EL DORADO — Pouncing on Cloud County early, the Butler County Grizzlies snapped the Thunderbirds’ nine-game winning streak by posting a 64-53 Jayhawk Conference Western Division win Wednesday night.
Butler County scored the first 11 points of the game, and led by as many as 19 points in the first half.
Cloud County got as close as 12 points early in the second half, only to have the Grizzlies open up a 19-point cushion.
One final push pulled the T-Birds within seven points with just over a minute to play, but Butler County knocked down four free throws in the final 53 seconds to hold off Cloud County.
“Give Butler a lot of credit, they had motivation to come after us pretty hard to start the game,” Cloud County coach Brett Erkenbrack said, “Their halfcourt pressure caused us some undo difficulties.”
The loss drops the T-Birds, now 15-5 overall, out of first place in the Jayhawk West. They are 5-1, and trail number one ranked Hutchinson (6-0).
Cloud County will host Hutchinson on Saturday night.
Butler County, 16-4 overall, improves to 4-2 in Conference play.
Ashlee Ivy scored nine points as Butler County got out to the 11-0 lead in the game. She finished with 19 points on 8 of 11 shooting from the field.
Cloud County finally got on the board when Jayna Smith made two free throws.
Butler County then scored the next five points to go up 16-2.
The T-Birds were without a field goal until Jordyn Alexander scored with 9:50 remaining in the first half to make it 16-4.
A 9-2 spurt pushed the Grizzlies lead to 25-6 with under five minutes to play in the half.
“We took some ill-advised shots. We missed some point-blank shots, and we were not going after the basketball,” Erkenbrack said of the slow start.
Two free throws by Kamika Mason and a three-point basket by Aleesha Coulter pulled Cloud County within 14 points, 25-11.
Bethany Howard hit a three for Butler County, but Coulter answered with another trey.
The two teams traded baskets, and the Grizzlies outscored the T-Birds 4-1 from the free throw line in the final 1:20 to make it a 34-17 game.
Butler County scored the first two points of the second half to go up 36-17.
Consecutive threes by Ajai Ford pulled Cloud County within 13 points, 36-23.
Butler County stretched the lead back to 16 points, 43-27.
Four straight points by Alexander made it 43-31.
The T-Birds would score just five points over the next eight minutes as the Grizzlies extended the lead to 54-36.
Cloud County got a three-point play by Mason, but jumpers by Katie Andersen and Jamillah Bonner put Butler County up 58-39.
The T-Birds scored nine straight points to close the gap to 58-48 with just under four minutes to play.
Butler County missed three of five free throws in a span of two minutes, but still led 60-48.
Cloud County got two free throws by Coulter and a three by Ford to cut the deficit to seven points, 60-53.
Bonner made two free throws for Butler County.
The T-Birds were unable to convert on the offensive end, and Andersen hit two free throws to make it 64-53.
“I was disappointed with a lot of things in the game, but our lack of competitiveness on the defensive end was probably the most disappointing thing,” Erkenbrack said, “I think we have gotten away with, in the last few ball games, not being very good defensively, but we didn’t get away with it this time.”
Ford led four T-Birds in double figures with 13 points.
Alexander scored 12 points and grabbed nine rebounds.
Coulter finished with 11 points and Mason added 10 points and six rebounds.
Cloud County hit just 18 of 52 field goal attempts for 35 percent and turned the ball over 25 times, including 18 in the first half.
Bonner scored 14 points for Butler County.