PRATT — Fending off challenges late in each half, the Cloud County Thunderbirds notched a sixth consecutive win by beating Pratt Community College 75-67 in a Jayhawk Conference Western Division matchup Monday night.
Cloud County surged to a 17-point lead in the first half, but Pratt battled back to within two points.
The T-Birds led by as many as 15 points in the second half.
Pratt got as close as seven points in the final minute, but couldn’t catch Cloud County in its Conference opener.
It was the second Conference win in three days for the T-Birds, who are now 12-4 overall.
“We have struggled with that all year, being able to put the hammer down and putting people away,” Cloud County coach Brett Erkenbrack said.
Pounding the ball inside to its post players, Cloud County got out to a 22-6 lead in the game.
Jordyn Alexander, a 5-10 freshman, scored eight points during that stretch. She finished with 17 points and six rebounds.
“Our post people were running the floor. We were getting out in transition,” Erkenbrack said.
It was 24-10 when Raneisha Duncan knocked down a three-point shot to give the T-Birds their biggest lead of the game, 27-10.
“The first 10 minutes, that is probably about as well as we have played all year. I couldn’t have been more pleased,” Erkenbrack said.
Pratt got a basket by Maddie Pendry and a free throw by Ahsri Broadwater to make it 27-15.
Consecutive baskets by Alexander put Cloud County up 31-15.
Pratt, now 11-4 overall, then mounted a comeback.
Six straight points got the Beavers within 11 points, 31-20.
Kamika Mason scored for Cloud County, and the lead was 33-20.
Pratt got a bucket by Kelsey Strobel, seven straight points by Pendry and a basket by Broadwater to pull within two points, 33-31, with 2:15 to play in the first half.
“It was a combination of us probably getting a little tired, I substituted. We took a couple of ill advised shots. We missed some easy ones inside and it spilled over to our defense, and we let Pratt get back in it,” Erkenbrack said.
After the two teams traded baskets, Aleesha Coulter made two free throws and Paige Champlin drained a three with time running out in the half to give the T-Birds a 40-33 halftime advantage.
Leading 42-35 early in the second half, Cloud County put together a 10-2 spurt to open up a 52-37 advantage.
The T-Birds were able to maintain a double digit lead until late in the game.
Pendry scored on a drive to get Pratt within nine points, 72-63.
The Beavers came up with a steal, but couldn’t convert.
Pearlrae Thomas made one of two free throws, and the T-Birds led 73-63.
A three-point shot by Hannah Mehl closed the gap to 73-66 with 31 seconds on the clock.
Cloud County made three of four free throws down the stretch to secure the win.
“That is a pretty good Pratt team, and they played well for a good part of the game,” Erkenbrack said, “It is a good win. It is always good to get any of them on the road.”
Ajai Ford scored 11 points for Cloud County.
Jayna Smith finished with 10 points and seven rebounds.
“Jayna Smith was outstanding on both ends of the floor,” Erkenbrack said.
Duncan also had 10 points.
The T-Birds shot just 38 percent (27 of 71) from the field, but made 19 of 28 free throws.
Cloud County had a 46-41 rebounding advantage, and pulled down 22 offensive boards.
“We rebounded the ball well, and Pratt is one of the best rebounding teams in the region,” Erkenbrack said.
Broadwater led three Pratt players in double figures with 16 points.
Pendry scored 16 for the Beavers, and Hayli Smith added 10.
Cloud County hosts Seward County on Saturday night.