CONCORDIA, Kansas — It took a little while. But once the Cloud County Community College women's basketball team got rolling, the T-Birds never looked back in their 76-44 win Thursday against Pratt Community College in the first round of the Region VI Tournament.
With the win, Cloud County advances to Monday's second-round game against Coffeyville. Tip-off will be at 7 p.m. inside Hartman Arena in Park City, Kansas.
Thursday's blowout got off to a rocky start, however, as Cloud County (22-8 overall, 18-8 KJCCC) limped out to a 23-17 lead over the visiting Lady Beavers (8-23 overall, 7-19 KJCCC) at the half after shooting 10-of-36 from the floor.
The T-Birds would snap out of their funk in the third quarter, outscoring Pratt 28-9 in the quarter to balloon their lead to 51-26.
"We were so tentative and stagnant on both ends of the floor in that first half. But, quite honestly, sometimes the first playoff game is the hardest in a lot of ways," said Cloud County head coach, Brett Erkenbrack. "We just didn't play well in that first half, but we were able to get going there in the second. Shannon Owens and Chelcie Kizart each played really well in the second half."
The sophomore duo punished Pratt on the scoreboard and around the rim in the second half. Kizart tallied eight of her game-high 28 points and five of her 12 rebounds in the third quarter alone, while Owens, who also recorded a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds, chipped in seven during the third to break the game open.
Kizart and Owens were the lone T-Birds in double-figures. The backcourt mates of Kaley Broeckelman — a mere seven 3-pointers shy of tying the school record — and Kelsi Mueller each added eight points.
Cloud County finished with a 46-26 advantage in points in the paint and drastically won the turnover battle as the Beavers committed 24 turnovers compared to 10 by Cloud. The T-Birds converted those 24 giveaways into 23 points off turnovers.
No. 5 seeded Cloud will get three days to prepare for Monday's tilt against the No. 4 seeded Coffeyville Red Ravens. The two teams split the regular season series as the T-Birds won 70-47 on their home floor back on Nov. 26. Coffeyville grinded out a 72-64 win at its place on Feb. 1.
"We've been playing really good the last couple of weeks. We didn't play particularly well (Thursday), but at this time of year it's more about if you win than how you won," Erkenbrack said. "Fortunate thing for us now is that we have five players back from last year that played two games down (at Hartman Arena), and Jenna Clasen played there when she was at Garden City. Half our team has been there and played in that atmosphere."