COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa — The Cloud County Community College men's basketball team took a quick break from KJCCC action on Saturday, heading north to take on a talented Iowa Western Community College squad.
Cloud County battled the Reivers tough in a back-and-forth affair that saw the two teams combined for 12 ties and 13 lead changes, but a late surge by Iowa Western denied the T-Birds' attempt to steal a road win, falling by an 82-72 final.
"It's hard to take any moral victories this time of year, but I was really proud of how the guys fought. We had a lot of things go wrong for us, but they just kept fighting and that was something we hadn't done in a lot of games," said Cloud County head coach, Jordan Altman, whose team was without leading scorer Alvin Thompson on Saturday. "It was very encouraging to see them fight through the end with that one."
In Thompson's absence, Cloud County (12-12 overall, 6-8 KJCCC) received big efforts from freshman forward Iyen Enaruna, with a career-high 16 points to go with six rebounds in his 24 minutes off the bench.
Enaruna, one of three T-Birds in double-figures Saturday, scored 10 of his 16 in the second half, including four straight that gave Cloud County a 66-62 lead with 5:36 remaining.
"Iowa Western has two really good forwards who are big and physical, but they give up a little speed and Iyen really took advantage of it," Altman said. "He did a great job putting the ball on the floor and getting to the basket. If we can keep getting Iyen into double-digit scoring, we're going to be alright."
Kidd Jr and backcourt mate, redshirt freshman Nysir Scott, joined Enaruna in double-figures with 10 points and 14 points, respectively. Scott added seven rebounds and two steals from the point guard spot.
Iowa Western (18-6 overall, 2-3 ICCAC) would battle back, though, retaking the lead at 67-66 with 4:39 remaining.
Cloud County kept it a two-possession game as late as 75-70 following a 3-pointer by Scott with 1:35 remaining, but the Reivers were able to close out the 82-72 final going 7-of-10 from the free throw line in the final 90 seconds.
"Iowa Western is darn near a top-25 team and we knew they'd make a run back at some point," Altman said. "I thought we did a good job making sure it wasn't a situation where it was a really big run that forced us to call a timeout. Iowa Western just chipped away at it. It was a night we were short a couple of legs (Thompson and Sidy Sissoko injured in first half), and we had four guys in foul trouble, so we kind of didn't have the gas to stick with (the Reivers) there. Then things got out of hand with the free throws."
The two teams were nearly identical from the field on Saturday, with Cloud County shooting 25-of-65 (39 percent) and the Reivers coming in at 38 percent (24-of-63).
Iowa Western was able to make up ground winning the turnover battle, 19-14, and finished a plus-10 on free throw makes (29-of-41, 71 percent) compared to the T-Birds (19-of-28, 68 percent).
Cloud County will look to build off Saturday's positives when it resumes KJCCC action at 8 p.m. Wednesday at home against Butler Community College.
"We've got to recognize what kept us in this game and gave us a chance to be right there and win it," Altman said. "If we perform that way under some better circumstances, hopefully we get a better result."