HUTCHINSON, Kansas — The Cloud County Community College men's basketball team had to settle for a season series split against perennial powers, No. 13 Hutchinson Community College, following a 95-63 road loss to the defending national champions on Saturday.
The Blue Dragons (16-3 overall, 12-3 KJCCC), looking to avenge their 82-79 loss to the T-Birds (6-12 overall, 4-11 KJCCC) back on Nov. 15, controlled action from the opening few minutes, courtesy of a 38-point performance from their sophomore star J.J. Rhymes and 15 from Devonte Bandoo.
"Those two guys had 80 percent of their points in the first half, and at one point they had 21 of the first 22 points of the game," said Cloud County head coach, Jordan Altman. "We knew J.J. was going to get his, so early we tried to take Devonte out of his game. That's probably my fault, but we figured J.J. was going to get his points no matter what… We just couldn't stop those two guys."
The problem was compounded by the T-Birds' struggles offensively as they shot 33 percent in the first half and for the game (26-of-80).
Cloud County was 4-of-24 (17 percent) from 3-point range and were outshot 34-13 at the free-throw line Saturday.
"Our guys definitely settled and at times looked afraid of getting into the paint," Altman said. "When we've committed to getting to the rim, we've won basketball games. But we weren't committed to doing that (Saturday)."
Despite the struggles, Cloud County was able to stay within contact with the Blue Dragons after starting the second half on an 8-3 run to close a 42-27 halftime deficit to 45-35 with 17:16 remaining.
Unfortunately, Cloud County was unable to generate enough offense or slow down the duo of Rhymes and Bando to inch any closer the rest of the way.
Sophomore guard Shawn Lee was solid in his 29 minutes with seven points, seven rebounds and four steals.
Up next for the T-Birds will be a revenge game of their own as they head off to face Seward County Community College at 8 p.m. on Wednesday. Cloud County fell 56-39 to the Saints back on Nov. 18.
"I hope the guys have some bounce in them, some fight and determination. I hope they remember how bad it felt to have the big high of beating Hutchinson then the big low of performing so poorly the first time we played Seward," Altman said. "Now we have the chance for the opposite. Hopefully we have a big high and come out ready to play on Wednesday."