T-Birds break out in 96-89 victory over Allen County

Sophomore guard Andrew Ballock
Sophomore guard Andrew Ballock

CONCORDIA, Kansas —  Peaks and valleys are bound to happen for a basketball team over the course of a 30-game schedule. On Wednesday, the Cloud County Community College men's basketball team played itself out of a mini two-game skid to start the spring portion of its schedule as it notched an entertaining 96-89 victory over Allen County Community College inside Arley Bryant Gymnasium.

"First of all, it was a great game from a fan's perspective I'm sure because of all the points scored. Possessions were at a premium," said Cloud County head coach, Chad Eshbaugh. "Obviously, our guys were coming off a couple tough games, so our confidence was huge (Wednesday). We needed to feel good about ourselves and I think we got really big production from everyone who played tonight."

Sophomore point guard Aamahne Santos, matched up against former T-Bird guard E.J. Garnes for the Red Devils, shined Wednesday as he tied for a game-high in points with 21, while adding three rebounds, three assists and not committing a turnover in his game-high 37 minutes of action.

"I love Aamahne. I think he's potentially the best point guard in our league," Eshbaugh said. "I was happy to see him make big plays down the stretch."

Santos' play of the night came with 51 seconds remaining when he poked the ball away from Allen County (7-9 overall, 4-8 KJCCC) Quentin Blaue at half-court and glided in for a layup to put the T-Birds up six at 91-85.

The backcourt duo of Santos and sophomore Deon Lyle helped Cloud County (12-4 overall, 8-4 KJCCC) erase what was a nine-point deficit with 10:52 remaining as the two combined for 27 second-half points.

Lyle splashed home a 3-pointer with 7:58 remaining to give Cloud County its first lead of the second half, then added another two possessions later after a Santos' trey to cap a 20-4 run that upped the T-Birds' lead to 79-72.

"When you make shots and get stops, the energy increases. I'm just really happy for the boys," Eshbaugh said. "They had a good vibe to them. We hadn't made shots the last two games, so it was something they needed and deserved a little bit of because they are hard-working guys."

Joining Lyle and Santos in double-figures was sophomore guard Andrew Ballock, who nearly tallied a triple-double with 10 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds, as well as redshirt freshman Jordan McNelly.

McNelly tied for the team lead with 21 points on 8-of-10 shooting while logging 34 minutes on a night where Cloud County was shorthanded, especially at the forward position with Cherif Fall and Rahjames Robinson unavailable.

"We ran out of walking boots for the guys because we have too many who need them right now," jested Eshbaugh. "I thought early on our bigs were really good. Then Alex Martin and Ramion Burt Jr. got hamstrung with fouls and I thought Abe Elder and Jordan McNelly really held the fort down for us."

Martin scored seven points and had a team-best two steals in his third start this season. Burt Jr. also added seven points and five rebounds, while Elder chipped in five points and three rebounds.

The T-Birds will look to build off this win as they prepare for Saturday's conference road test against Independence Community College. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m.