Something had to give
Cloud County and eighth-ranked Iowa Western Community College were each 4-0 heading into their showdown Tuesday night in Bryant Gymnasium.
Knocking down 10 of 12 free throws over the final 49 seconds, Iowa Western was able to hand Cloud County its first loss of the season, 98-90.
The two teams combined to shoot 85 free throws in the game.
Cloud County finished 29 of 44 from the line for 66 percent, and Iowa Western hit 30 of 41 for 73 percent.
The Thunderbirds fell behind by 15 points in the first half, and then battled back to take a seven-point lead in the second half.
Iowa Western rallied to go up by as many as 10 points.
Trailing 86-76, Cloud County got back to back three-point baskets by Shaun Stewart to cut the deficit to four points, 86-82.
Dinjiyl Walker knocked down a jumper for the Reivers, and Stewart hit one of two free throws to make it 88-83.
Darien Williams went one of two from the line, and it was an 89-83 game with 49 seconds to play.
Lorenzo Dillard drew a foul just six seconds later. He hit both free throws to get Cloud County within four points, 89-85.
Dillard was 17 of 24 from the line in scoring 30 points. He also had six rebounds and eight assists.
Two free throws by Shakir Brown put Iowa Western up 91-85 with 35 seconds to play.
Dillard knocked down a pair of free throws four seconds later.
Walker made two free throws, and the Reivers again led by six points, 93-87.
A three-point attempt by Assane Diop bounced high off the rim and dropped to get Cloud County within three points, 93-90 with 23 seconds on the clock.
Ryan Bowie was fouled less than two seconds later. His two free throws gave Iowa Western a 95-90 cushion.
“They really shot the free throws well late,” Cloud County coach Chad Eshbaugh said.
Cloud County turned the ball over, and the Reivers hit three of four free throws in the final 18 seconds to secure the win.
Stewart scored 18 points for Cloud County.
Marvin Smith was seven of nine from the field and two of two from the line in scoring 16 points.
Diop finished with 14 points and six rebounds.
Lionel Gomis added nine points and 11 rebounds.
Iowa Western had six players score in double figures, led by Walker with 27 points.
Bowie, Williams and Shaqueille Calhoun scored 14 points each.
Brown scored 11 points and Dwshawn Munson added 10 points.
“They have a lot of different weapons. They aren’t a team you can focus on one or two guys,” Eshbaugh said.
Iowa Western never trailed in the first half, and led 37-22 when Williams hit a three with 5:02 remaining.
Cloud County, after switching to a zone defense, was able to slow the Reivers down and make a charge.
The T-Birds went on a 17-2 run, and trailed just 40-39 when Dillard hit a three in the final seconds of the half.
A three in the first minute of the second half put Iowa Western up 43-39.
Cloud County then put together a 13-2 spurt to go up 52-45.
‘We started the second half with a little bit of a surge and got into transition a little bit mainly because we were able to get defensive stops. We were able to get defensive rebounds and a couple of turnovers and turned them into points,” Eshbaugh said.
The Reivers hit two three-point shots and completed two three-point plays during an 18-7 run that gave them the lead back at 63-59.
“We got into pretty deep foul trouble, especially along the front line, and it really affected our ability to defend,” Eshbaugh said.
Cloud County would lead by one point on two occasions, and the game was tied at 68-68 when Iowa Western used a 12-3 spurt to go up 80-71.
The Reivers upped the lead to 10 points, 86-76, before Cloud County made one final run that came up just short.
“I thought it was a fairly evenly played game. Both teams got into foul trouble. They were able to get 33 points off of their bench and we were able to get three. Not that our guys didn’t play well, we just need to get a little more production,” Eshbaugh said.
Cloud County will play Sunrise Christian Prep in Wichita on Friday.