CONCORDIA, Kansas — Playing in front of a packed Arley Bryant Gymnasium on Homecoming night, the Cloud County Community College men's basketball team sank the visiting Independence Community College Pirates, 91-80, in arguably its most complete-game effort of the new year.
The T-Birds (12-10 overall, 6-7 KJCCC) have now won two straight games — they won 78-75 over Allen County on Thursday — firmly putting a five-game skid earlier this month in the rearview mirror.
"Today was the type of day we've been looking for the last several weeks," said Cloud County head coach, Jordan Altman. "I thought our preparation on and off the floor was great with the quick turnaround trying to get ready for two really different teams. Allen County, we really felt like its guards and big wings were the biggest threats. Fast forward to tonight and (Independence) gets 44 points in the paint from productive forwards. We had to flip the switch, change gears and I couldn't be prouder of the way the guys responded."
Despite the 44 points in the paint for the Pirates (12-9 overall, 7-5 KJCCC), the T-Birds were able to counter with a 20-5 advantage in fast break points and 18 points off Independence's 13 turnovers.
"The postgame speech tonight was 'Understand strengths and understand weaknesses,'" Altman said. "We knew the post defense was a weakness tonight, but other than that we saw our strengths and we really hit on our strengths. That's something we have to really buy in to. The faster we play the better we play right now."
Cloud County, which shot an even 40 percent (26-of-65) from the field, was led by a wave of guards Saturday as the trio of redshirt sophomore Alvin Thompson, sophomore Brayden Day and sophomore Jerome Kidd Jr. combined for 46 points.
Thompson led all players with 20 points, while Day added 14 points and Kidd Jr. chipped in 12 points off the bench.
"Our guards led us. You have the three sophomores really step up and contribute," Altman said. "We got help from Nysir and help from Gabe tonight in a lot of ways. He took on a different role for us with defense and rebounding."
Cloud County dictated much of the action Saturday, jumping out to a 47-34 lead at the half building a 24-point advantage with 15:43 remaining in the second half.
Independence didn't go away quietly, rallying back to 11 points on three separate occasions and closing all the way back to within nine at 82-73 inside the final two minutes.
Thompson made sure the Pirates wouldn't inch any closer as he buried a corner 3-pointer with 1:26 remaining and converted a 3-point play at the 1:01 mark to put the bow on the 91-80 final.
For Thompson, the 2019 Cloud County Homecoming King, the 20 points were a welcomed sight as it was the first time since Jan. 12 that the fourth-leading scorer in the KJCCC had eclipsed the 20-point mark.
"It was great to see Alvin get back into a flow and rhythm out there. He had some family here and winning the Homecoming crown; it's important for his mentality going down the home stretch that he's as confident in himself as myself, Coach (Todd) Johnston and his teammates are," Altman said. "We all knew he was a 20-point guy and one of the best players in the league and that his personality could win a Homecoming King. But he didn't believe those things. When he fully commits and understands his capabilities, he's going to be really dangerous."
Cloud County will now turn its attention toward a Wednesday road clash against Neosho County Community College, which is currently scuffling with losses in five of its last six games. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m. in Chanute.
Notes: At halftime of the men's game, Cloud County Community College inducted its 13th Cloud County Athletics Hall of Fame class, consisting of Chad Myers (1993-94, men's golf), Kelli (SIlvey) Kuennen (1995-96, softball) and Kellyn (Johnson) Taylor (2005-06, track and field).
Information on the three inductees is available at: http://cloudtbirds.com/general/2018-19/releases/20190102nyrcct