CONCORDIA, Kansas — The Cloud County Community College men's basketball team took control of its own destiny Monday night, locking up the No. 4 spot in the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference standings with a 68-55 victory over Independence on Sophomore Night.
The victory put the T-Birds (20-10 overall, 16-10 KJCCC) at the 20-win plateau for the first time since the 2011-12 season and doubles last season's win total.
"It's great to win 20. I think in the league this year, that's quite an accomplishment," said Cloud County head coach, Chad Eshbaugh.
Official brackets will be released Tuesday morning, but it is expected that the T-Birds will host Pratt Community College at 8 p.m. on Thursday. The women's team also drew Pratt in their first-round matchup set for 6 p.m. that evening.
The T-Birds fought through a sluggish first half where it held a slim 29-28 lead at the break before finding their legs in the early minutes of the second half.
Cloud County came out of the locker rooms and promptly went on a 19-5 run during the first 8:01 of the second half to balloon the lead up to 48-35.
Could led by as many as 19 points with 8:58 remaining and were able to keep the visiting Pirates (13-16 overall, 10-16 KJCCC) at an arm's length the rest of the way.
"The first 5-7 minutes of the second half I thought we played OK and were able to create a lead there and maintain it down the stretch," Eshbaugh said. "It wasn't a fantastic effort, but it feels good to win."
A trio of sophomores led the way offensively for the T-Birds as Rashun Allen scored a team-high 11 points on a spotless 4-for-4 shooting, while Andrew Ballock and Deon Lyle each chipped in 10 points apiece.
Ballock added four rebounds, five assists and four steals on the night, as well.
Redshirt freshmen Jordan McNelly and Ramion Burt Jr., as well as sophomore Cherif Fall, all provided quality minutes inside as Burt Jr. went for six points and seven rebounds, McNelly finished with six points and five rebounds, and Fall tallied five points and five boards.
As a team, Cloud County owned a 30-18 advantage in points in the paint and a 19-9 lead in points off turnovers.
While the 26-game graind of the conference schedule is over, Eshbaugh said time for celebration and reflection will have to wait as his T-Birds take aim at making some noise in the Region VI Tournament, starting at 8 p.m. Thursday at home against Pratt.
"This is a quick page turn for us," Eshbaugh said. "We've earned a home playoff game and I'm excited for the playoffs. I think our guys are excited for the playoffs. We're going to spend about 10 seconds enjoying this win and then we're going to start getting focused in on Thursday."