MCCOOK, Nebraska — The Cloud County Community College men's basketball team lost a tight 76-66 matchup with North Platte Community College on Saturday, finishing 1-1 at the Region IX-Region VI Shootout hosted by McCook Community College.
A slow start was the main culprit for Cloud County (5-2 overall) as North Platte (4-0 overall) jumped out to a 32-17 lead to begin the evening.
The T-Birds were able to chip their way back into the game before the end of the half, responding with a 9-2 burst to go into the locker rooms down 34-26 despite shooting 27 percent (9-of-33) from the field compared to North Platte's 46 percent (12-of-26) mark.
"We just didn't hit shots in the first half," said Cloud County head coach, Jordan Altman. "I thought we were able to get some good looks and, defensively, I felt we did a fairly good job."
Cloud County was able to make things interesting in the final 20 minutes, shooting 36 percent (11-of-31) while ratcheting up the defensive effort to limit North Platte to 31 percent (10-of-32) shooting in the second half.
Unfortunately for the T-Birds, North Platte was able to protect its lead at the free-throw line as the Knights converted 17-of-21 (81 percent) attempts in the second half and finished 22-of-28 (79 percent) for the game.
"The deficit got bad a couple times, but I was really proud of the guys for fighting through it," Altman said. "We had a really short bench due to some injuries and the guys, after digging themselves a hole, did everything they could to get out of it. We just ran out of time."
Sophomore guard Jerome Kidd Jr. lead all Cloud County players with 20 points on Saturday on 6-of-13 shooting.
Day's eight points came in just eight minutes of playing time as the guard was limited due to knee soreness.
"We were down a lot of guys in the second half," Altman said. "We played Brayden a little bit, but he was dealing with some soreness in that same knee he missed the first part of the season with. He was a big part of why we won (84-82 over McCook) last night, but he was just too sore to go again tonight."
Cloud County will try to rest up and get everyone back over the next six days before playing its first home game of the season at 7 p.m. Friday in a rematch with the Knights.
"It's a unique situation. But I think it gives us an opportunity to work on adjustments from a first game to a second game against the same opponent," Altman said. "That will really become important to us when we get into KJCCC East play."
In addition to Friday's game being the home opener for the T-Birds, it'll also serve as their first game of the revitalized Cloud County Thanksgiving Classic.
"We've brought in two teams in North Platte and Iowa Western that have won their regions and competed at the national tournament the last couple of years. They are both top-quality teams," Altman said. "We're excited to play at home and hopefully we get some really good crowds; some families that come back to stay and grandma and grandpa's house for the holiday weekend and can come check us out."