJCCC) jump out to a 13-1 lead just two minutes and 27 seconds into the game, forcing a Cloud County timeout. The T-Birds were able to weather the storm, though, and responded with a 14-2 run of their own to tie the game back up at 15-15.
"I think this group has enough maturity to understand that, if there is a run, you have to answer it," Eshbaugh said. "We've played several games this year where there's been big runs and done a nice job answering them. Right there (13-1 deficit), we had to buckle down and make sure the game didn't get away from us early with a margin you can't overcome."
Cloud County went into the halftime locker rooms down four at 39-35, and were facing that same deficit with 90 seconds remaining in regulation before the T-Birds' sophomores took over.
Shooting guard Andrew Ballock nailed a runner in the lane with 48 ticks remaining and, following a defensive stop, point guard Aamahne Santos calmly made a pair of free throws with 29 seconds left to tie the game at 72-72. Santos scored 13 of his 17 points in the second half and overtime period.
Fellow sophomore guard Rashun Allen put Cloud County up for good with 4:07 remaining in overtime as he cashed in a corner 3-pointer, giving the T-Birds a 77-74 advantage. Allen, who scored 12 points off the bench, made a pair of free throws the next trip down to give Cloud some breathing room.
"I thought Rashun was off the charts (Wednesday). He did all the little things, made timely baskets, and guarded the best player on (Neosho County)," Eshbaugh said. "He was really instrumental in our comeback."
Redshirt freshman Ramion Burt Jr. also provide a huge lift off the bench Wednesday, tying Santos with a team-high 17 points on 8-of-11 shooting and grabbing a team-high nine rebounds in 25 minutes.
Jordan McNelly, fresh off his KJCCC DI Men's Player of the Week award announced Tuesday, extended his double-digit scoring streak to four games with 11 points on Wednesday, as well.
Cloud County will hunt for its 10th win of the season at 8 p.m. Saturday when it welcomes in Colby Community College.