COLBY — There’s no such thing as a “must-win” in the first week of December. But on Wednesday night, the Cloud County Community College men’s basketball team certainly earned an important 82-68 road win over Colby Community College that went beyond the final box score.
Wednesday’s victory was not only the first KJCCC win of the season for the T-Birds (7-5 overall, 1-2 KJCCC), but it also snapped a three-game losing skid that had been directly correlated with the loss of two starters, freshmen guards Ty Duin and Gabe Pieschl, to season-ending injuries.
Cloud County needed a palate cleanser; a reset button to get back to the brand of basketball that had helped the team out to a 6-2 start through the first two weeks of November.
“I don’t want to make excuses, but we lost two starters within a week and kind of lost our identity,” said Cloud County head coach, Jordan Altman. “It took us another week or so to make some adjustments and I thought we settled back down (Wednesday). We played the way we wanted to.”
After a frantic first half that saw the hometown Trojans (6-6 overall, 1-2 KJCCC) take a 41-39 lead into the locker rooms, the T-Birds absolutely dominated the final 20 minutes of play.
Defensively, Cloud County alternated between a 3-2 zone and man-to-man defense, confusing and confining the Trojans to play in the half court.
Colby shot just 10-of-38 (26 percent) in the second half — 0-of-12 from 3-point range — and committed 12 of its 18 turnovers in the period.
“Zones are designed to try and slow teams down and make them a little more passive. I thought Colby was as aggressive (Wednesday) as I’ve ever seen them on film. It surprised us how fast they wanted to play,” Altman said. “I thought the 3-2 zone really slowed them down, they got confused, and they didn’t seem ready for it.”
While the T-Birds tormented the Trojans on the defensive end of the floor, their back court took the reins on offense.
Cloud County shot 16-of-30 (53 percent) in the second half, led by redshirt sophomore Alvin Thompson with a game-high 24 points, and received key contributions from several players down the stretch.
The T-Birds first pushed their lead to double-digits at the 9:58 mark on a mid-range jumper by freshman forward Iyen Enaruna, who finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Every time Colby cut the deficit back to single digits the T-Birds had an answer.
Redshirt freshman Nysir Scott converted a three-point play with 4:59 remaining that pushed the lead back to 11, and sophomore guard Jerome Kidd Jr. splashed a pair of 3-point daggers at the 3:14 and 1:12 marks to keep the Trojans at bay.
“Our guards really stepped up and hit shots (Wednesday) and that’s really what can ultimately make us dangerous,” Altman said. “When someone takes our forwards away, our guards can step up and vice versa. I’m really proud of the guards for stepping up.”
Cloud County will now turn its attention toward a Friday night showdown with Dodge City Community College, scheduled to tip at 8 p.m. inside Arley Bryant Gymnasium.
Altman said is team is prepared for the quick turnaround and a highly anticipated matchup with the Conquistadors, who split the season series with the T-Birds last season. Dodge City won 71-70 in Concordia while Cloud County took the rematch, 65-61, in Dodge City.
“We’ve played back-to-back games four weekends in a row during the non-conference, so hopefully our guys are accustomed to a quick turnaround like this and can get back at it,” Altman said. “Dodge City is a team I know is a team our returners are looking forward to playing again. We were able to beat them at their place last year, but we really felt like we let them go at home. Hopefully our sophomores come out Friday with really good effort and energy.”