HUTCHINSON — A road loss to third-ranked Hutchinson moved the Cloud County Thunderbirds a step closer to having to play a road game in the opening round of the Region 6 Tournament.
Hutchinson used a 21-5 run in the first half to open up a 48-30 lead, and pulled away to an 80-53 Jayhawk Conference Western Division win over Cloud County Saturday night in the Sports Arena.
The T-Birds, now 19-10 overall, have lost three straight and four of their last five to fall to 9-6 and fifth place in the Jayhawk West.
Cloud County has one regular season game remaining at home against Barton County Wednesday night.
Seward County, 10-4 in the Conference, has two games to play against second-place Garden City and first-place Butler County.
Should Seward County lose both games, and Cloud County beat Barton County, the T-Birds could still end up in fourth place, and host a first-round game in the playoffs.
A fifth-place finish in the West means that the T-Birds will be on the road for the opening round of the region tournament.
“If Seward County were to lose both games, and if we beat Barton we would be fourth. That is a lot of ifs. That is the least of our worries,” Cloud County Brett Erkenbrack said.
Hutchinson, 28-1 overall, wrapped up a third straight Jayhawk West title by beating Pratt on Sunday.
Garden City (12-3) sits in second place and Butler County (11-4) is third.
The top four teams in the West host first-round games in the postseason.
Cloud County hung with Hutchinson for the first 13 minutes of the game.
Trailing 17-13, the T-Birds got a three-point basket by Megan Stagner and a free throw by Kamika Mason to pull even at 17-17.
Hutchinson put together a 10-2 spurt to grab a 27-19 advantage.
Back to back threes by Raneisha Duncan and Aleesha Coulter got Cloud County within two points, 27-25, with 7:05 to play in the first half.
“The first 10 or 12 minutes we didn’t play great, but we didn’t give them the basketball. We executed some things on the offensive end, and hit some shots,” Erkenbrack said, “The problem is we were just trading baskets. We weren’t getting any stops on the defensive end.
Hutchinson, 20-0 at home this season, would then outscore the T-Birds 21-5 the rest of the way in the half to open up the 48-30 advantage.
“When we started turning it over, they did a great job of completing plays and it kind of caved in on us,” Erkenbrack said.
Jasmine Patterson scored eight of those points for the Blue Dragons, and finished the game with 24 points and nine rebounds. She was 10 of 14 from the field and two of four from the free throw line.
Hutchinson would continue to build on the lead over the final 20 minutes as Cloud County hit just 5 of 21 field goal attempts for 24 percent and committed 15 turnovers.
The Blue Dragons led by as many as 35 points, 74-39.
Cloud County finished with 33 turnovers in the game.
“There aren’t going to be many ties, especially on the road, when you turn it over 33 times and expect to win. So many of them were unforced,” Erkenbrack said.
Freshman Jordyn Alexander led Cloud County with 12 points. She was three of six from the floor and six of seven from the line.
Duncan hit three of five field goal attempts and three of four free throws in scoring 10 points.
The T-Birds finished 15 of 42 from the field for 36 percent and 17 of 21 from the line for 81 percent.
Cloud County was outrebounded 40-28.
“Two things we had to do was win the turnover battle and outrebound them, and we weren’t even close on that,” Erkenbrack said.
Hutchinson had 23 steals in the game.
Jen’Von’ta Hill scored 15 points for Hutchinson, and Jamie Patrick added 14 points.
The Blue Dragons shot 45 percent (32 of 71) from the field and 79 percent (11 of 14) from the line.