EL DORADO, Kansas — The Cloud County Community College women's basketball team lost a heartbreaker Wednesday night, falling 66-55 on the road against Butler Community College.
Cloud County (17-8 overall, 14-8 KJCCC), after falling behind 11-7 early on, controlled much of Wednesday's action. The T-Birds battled back to take a 17-15 lead after the first quarter, held a 31-30 lead at the half, and padded their lead to 50-44 heading into the fourth.
Unfortunately for the T-Birds, the final 10 minutes belonged to the Grizzlies (19-6 overall, 16-6 KJCCC) and its duo of Dakota Vann and Kendriana Washington.
Butler ratcheted up its defensive pressure and started to jump passing lanes, forcing nine fourth-quarter turnovers by Cloud County. Offensively, Vann and Washington shot a sizzling 9-of-15 and combined for all 22 of Butler's points in what ended as a 22-5 scoring advantage for the Grizzlies in the final quarter.
"All of a sudden we started throwing the ball to them. We just couldn't get the bleeding to stop," said Cloud County head coach, Brett Erkenbrack. "We missed shots, didn't get rebounds, turned the ball over and gave them layups. The game got away from us. It's disappointing because we had battled hard for three quarters and put ourselves in position for a great road win this late in the season and a legitimate chance at third place in the conference."
Prior to the forgettable ending to what had been a strong performance by the T-Birds through three quarters. Defensively, Cloud County kept Washington and Vann in check through the first 30 minutes, with the duo combining for just 14 points.
Sophomore forward Erin Alexander anchored the Cloud County defense, finishing with three blocked shots and influencing a handful of others. She added 10 points and seven rebounds, as well.
The back-breaking sequences for Cloud County came between the 7:02 and 5:45 marks of the fourth quarter as, with the score tied at 50-50, Butler cashed in four straight layups set up by turnovers. The stretch not only hurt Cloud County's confidence on offense, but Erkenbrack said it also affected the T-Birds' defensive intensity the rest of the way.
"Most of the game, we did pretty much what we wanted to do, defensively. We guarded the way we needed to. I don't know if we got tired or demoralized. I think it was combination of both," Erkenbrack said. "The demoralizing live ball turnovers that lead directly to points for other team drain energy. We watched Butler lay the ball up four times in a row. Our intensity level dropped defensively and we had some lapses after that. Then we couldn't overcome it on the offensive end."
Cloud County will look to bounce back at 5:30 p.m. Saturday when it travels to take on Barton Community College (14-12 overall, 11-11 KJCCC), which sits seventh in the KJCCC standings right behind the T-Birds with four regular season games remaining.
"We'll have to be ready to go. Barton has a lot to play for," Erkenbrack said. "It's a game where we need to win and eliminate any possibility of them catching us."