Nov 23, 2022

Sopoaga's near triple-double pushes T-Bird women past Independence

Posted Nov 23, 2022 2:36 PM

INDEPENDENCE - Using a near triple-double performance from sophomore Te Araroa Sopoaga, the Cloud County Community College women's basketball team would turn in an 81-72 road win in the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference road opener at Independence Community College inside the Independence CC Gymnasium in Independence, Kansas on Tuesday.

Following up on Saturday's upset of previously unbeaten Hutchinson, Cloud County for the second-straight game never trailed and is now 7-1 overall and 3-0 in the KJCCC. Independence falls to 5-4 overall and 1-2 in conference play as CCCC earns their first win over the Pirates since Feb. 27, 2017.

A slow pace to the beginning of the game would see Cloud County jump out to a 6-0 lead as Independence would go scoreless for the opening 5:07 of the game with two turnovers while missing each of their first eight shots from the field. Utilizing a size mismatch that would favor the T-Birds, reigning KJCCC Women's Basketball Player of the Week Alize Ruiz and Maimouna Sissoko would combine to score each of CCCC's first 13 points in the game. Leading by two at 13-11, Cloud County would see Independence cut the deficit to one with a free throw before a Sopoaga layup would set off a back-and-forth on each of the next four possessions as the scoring pace would begin to pick up. Seeing the Pirates get within one again at 17-16, the T-Birds would go back to Sopoaga for a three-point play to extend the lead to four before seeing ICC end the quarter with a three-point play of their own to make things a 20-19 game at the end of the first quarter.

Things would remain close throughout the second quarter as Cloud County would continue to hold a lead between one and four points to keep Independence from taking the lead. As the quarter went on, the scoring pace for both teams would return to the way that things started in the first quarter as points would become hard to come by which allowed CCCC to maintain their lead at 31-27 following a Sarah Lawless layup with 3:31 left before halftime. With the Cloud County defense holding Independence scoreless for a stretch of 4:33, the T-Birds would get another layup from Lawless to go up six and look to push their lead out even more heading into halftime but a made Pirate field goal would put things back at four at 33-29 with things reaching halftime.

Matching their six-point lead three separate times in the opening minutes of the third quarter, Cloud County would see a pesky Pirate squad continue to hang around as opportunities to try and gain some breathing room would come and go multiple times. Finally getting past the margin with a Sopoaga layup and Lilly Smith three to go up 44-36 with 5:31 left in the period, the T-Birds would look to be on their way to putting some separation between themselves and ICC by eventually going up nine three minutes later. Continuing to build on momentum and their size mismatch in the paint, Cloud County would turn to the free throw line late in the third by scoring three of their final five points at the charity stripe to cap off a 27-point quarter and lead by 11 at 60-49 heading to the fourth.

Six straight points from Independence would cut the once double-digit lead down to just five over the opening two minutes of the fourth quarter as Cloud County would see their first real scoring drought of the contest allow the Pirates to get back within two possessions before an offensive rebound and put back from Josephine Igherighe would get the T-Birds back in the scoring column. Following a made ICC layup and CCCC turnover, the Pirates would inch their way even closer as a made three would put things at 62-60 momentarily before seeing an Igherighe triple be the answer that Cloud County needed. Following the made trey, CCCC would go on to get field goals from both Sopoaga and Jessi Brummett to push their lead back out to nine at 69-60 as time would begin to favor the T-Birds. Taking over down the stretch, Sopoaga would give Cloud County a 73-63 lead with 3:39 remaining as the CCCC offense would continue to click and eventually go up 13 with just over two minutes remaining. Scoring the next six points of the game, Independence would make one last push at trying to mount a comeback by closing the gap to seven with 30 seconds remaining, but two free throws from Sopoaga and empty possession for the Pirates would end things for good and allow CCCC to escape with their second road win of the year.

Shooting just shy of 50 percent on the evening, Cloud County would finish the game with a 31-of-63 (49.2 percent) effort from the field and hold a 44-34 advantage on the glass over the Pirates. Two of the biggest differences in the game would come courtesy of a 42-30 advantage for CCCC in points in the paint and a 16-9 advantage in second-chance points as the T-Birds would overcome 23 turnovers that led to 16 points for the Pirates.

Sopoaga's near triple-double would include a game-high 22 points to go along with 11 rebounds and nine assists while Ruiz would collect a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds of her own. Six other T-Birds would combine to score the remaining 41 points for CCCC, with Brummet scoring a season-high nine points off the bench and adding three rebounds in 20 minutes of work. Independence would be led by a team-best 20 points from D'yanna Maxey who would also grab six rebounds and dish out four assists.

What's next?
The action for Cloud County returns to the friendly confines of Arley Bryant Gymnasium as four of the next five games for the T-Birds will take home beginning on Saturday when CCCC hosts Life Prep Academy at 2 p.m. The game will serve as the final non-conference game of the year for Cloud County before returning to conference play on Nov. 30 against Seward County.