MIDLAND, Texas — Defensively, the Cloud County Thunderbirds did what they needed to do to spring an upset, but too many missed shots and too many turnovers prevented them from doing so.
Cloud County shot just 25 percent (16 of 63) and turned the ball over 23 times, and still lost by just eight points, 67-59, to second-ranked Central Arizona College in the semifinals of the Women’s National Invitational Tournament on Friday.
The T-Birds limited Central Arizona to just 26 points in the first half, but still trailed by four points after hitting just 7 of 33 field goal attempts for 21 percent.
“Defensively, I felt we did pretty much what we needed to do,” Cloud County coach Brett Erkenbrack said, “We had to be doing a few things right defensively to shoot 25 percent and turn it over 23 times against the number two team in the country, and feel we had a chance to win the game.”
Cloud County stayed within striking distance throughout the second half, but could never overtake the Vaqueras.
The T-Birds trailed by just four points with under five minutes to play, but costly turnovers prevented them from getting any closer.
“We had some missed opportunities, some turnovers at inopportune times, that didn’t allow us to get a hold on the game,” Erkenbrack said.
Pearlrae Thomas led a balanced Cloud County attack with 10 points and five rebounds.
Aleesha Coulter scored nine points and grabbed six rebounds for the T-Birds.
Ajai Ford finished with nine points.
Paige Champlin had eight points and seven rebounds.
The T-Birds did knock down 23 of 30 free throw attempts for 77 percent.
Joymesia Howard and Brea Edwards had 22 points and 10 rebounds each for Central Arizona.
Ijeoma Uchendu added 16 points and 12 boards.
The Vaqueras finished 28 of 73 from the field for 38 percent and 11 of 18 from the line for 61 percent.
“This was one of the better teams we have played recently, the last two of three years,” Erkenbrack said of Central Arizona, “For probably 80 percent of the game they had three girls who are 6-2 on the floor at the same time. They created all kinds of matchup problems for us.”
Fourth-ranked Trinity Valley (Texas) College beat Odessa (Texas) College 75-57 in the other semifinal game.
In the consolation bracket, host Midland College thumped Angelina (Texas) College 96-76 and Northern Oklahoma College-Enid beat College of Southern Idaho, 76-61.