CONCORDIA, Kansas — The Cloud County Community College women's basketball team rang in the new year in style Wednesday night by earning its first win of 2017, and 10th win of the 2016-17 season, with a 65-58 victory over Barton Community College.
"The No. 1 thing was getting the win. It was important for us," said Cloud County head coach, Brett Erkenbrack. "I don't know if we played very well, but we had some good spurts and did enough to win."
It had been 23 days since the T-Birds (10-3 overall, 7-3 Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference) had seen game action and the rust from holiday break showed early for each team.
Cloud County shot 36 percent in the first half versus 20 percent by the Lady Cougars (7-7 overall, 4-6 KJCCC), but Barton was able to hang around in large part to its ability to get to the foul line. Barton was 9-of-12 at the charity stripe, while the T-Birds did not attempt a free throw during the first 20 minutes.
"I wish we would have been a little more aggressive taking the ball to the basket. We never shot a free throw in the first half and that is on us," Erkenbrack said. "We weren't aggressive taking the ball to the basket."
The T-Birds held a slim 27-24 lead at the break after freshman guard Kelsi Mueller nailed a corner 3-pointer as time expired. But they busted out in a big way in the third, opening on a 16-6 run en route to a 25-point quarter on 53 percent shooting.
"We got our defense going, got some steals and some layups, and we changed up the offense to free us up a little bit," Erkenbrack said. "We played with more energy in the third quarter, so that was good. We got ourselves a little cushion there."
Mueller scored nine of her 15 points in the second half, and Cloud County's sophomore trio of Kaley Broeckelman, Chelcie Kizart and Erin Alexander each had a big hand in the T-Birds' second-half surge.
Kizart finished with a game-high 22 points and three steals, Brockelman scored all eight of her points in the second half, and Alexander nearly had a double-double the hard way as she recorded 12 points and a career-high eight blocked shots.
The T-Birds, who entered Wednesday's contest leading the KJCCC in blocks per game at 5.9, finished with a total of 10 swats against the Lady Cougars.
"Erin is a tremendous shot blocker and I thought when we went after the ball, we got some nice blocked shots," Erkenbrack said. "I think it's important to block shots when you have an opportunity to. That's a big part of our defense and it certainly lowers the other team's field goal percentage."
Barton tried to spoil the block party, whittling Cloud County's 15-point lead with 6:43 remaining down to four with 1:48 left following back-to-back 3-pointers. But that's as close as the Lady Cougars would come as Kizart tallied the final three points of the game to seal the 65-58 final.
Up next for Cloud County will be a tough road test against No. 18 ranked Cowley County Community College (11-3 overall, 7-3 KJCCC) at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday.