CONCORDIA, Kansas — The Cloud County Community College men's basketball team dropped a heartbreaker Wednesday evening, ending its four-game winning streak with an 80-75 loss to a Barton Community College squad that received votes in this week's latest NJCAA national poll.
Cloud County (10-6 overall, 4-3 KJCCC East) held a late lead, and had two late chances to tie or retake a lead, but fell just a few buckets short of upending the visiting Cougars (13-2 overall, 4-2 KJCCC West).
"I told the guys 'I hoped this one hurt' because that was a lesson we needed to learn," said Cloud County head coach Jordan Altman. "We felt like it was a very winnable game for us, especially at home. We've got some guys back from injury and we felt like we had every chance and we certainly gave a really good shot there. We just had some mental breakdowns at really bad times."
Unfortunately for Cloud County, Barton responded immediately as Leondre Washington converted a tough three-point play opportunity to give the Cougars the lead right back at 75-73.
"There were a couple mental lapses on defense, but you have to give Barton credit because some of those finishes were just very impressive," Altman said. "That's the difference in the game. They had some very impressive finishes on difficult baskets and we missed some very easy looks on some very easy baskets."
Thompson, who led all scorers with a game-high 24 points, brought Cloud County even again at 75-75 before the T-Birds offense hit a wall over the final 1:41.
He was the lone T-Bird in double-figures, while freshman point guard DJ Sims (nine points), sophomore guard Jerome Kidd Jr. (eight points) and sophomore guard Jacob Shields helped contribute off the bench.
"I think our biggest issue right now is finding someone to help Alvin with scoring," Altman said. "(Wednesday) we just didn't have anyone step up to help him out. It's a five-point ballgame and you could add five points to about four of our guys as far as missed shots go."
The game remained tied until 33 ticks remaining when Barton took a 77-75 lead on a basket from Akeem White.
Cloud County had two possessions with a chance to tie or take the lead, but had a pair of passes picked off by Butler's Martin Vogts, who made 3-of-4 free throws down the stretch, to seal the 80-75 final.
The T-Birds, who trailed by as many as eight with 7:34 remaining, climbed back in the game due in large part to the boost from Pieschl. The Marysville, Kansas product nailed a pair of 3-pointers in the final four minutes in what was his first game back since breaking his wrist on Nov. 16.
"I couldn't have asked for a better first game back for him," Altman said of Pieschl. "It was exactly what he needed to get his season back on track. I'm really happy for him."
Cloud County will look to bounce back when it begins a mini two-game road trip within the span of 72 hours, starting at 4 p.m. Saturday against Pratt Community College. The T-Birds then head to El Dorado for a 1 p.m. tip-off against Butler Community College.
Despite the disappointment of Wednesday's loss, Altman said he feels good about where his team sits heading into the weekend.
"When we look at tonight's loss, the only reason it's going to hurt so bad is because we knew we had such a good chance. It was right there for us to take," Altman said. "That's why this one hurts so much, but we're still confident with where we're at. We need to get these two road games. No matter how a road win comes, if we can get a win on the road that'd be great to get our confidence back up."