Tough start stifles T-Birds in 64-47 loss to No. 18 Cowley

Sophomore forward Kennedy Gay had 11 points and eight rebounds in Saturday's 64-47 loss to No. 18 Cowley
Sophomore forward Kennedy Gay had 11 points and eight rebounds in Saturday's 64-47 loss to No. 18 Cowley

CONCORDIA, Kansas — The Cloud County Community College women's basketball team was unable to snap out of its current three-game funk as a slow start plagues the T-Birds in a 64-47 loss Saturday to No. 18 ranked Cowley College.

"That's really three games in a row where we've lost our way. We aren't together. We're a disconnected team right now," said Cloud County head coach, Brett Erkenbrack. "We were very well connected in the month of November and somewhere along the line we've lost some of that."

A dreadful first quarter put the T-Birds (10-4 overall, 7-4 KJCCC) behind the 8-ball early as the visiting Tigers (13-2 overall, 9-2 KJCCC) jumped out to a 17-0 lead before a pair of free throws from freshman Mikaela Meyers got Cloud on the scoreboard with 3:27 remaining in the quarter.

Cloud County played timid against the size and ball pressure applied by the Tigers' full-court press in the first half as Cloud committed 17 of its season-high 33 turnovers in the first half  — nine more than its previous high — and was outrebounded, 28-18.

Cowley cashed in on those opportunities as it held an 18-4 advantage in points off turnovers, and 14-2 margin in second chance points en route to taking a 44-21 lead at the half.

"Give Cowley credit, it is a very active ball club. But my goodness we through the ball right to them repeatedly," Erkenbrack said. "We were so tentative at every position. It wasn't just with the turnovers. We had people open where we'd either make a late pass, or not make a good, crisp pass where someone could take the ball right there and shoot it. That cost us some possessions."

The T-Birds trailed by as many as 25 with 5:26 remaining in the first half, but showed their resiliency and flashes of the group fans saw much of the first semester.

Cloud County owned the third quarter, outscoring Cowley 15-3 run through the first 8:24, to trim the deficit to 11 at 47-36 following a traditional three-point play by sophomore forward Kennedy Gay.

"I was encouraged in the second half because I thought we gave better effort, we went after the ball a little harder off the board, and caused some turnovers ourselves," Erkenbrack said. "There were certainly some glimmers of hope there in that third quarter."

Cloud County dominated the glass in the second half, 27-14, and limited Cowley to just one second-chance point over the final 20 minutes.  But unfortunately for the T-Birds, the struggles with turnovers would halt their comeback.

Down 12 with 25 seconds remaining in the third quarter, the T-Birds had a chance to get back within 10 or single digits after Gay corralled a defensive rebound. Cowley jumped the outlet pass and Kaitlyn Potter, who scored a game-high 27, drained a 3-pointer the ensuing possession to bump the Tigers' lead back to 15.

Cowley was able to keep Cloud County at an arm's length the rest of the way to preserve the 64-47 final.

Gay and freshman forward Scout Frame led all T-Birds with 11 points. Frame added 10 rebounds for her fifth double-double of the season. Gay grabbed eight rebounds in her 17 minutes, while freshman forward Courtney Hammel went for eight points and seven rebounds off the bench.

Cloud County will look to right the ship when it travels to face Allen County Community College at 5 p.m. on Wednesday.

"We can overcome this, but we're only going to do that by getting ourselves reconnected and playing with a lot more effort, heart and pride for 40 minutes," Erkenbrack said. "Certainly we showed some things in the second half that all hope is not lost."