INDEPENDENCE, Kansas — The Cloud County Community College men's basketball team is playing its best brand of basketball at the right time of year as the T-Birds picked off their third straight win Saturday, outlasting Independence Community College for a 99-96 road overtime win.
"I like right now we're a little bit late, but better late than never as far as things clicking," said Cloud County head coach Jordan Altman. "We haven't had too many nights, overtime or not, where we've approached triple-digits. You have to be aggressive come postseason play and we've been doing that."
Cloud County (15-14 overall, 9-10 KJCCC) was on the gas from the opening tip, starting the game on an 18-4 run en route to building a 41-31 lead at the half.
Independence (14-13 overall, 9-9 KJCCC) would battle back in the second half, pulling back within two at 62-60 by the second half media timeout with 9:11 remaining.
The T-Birds were in position to win the game in regulation, up 80-75 with 32 second remaining, but the Pirates were able to force the extra session via a 3-pointer with four seconds remaining, tying the game at 84-84.
"That was my fault. We probably should have fouled before the shot so they were only shooting two free throws," Altman said. "But what we told the guys was the same thing we told them after regulation against Hutchinson last year. 'You don't remember the blowout wins or get nostalgic about 30-point wins.' Fifteen to twenty years from now the guys will be talking about the win at Indy. If you want to be a basketball player and you love the game, these overtime games are the ones that stick with you."
The T-Birds would never trail during the overtime period. And with them clinging to a 92-89 lead with one minute remaining, freshman Gabe Pieschl nailed a 3-pointer from the top of the key with the shot clock running down that proved to be the dagger, upping Cloud's lead to 95-89.
"I was so happy for Gabe," Altman said. "I didn't do a good job with Wednesday's substitution patterns, so I owed him an extra look (Saturday) and he took advantage of those extra minutes. You have to have guys step up and hit shots and that was one of the biggest ones of the year so far."
Due to a stat software malfunction out in Independence, player and team stats from Saturday's game were not available as of Sunday morning.
Cloud County will now prepare for an 8 p.m. Wednesday night clash against Neosho County Community College at home to conclude the regular season.
With its current three-game win streak, including wins over teams they were chasing in Independence and Cowley, the T-Birds have played themselves back into a chance to finish inside the top-4 of the KJCCC East and the right to host a first-round playoff game.
Cloud County currently owns the No. 4 spot ahead of fifth-place Neosho County.
"We have every chance in the world to claim a home playoff spot now. We'll be watching a week from today when everyone is playing to see what happens," Altman said. "We'll have a chance to finish over .500 on the season, over .500 in the conference and sometimes that's all you can ask for in the KJCCC. We're getting contributions from everyone right now and hopefully we earn a first-round playoff game for the returners (Adetomi Ayilara, Brayden Day, Alvin Thompson and Jerome Kidd Jr.) who stuck things out with us last year."