GARDEN CITY, Kansas — The Cloud County Community College women's basketball team erased a five-point deficit over the final 36 seconds on Saturday to steal a critical 54-53 road win over Garden City Community College, which entered the day tied with Cloud for sixth in the KJCCC standings.
Cloud County sophomore guard Kelsi Mueller kicked off the improbable comeback with a corner 3-pointer off a sideline in-bounds play with 36 seconds remaining that got the T-Birds (16-8 overall, 13-8 KJCCC) back within two of Garden City (15-10 overall, 12-9 KJCCC).
The T-Birds' defense clamped down the ensuing possession to force a shot clock violation, giving them the ball back with 5.5 seconds remaining, down 53-51.
"We were going to try and run the same play, with a little variation, that we had the possession before with Kelsi," described Cloud County head coach, Brett Erkenbrack. "We wanted her to come off a double screen. But Garden City kind of took that away."
As time ticked down, freshman Camille Awa Baud, who was 1-for-2 with two points through the first 39 minutes and change, got the ball at the top of the key and made the biggest shot of her young Cloud County career as she nailed a game-winning, straightaway 3-pointer as the final buzzer sounded.
"It was a huge shot for Camille and for our team. This is the biggest victory of the year for us, I believe," Erkenbrack said. "In terms of how bad we needed this win being tied with Garden City going in, and them coming off the win against Hutchinson, it was a huge win for us and a big moment for Camille…I thought she showed a lot of character, pride and courage to not only hit that shot, but she made a couple other plays for us in the second half."
It was an exciting ending to an intense game between the two KJCCC foes, each clamoring to finish in the top-8 of the conference to get a first-round home game in the Region VI playoffs.
Garden City led 25-22 at the half and 39-38 after three quarters, aided by a 16-9 advantage in turnovers and on the back of a game-high 28 points from Abigail Green.
The Lady Broncbusters used a 10-0 run between the end of the third quarter and beginning of the fourth to build their largest lead of the game at 46-39 with 8:39 remaining.
Cloud County fought back behind a big fourth quarter from Mueller as she scored nine of her team-high 21 points during the comeback. The 5-foot, 2-inch guard out of Moscow, Kansas also grabbed a team-high six rebounds.
"Kelsi was awesome (Saturday)," Erkenbrack said. "All of her minutes were difficult. All of the points she scored were not easy. She was about all we had, offensively, in the first half to keep us in it."
The T-Birds outshot Garden City as a team, 46 percent to 34 percent from the floor, while receiving a big lift — 17-5 advantage in bench points — from their reserves. Baud scored her five points off the bench, and Cloud County received six points apiece from freshman Mikaela Meyers and sophomore Kennedy Gay, who also tied Mueller with six rebounds.
"I thought Kennedy was fantastic. She had some huge rebounds in the second half and made some big defensive plays," Erkenbrack said. "I thought she may have played one of her better games of the season."
Cloud County will aim to build off Saturday's victory when it returns home next week for a pair of home games against Butler and Barton, starting with a 6 p.m. matchup on Wednesday against the Grizzlies.
"It's a huge week for us playing two games at home against two teams we've lost to on the road and two teams we're battling in the conference standings," Erkenbrack said. "This ballgame (Saturday) and the outcome of it will hopefully carry through this next week."