CONCORDIA, Kansas — The Cloud County Community College women's basketball team posted a mixed performance Saturday, dropping a tight 59-52 matchup with Independence Community on Homecoming night.
"It's disappointing to lose, certainly. That was a really big game for us and a big game for Independence," said Cloud County head coach, Brett Erkenbrack. "I kind of sound like a broken record but we struggled with the effort and struggled with offensive inefficiency. Those two things really bit us tonight."
Cloud County (14-8 overall, 7-6 KJCCC) played a solid first half, limiting its turnovers to five while forcing a bigger Independence (10-9 overall, 5-7 KJCCC) team into 14 giveaways en route to a 22-21 halftime lead.
Unfortunately for the T-Birds, they were unable to sustain the success in the second half, committing 12 turnovers over the final 20 minutes while relinquishing 34 points in the paint.
Independence forward Brittany Reeves, standing at 6-feet, 5-inches, scored a game-high 23 points, with 16 of those coming in the second half.
"Independence presents some problems with its interior size, but when we guarded well and when we had some activity with hands, defensively, then we did a really good job of stopping them and causing turnovers. We just couldn't sustain it.," Erkenbrack said. "We lost intensity for sure and we got soft, started fouling that put them in the bonus situation early in the third quarter. Then, of course, we also gave away so many offensive possessions on the other end."
Cloud County held its biggest lead of the game at the 4:53 mark of the third quarter when freshman guard Emmiley Hendrixson banked in a 3-pointer for three of her eight points off the bench.
Independence made its run back at that point, though, going on an 11-2 blitz to end the quarter and take a 36-33 lead into the fourth quarter.
Despite the offensive struggles, the T-Birds put themselves in a position to win late, climbing back within one at 51-50 following a pair of free throws from redshirt freshman Kamryn Collins, who led all Cloud County players with 13 points and four steals.
The Lady Pirates, who were 0-for-10 from 3-point range through the game's first 38 minutes, received a huge 3-pointer from Logan Collyer with 1:19 remaining that bumped their lead back to four at 54-50.
"That was a big basket for them and it really was the backbreaker," Erkenbrack said. "It looked like we were going to have an opportunity to steal a victory there at the end, getting (the deficit) to one. But it's a 40-minute game and we have to play 40 minutes."
Cloud County was unable to inch any closer than the four-point deficit the rest of the way as Independence held on for the 59-52 final.
The T-Birds also received lifts off the bench from sophomore Mikaela Meyers with two points, four rebounds and two blocks, as well as sophomore Destiny Pittman with two points and four rebounds in eight minutes.
"I think Mikaela Meyers gave us really good effort and did some good things. She got into some foul trouble, but she was playing against a lot bigger, stronger and bulkier athletes in there," Erkenbrack said. "I also thought Destiny Pittman came in and gave us a spark for a little bit."
Cloud County will now turn its attention toward a Wednesday road matchup against Neosho County Community College set to tip-off at 5:30 p.m.
It'll be the final game of what has been an up and down January (4-4 overall) for the T-Birds. With eight regular season games remaining, Erkenbrack said he is hopeful the team will be able to put the speed bump behind them and recapture its fall semester form that saw the team go 10-4 heading into Christmas break.
"We still have the same players and the same people we've had all year. We haven't a bunch of injuries or illness. It's a mental game, for sure," Erkenbrack said. "For us to have success, we must play harder and be better connected together to win ballgames. You don't win by accident and we're not doing winning-type things and making winning plays at this point in time."