CONCORDIA, Kansas — The Cloud County Community College men's basketball team suffered a 71-70 heartbreaker in its KJCCC opener against Dodge City Community College on Saturday night inside Arley Bryant Gymnasium.
Cloud County (2-2 overall, 0-1 KJCCC) rallied from a four-point deficit with 13 seconds remaining to give itself a chance after sophomore guard Solomon Finley splashed home a 3-pointer with four second left. The T-Birds defense then forced an errant in-bounds pass from Dodge City (3-1 overall, 1-0 KJCCC) the ensuing possession to give them the ball back with 3.8 seconds remaining.
Off the in-bounds play, sophomore forward Ramion Burt Jr. was unable to get off a clean look at the rim as he was stripped and the ball went out of bounds off Dodge City with .7 seconds remaining, setting up one final in-bounds play for Cloud County.
Freshman guard Jerome Kidd Jr. got an open look from 23-feet out, but had his potential game-winning 3-pointer come up a few centimeters short.
"It was a windfall of circumstances there where we were able to have a shot at the end," said Cloud County head coach, Jordan Altman. "Out of 2-3 guys we have, Jerome is one of the guys I don't mind taking that shot. He had to take it. We had called a play to get (Ramion Burt Jr.) the ball going at the rim, but it was probably my fault. I drew up something new that we hadn't shown before. The execution wasn't quite right because we hadn't practiced it, so we didn't get the ball where we wanted it and that's my fault. We still got a great look and great 3-point shooter with a shot for the win. That's all you can hope for."
It was a tough loss to stomach for the T-Birds, who excelled on the defense end of the floor by holding the visiting Conquistadors to 34.3 percent shooting for the game, but were victims of death by a thousand paper cuts, including a 34.6 percent shooting night of their own and 59.1 percent mark at the free-throw line.
"We definitely missed some bunnies, some shots around the rim that we normally make or have made in the past. I felt we shot way too many perimeter shots, whether those were 3-pointers or deep 17 or 18-footers," Altman said. "We've been very honest with the guys that 10-15 3-pointers is a game total, and we shot 12 in the first half. If you take that and instead pump fake and drive, and your percentage goes up, it's a different ballgame. When we made that adjustment and figured that out, that's what got us back into it."
One of the positive takeaways from Saturday's game was the fight exhibited by the T-Birds, who found themselves down by as many as 13 points with 8:10 remaining, but stayed committed defensively to claw their way back.
"Our guys' defense kept them in this game because it could have very easily gotten away from them," Altman said. "At eight minutes remaining, the deficit was at 13 points. We still had it at around three possessions. They could have given up then."
Sophomore forward Ramion Burt Jr. continued his fast start to the 2017-18 campaign with a team-high 13 points and career-high 17 rebounds.
Redshirt freshman Alvin Thompson joined him in double-figures with 11 points, while sophomore point guard Solomon Finley went for nine points and the trio of Breyon Jackson, Kidd Jr. and Shawn Lee each added even points.
Lee also added nine rebounds, four assists, three steals and a team-high three blocked shots.
Up next for the T-Birds will be a pair of tough tests next week, starting with Wednesday's 8 p.m. showdown against the defending national champions and No. 1 ranked Hutchinson Community College Blue Dragons. Cloud County then turns around and hosts Seward County Community College at 8 p.m. on Saturday.
"It is certainly our toughest back-to-back of the season, as far as two teams in a row," Altman said. "It's a unique opportunity. I told the guys this when the polls came out: 'there's only going to be a dozen teams in the entire country that have a chance to knock off the No. 1 team in the country. That have a chance to do something special like that.'"