Published in the Iola Register on Mar. 4, 2013.

Alexander leads T-Birds to win over Neosho County

Freshman Jordyn Alexander scored 23 points to lead the Cloud County Thunderbirds to a 67-52 victory over Neosho County in the opening round of the Region 6 Women’s Basketball Tournament Saturday night in Bryant Gymnasium.
Alexander, a 5-11 post player from Washington, hit six of nine field goal attempts and 11 of 13 free throws as the T-Birds advanced to the second round. She also had six rebounds.
“I thought she was really active, and they didn’t match up very well with her in the post area,” Cloud County coach Erkenbrack said of Alexander, “We need her to score.”
Cloud County (21-10) will play at Cowley Community College (27-4) on Tuesday night.
Cowley, the top seed out of the Jayhawk Conference Eastern Division, was an 85-54 winner over Dodge City in the first round.
“The most important thing is we won, and we get to go on to the next one,” Cloud County coach Brett Erkenbrack said, “We will certainly have to play better at Cowley on Tuesday. That first-round game sometimes can be difficult because Neosho came in here with nothing to lose.”
In the other first-round games on Saturday:
Hutchinson defeated Colby 9-31, Seward County defeated Allen 73-60, Butler County defeated Labette 84-42, Independence defeated Barton County 69-59, Garden City defeated Northwest Kansas Tech 75-39 and Coffeyville defeated Pratt 73-61.
In the quarterfinals, Seward County will play at Hutchinson, Butler County is at Independence and Coffeyville is at Garden City.
The semifinals and championship game will be played March 8-9 at the Hartman Arena in Park City.
“Sometimes, for us anyway, in the playoff situation we get a little better as we go along,” Erkenbrack said.
Cloud County, which had beaten Neosho County 66-52 earlier in the season, got out to a 7-2 lead in the game.
A short baseline jumper by Brandae Carroll, a three-point shot by Cerissa McMillan and two free throws by Carroll gave the Panthers a 9-7 lead.
The two teams traded baskets, and Cloud County got a jumper by Alexander and a basket by Paige Champlin to reclaim the lead at 13-11.
Ashley Grant scored inside to pull Neosho County even at 13-13 with 9:44 to play in the first half.
The Panthers would then go over five minutes without scoring.
Consecutive baskets by Jayna Smith started a 15-0 Cloud County run.
Megan Stagner and Ajai Ford knocked down threes during the spurt, and the T-Birds led 28-13.
“I thought Paige (Champlin), Megan Stagner and Raneisha Duncan gave us a boost off the bench,” Erkenbrack said.
McMillan scored to end the Neosho County drought, and it was 28-15.
It was a 29-16 game when Aleesha Coulter buried a three and Alexander went one of two from the line to put the T-Birds on top 33-16 at halftime.
Cloud County shot 57 percent (12 of 21) from the field in the first 20 minutes, while limiting the Panthers to 22 percent (6 of 27) shooting.
The T-Birds scored the first four points of the second half to open up a 37-16 lead, but Neosho County got untracked offensively.
The two teams traded baskets over the next 10 minutes, and the T-Birds led 57-34 when Stagner scored with 8:11 to play.
Back to back threes by Dena English and McMillan and a bucket by Daniell Randle left the Panthers trailing 57-42.
That is as close as Neosho County would get as Cloud County knocked down 8 of 10 free throws over the final 4:46.
Smith scored nine points for Cloud County.
Thomas and Duncan added seven points each.
McMillan led Neosho County with 15 points. Carroll scored 13.