PRATT — Playing a second Jayhawk Conference Western Division game in three days, the Cloud County Thunderbirds went wire to wire in defeating Pratt Community College 64-56 on Monday night.
The T-Birds, who opened Conference play with a home win over Colby on Saturday night, got a three-point basket by Marcus Fillyaw to open the game, and would never trail.
Cloud County led the game 30-16 at halftime, and battled through a foul-plagued second half to improve to 11-5 on the season.
There were 39 free throws shot over the final 20 minutes, 25 by Pratt.
“That is how this Conference works. You find ways to win on the road and you find ways to protect your home floor. Road wins are always good wins,” Cloud County coach Chad Eshbaugh said.
Pratt got as close as three points, but could not overtake the T-Birds in falling to 10-5 overall and 0-1 in the Jayhawk West.
“I thought we did a good job of maintaining our composure and restoring order to the game because it would have been easy to have lost it,” Eshbaugh said.
With Fillyaw getting things started, the T-Birds bolted to an 11-2 lead in the game.
Pratt chipped away at the deficit, and got within five points, 17-12, on a basket by DeShun Roberts.
Five straight points by Gerrae Williams and a jumper by Connor McDaniel upped Cloud County’s lead to 24-12.
McDaniel, who came off the bench to score 11 points in the first half, knocked down a pair of three-point shots as the T-Birds extended the lead to 30-16. The 6-7 sophomore finished six of eight from the field, including four of six from three-point range, and one of two from the line in scoring 17 points.
“He was great. He hit big shots. I felt our guards did a great job of getting him the ball in position to shoot,” Eshbaugh said of McDaniel, “It is a luxury to have a guy who can hit shots from the four spot.”
Aaron Abram scored six points during Pratt’s 8-2 run to open the second half that made it a 32-24 game.
Cloud County answered with eight straight points, four by Ed Dyson, and led 40-24.
Dyson led all scorers with 20 points. He hit 8 of 14 field goal attempts and four of five free throws, and also had seven rebounds.
With the T-Birds picking up their 10th foul halfway through the second, the Beavers began marching to the free throw line.
Pratt went 11 of 16 from the charity stripe while outscoring Cloud County 21-8, and trailed just 48-45 when Ralph Abraham made one of two free throws.
Dyson knocked down a jumper, Alioune Mboup made one of two free throws and Gerrae Williams scored on a drive to put Cloud County back up by eight points, 53-45.
It was a 57-48 lead when Javis Flynn hit a three for the Beavers to make it 57-51 with 2:18 remaining.
Dyson and James Williams combined to make three of four free throws in a span of 25 seconds to up the Cloud County lead to 60-51.
A three-point play by Abrams closed the gap to 60-54.
Dyson made two free throws with 48 seconds left, and the T-Birds came up with a steal.
Fillyaw was fouled, and hit both free throw attempts to lock up a second straight Conference win for Cloud County.
The T-Birds were 24 of 54 from the field for 44 percent and 10 of 17 from the line for 59 percent.
Abram led Pratt with 16 points.
Kazmere Boyd scored 10 points for the Beavers.
Pratt hit just 16 of 54 field goal attempts for 30 percent, but made 22 of 36 free throws for 61 percent.
Cloud County will host Seward County on Saturday night.
The Saints, 10-6 overall, are 1-1 in the Conference after beating Colby Monday night.