ARKANSAS CITY, Kansas — The Cloud County Community College men's basketball team picked off arguably its most impressive road win of the season Monday, overcoming an 11-point halftime deficit to steal a 78-75 road win over a Cowley College team that had won six of its last seven games entering the evening.
"That wasn't just any old win. That was a win against one of the hottest teams in the conference right now," said Cloud County head coach Jordan Altman. "It just goes to show our guys what they are capable of because that was not a bottom-dweller. That's a top-tier program in our league we were able to grind one out against and get a win."
Cloud County (13-14 overall, 7-10 KJCCC) started its comeback early on in the second half thanks in large part to its work on the defensive end of the floor.
After allowing Cowley (17-10 overall, 9-8 KJCCC) to shoot 41 percent in the first half, the T-Birds limited the Tigers to 31 percent (12-of-39) in the second half, including just a 2-for-16 mark behind the 3-point line.
"I thought we did one of our better jobs guarding the basketball and stopping penetration," Altman said. "The way we guarded their ball screens was about as perfect as you could ask for as a coach. We would not like them get any action off their ball screens and that threw them out of their rhythm and what they like to do."
Cloud County pulled even with the Tigers at 43-43 with 14 minutes remaining following six straight points from freshman guard Gabe Pieschl.
Pieschl finished with 10 points in his 17 minutes, while fellow freshman DJ Sims poured in a career-high 21 points, manning the starting point guard duties in the absence of Nysir Scott, to help quarterback the comeback.
"That made the thought of their sophomore years a lot more exciting," Altman said of Pieschl and Sims. "They were both forced into extra minutes due to injuries and they really stepped up. I can't overstate the importance of DJ tonight and Gabe has been waiting for a night like that to find his rhythm and game again."
Cloud County, which also received double-digit efforts from sophomores Jerome Kidd Jr. and Adetomi Ayilara with 10 points apiece, would build its lead up to as many as nine points at 65-56 with 5:12 remaining, but had to survive one more run back from the Tigers.
Cowley tied the score at 72-72 with 46 seconds left before freshman forward Edoardo Del Cadia answered back with an offensive rebound put-back while getting fouled. He converted the 3-point play to give the T-Birds the lead back at 75-72 with 37 ticks remaining.
Del Cadia would finished with 19 points and a team-high 15 rebounds, nine of which came on the offensive glass to spearhead what was a dominating 21-6 advantage for Cloud County in second-chance points.
"He was determined and played with a mental focus we hadn't seen in a while," Altman said of Del Cadia. "He showed off what he's capable of doing."
Up 78-75 with 8.7 seconds left, the T-Birds had to dodge one final gasp from Cowley. Cloud County tried to foul Cowley point guard Dylan Vincent just after he crossed half court, but the foul was not granted.
Vincent shot a 30-footer trying to sell the foul call. The offensive rebound fell to Cowley forward Brenden Van Dyke, who had his potential tying 3-pointer graze front iron as the buzzer sounded.
"I would have been really upset had that gone a different way because DJ was trying to foul and did foul (Vincent). The refs didn't call it. Smartly, (Vincent) jacked a shot trying to get the three free throws," Altman said. "When they got the offensive rebound with a non 3-point shooter to take the last shot, that's about the best you can hope for in that situation."
Cloud County will look to build off Monday's victory when it hosts Allen County Community College at 8 p.m. Wednesday; it's fourth game in the last seven days.
"We need to have the mentality where we have a sense of urgency and we're going for the kill right away," Altman said. "If you let a team like Allen hang around, it only takes one run for them to steal a game from you. We'll need to put another 40-minute performance together."