CONCORDIA, Kansas — Tuesday's matchup between the Cloud County Community College men's basketball team and Pratt Community College was a back-and-forth, high-scoring affair. But it was the opportunities that didn't go in that proved costly in the T-Birds' 103-86 loss to the visiting Beavers.
"I don't want to take anything away from Pratt. They (Beavers) play so hard and so fast, and they've shot the ball better than any team that has come into our gym this year, but if we just finish the shots and layups we had, we could have won that game by 20," said Cloud County head coach Jordan Altman, who estimated the T-Birds missed around 20 shots around the basket on Tuesday. "We're literally talking about 20 points in each half on missed layups and bunnies around the rim."
Cloud County (3-4 overall, 1-3 KJCCC) shot 42 percent from the floor, and had five players in double-figures on Tuesday, but couldn't counter a second-half barrage from Pratt (4-4 overall, 1-3 KJCC) that saw it score 65 points and shoot 66 percent over the final 20 minutes.
The night got off to a promising start as the T-Birds overcame an early 11-point deficit to hold a 45-38 lead at the half, thanks in large part to a 10-0 advantage in second-chance points. Four of Cloud County's nine offensive rebounds in the first half came from sophomore guard Shawn Lee, who scored 11 of his 13 points during that stretch.
"(Offensive rebounds) were probably the difference in the first half," Altman said. "Those second-chance points were the difference in the first half. We had a 15 rebound lead in the first half and finish plus-6."
Cloud County had pushed its lead to 10 at the 15:48 mark of the second half at 60-50 following a layup by freshman forward, Breyon Jackson.
Momentum changed for good over the next 6:55 as Pratt went on a 31-11 surge to take a 10-point lead of its own at 81-71 via a 3-pointer from James Brooks. Brooks scored a game-high 27 points, 19 coming in the second half.
"All we talked about at half time was 'They won't go away,'" said Altman, referring to the Beavers. "That's exactly what happened."
Cloud was able to hang around, down eight points at 87-79 with 5:02 remaining on a made free throw by freshman JaVary Christmas, but were unable to inch any closer.
Christmas tallied 14 points off the bench on 6-of-10 shooting, tying for the team high with redshirt sophomore Ramion Burt Jr. (14 points, 12 rebounds) and redshirt freshman Alvin Thompson (14 points, five rebounds).
The T-Birds will have their first road test of the season at 4 p.m. on Saturday when they travel to face No. 14 Coffeyville Community College (7-1 overall, 3-1 KJCCC), the defending Region VI champions. The Red Ravens fell 99-62 against No. 1 Hutchinson on Tuesday; a team the T-Birds beat 82-79 on Nov. 15.
"I've felt for awhile that Coffeyville is really the team to beat (in the KJCCC)," Altmans said. "They've got some real serious matchups. It's a guard league and they've got two returning starters (Malik Keith and Travis Washington) at the point guard and shooting guard positions. That makes a world of difference. Not just returners but returning starters. Two guys that helped them win the Region VI Tournament last year. It doesn't get any easier, that's for sure."