EL DORADO, Kansas — For the second time in as many meetings this season, the Cloud County Community College men's basketball team produced huge plays in the final seconds to stun the Butler Community College Grizzlies.
Back on December 11, it was sophomore guard Deon Lyle who drew a foul on his 3-point, game-tying attempt and made all three free throws to set up a 93-82 overtime win. On Wednesday, it was sophomore Andrew Ballock's turn to play hero in the T-Birds' 70-66 road victory.
With the score tied at 66-66, Ballock received a side out-of-bounds pass on a curl, drove middle and found Lyle in stride on a backdoor cut with 4.5 seconds remaining to give Cloud County (17-9 overall, 13-9 KJCCC) a 68-66 lead.
"Andrew and Deon made really good reads there," said Cloud County head coach, Chad Eshbaugh. "Deon is such a good shooter, the defense had to overplay him."
Ballock wasn't done. On the ensuing in-bounds pass by Butler, he jumped the passing lane, saved the ball before it went out of bounds right to sophomore point guard Aamahne Santos, who cashed in the easy layup for two of his team-high 19 points to seal the 70-66 final.
"Andrew is such a heady kid. He had turned the ball over just before we called timeout and he is hard on himself because he cares so much. I'm happy he was able to come back from that," Eshbaugh said. "He deserves good things happening to him because he plays so hard. He has great instincts that I trust a great deal. He leads our conference in steals (2.4 per game) for a reason."
Ballock finished the night with five points, four assists, three rebounds and three steals. It was a stat line that was a microcosm of Wednesday's gritty, "all hands on deck" road win for a T-Birds team that found out earlier in the week that sophomore forward Alex Martin would be the out the rest of the season with a foot injury.
Redshirt freshman forward Ramion Burt Jr. scored 10 points off the bench, joining Lyle and Santos in double-figures. Sophomores Lavar Harewood (five points), Rashun Allen (five points), and Cherif Fall (four points, three rebounds), and freshman Solomon Finley (three points, three assists) all played impactful minutes.
Cloud County's bench outscored Butler's reserves, 23-14.
"Our competitive spirit showed tonight. We made plays for each other," Eshbaugh said. "Seeing the guys celebrate and enjoy a hard-fought road win like this is what makes this really fun. We have really good depth on this team and hopefully we can keep on having guys step up when their number is call."
Cloud County owned a 31-28 lead at the end of the first half and never trailed in the second half.
Defensively, the T-Birds limited the Grizzlies to 39 percent shooting for the game, including just a 6-for-25 (24 percent) mark from 3-point range, while punishing Butler for its 16 giveaways with a 28-18 advantage in points off turnovers.
Cloud will look to build off Wednesday's momentum when it travels to take on Barton Community College (20-6 overall, 16-6 KJCCC) at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday.