CONCORDIA, Kansas — The Cloud County Community College women's basketball team made the visiting No. 18 ranked Butler Community College Grizzlies sweat Thursday on a frigid evening in Concordia. But unfortunately for the T-Birds, their upset bid fell shy in an 70-60 loss to their KJCCC East foe.
Cloud County (14-10 overall, 7-8 KJCCC) came out with more energy than its first matchup with the Grizzlies (22-2 overall, 13-2 KJCCC) when the T-Birds fell behind 21-6 at the end of the first quarter and couldn't recover in a 72-56 road loss back on Jan. 14.
"I thought we battled harder than some other times here recently and I thought we did a lot better job of meeting the physical challenge of Butler," said Cloud County head coach Brett Erkenbrack. "We played in spurts, but competed better than last time we played them. There were some positives and there were certainly some reasons why we lost."
The T-Birds went into the half within striking distance of the powerful Grizzlies squad, trailing just 38-32 thanks to 16 first-half points from freshman guard Chase Siedlik, who finished with a game-high 18.
Butler made its run in the third quarter, capitalizing on a tough period shooting the basketball for Cloud County as the T-Birds were 3-of-11 from the field and 4-of-12 at the free-throw line after previously going a perfect 7-for-7 from the charity stripe in the first half.
"We dug ourselves a couple of big holes and got it back to six there in the third quarter and missed five free throws in a row," Erkenbrack said. "It (missed free throws) are demoralizing for sure and then they end up being the same as a turnover. We have a good offensive possession, have something good happen for us and can't convert on two free-throw opportunities. Butler is a hard team to play, they sag off and have a lot of physical, athletic ability. They're long and quick and strong. Easy shots are hard to come by and to give those away at the free-throw line is very difficult to overcome."
Butler would build its lead to as many as 17 with 7:28 remaining in the fourth quarter before the T-Birds made one more surge.
Freshman guard Emmiley Hendrixson joined Siedlik and sophomore forward Scout Frame, who posted a double-double with 12 points and a team-high 13 rebounds, as the three T-Birds in double-figures. Sophomore forward Cassidy Haufler contributed eight points, nine rebounds and four steals Thursday, as well.
Hendrixson had the hot hand in the second half, scoring 12 of her 15 points over the final 20 minutes, including back-to-back 3-pointers at the 4:54 and 4:26 marks of the fourth quarter to get Cloud County back within six at 62-54.
"They're extremely critical (to the offense)," Erkenbrack said of the Hendrixson and Siedlik's 3-point ability. "Chase and Emmiley have certainly shown flashes. Emmiley shot us back in the game in the second half, and Chase kept us in it in the first half."
Unfortunately for the T-Birds, their comeback attempt stalled there as their next basket didn't come until 1:48 remaining on a layup by Siedlik.
Butler was able to bleed the final 78 seconds off the clock and hold on for the 70-60 final.
Each team finished with 25 turnovers on the night, but the Grizzlies were able to do the most damage with their added opportunities, finishing with a 26-15 advantage in points off turnovers.
Butler also held a 42-16 advantage in points in the paint, aided by Cloud County's struggles to get clean entry passes and looks inside.
"I think our post people got themselves out a position a lot of times and they were a moving target a lot of times, got themselves moving sideways," Erkenbrack said. "We've also had a hard time passing the ball all year so it wasn't all the post players' fault and it certainly wasn't all the guards' fault. It's a combination of hitting people at the right time."
Cloud County will look to bounce back when it heads off to Coffeyville on Saturday for a 2 p.m. matchup with an improved Red Ravens team (5-19 overall, 4-11 KJCCC) that has gone 2-3 over its last five games.
"That's another long trip and a 2 o'clock game, but we need it (a win). That's a game we really need badly," Erkenbrack said. "Coffeyville has played better of late and they've won some games since we played here a couple weeks ago and we'll have to play well for sure."