ARKANSAS CITY, Kansas — For 20 minutes, the Cloud County Community College women's basketball team went on the road and gave Cowley County Community College all it could handle, trailing the No. 18 ranked Tigers, 41-40, heading into the half-time locker rooms.
Unfortunately, for the Thunderbirds, an eight-minute lapse in the third quarter would spoil their solid first-half effort and upset bid as they fell, 86-76.
"We were happy a half-time. We put ourselves in a position to get a good win on that road and that's kind of what makes it extra disappointing," said Cloud County head coach, Brett Erkenbrack. "On the road, against this kind of quality opponent, we needed to play 40 minutes of good basketball. We probably played 32 good minutes."
Cloud County (10-4 overall, 7-4 KJCCC), typically a man-to-man team on the defensive end of the floor, had success implementing a 2-3 zone in the first half as it attempted to slow down a high-powered Cowley team that entered the game second in the conference in scoring at 84.5 points per game.
But some breakdowns in the third quarter allowed for some open shot opportunities for the Tigers (12-3 overall, 8-3 KJCCC), who took full advantage en route to a 28-15 scoring advantage in the quarter to take a 69-55 lead into the fourth.
"To their credit, they (Tigers) hit shots. But we created open shot opportunities for them with defensive mistakes," Erkenbrack said. "We played a lot more zone tonight than we have for years and it worked for us for a while. But then we didn't communicate very well, doubled the ball about five possessions in a row and Cowley hit shots."
Cloud County stayed within shouting distance in the fourth quarter, clawing back to within nine at 81-72 with two minutes remaining, but ran out of time in its comeback attempt.
Offensively, the T-Birds had a balanced attack Saturday as six different players finished in double-figures, led by sophomore forward Simone Walker with 14 points and eight rebounds.
Joining Walker were sophomores Kaley Brockelman (13 points), Chelcie Kizart (12 points) and Erin Alexander (10 points), while freshmen Kennedy Gay and Kelsi Mueller added 11 points and 10 points, respectively.
The effectiveness of their 2-3 zone in spurts, and the efficiency on offense are some of the positives Erkenbrack said his team will take away from Saturday's defeat as they prepare for Wednesday's home matchup against Allen County Community College. Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m. inside Arley Bryant Gymnasium.
"I thought we did a nice job handling Cowley's defensive pressure. We passed well at times, shot the ball well at times, and most of our turnovers were the unforced ones in the half-court," Erkenbrack said. "I think there are some real positives to take away from this game with what we did defensively with the different looks we played and some of the things we did offensively. We just have to make fewer mistakes on both ends of the floor."