GREAT BEND — Cloud County snapped a brief two-game losing streak by handing Barton County a third consecutive Jayhawk Conference Western Division loss, 62-55, Wednesday night.
The Thunderbirds used an 11-2 run to turn a 43-43 game into a 54-45 lead, and hit six of eight free throws over the final 30 seconds to get past the Cougars.
Cloud County had suffered consecutive losses after opening Conference play at 5-0, and is now 16-6 overall and 6-2 in the West.
Barton County, 12-9 overall, fell to 2-6 in Conference play.
Trailing 28-20 at halftime, the Cougars battled back to tie the game at 43-43 when Taschell Phillips scored with 6:30 to play in the game.
Cloud County then scored seven points in 58 seconds to reclaim the lead at 50-43.
A basket by Pearlrae Thomas got things started.
Paige Champlin came up with a steal, and Thomas scored again.
Another steal by Champlin led to a layup by Aleesha Coulter, and she was fouled.
Coulter made the free throw, and the T-Birds had a seven-point cushion.
Ashton Bruner followed up a Barton County miss to make it a 50-45 game.
Four straight points by Champlin put Cloud County up 54-45 with 3:45 to play.
Champlin had four points, two assists and two steals during the spurt by the T-Birds.
“There was a little stretch there which was the turning point in the game, and Paige Champlin was involved in all of it at both ends of the floor,” Cloud County coach Brett Erkenbrack said, “That was really the game. It gave us a little bit of a cushion, and we just kind of played them even from there.”
Two free throws by Erin Copeland and a follow by Ta’Kerre Williams got Barton County back within five points, 54-49.
Ajai Ford hit a jumper to extend Cloud County’s lead to 56-49 with 49 seconds on the clock.
Taschell Phillips made one of two free throws for the Cougars.
A pair of free throws by Jordyn Alexander gave the T-Birds a 56-49 cushion with 32 seconds remaining.
Copeland knocked down a three to close the gap to 58-53.
The T-Birds made four of six free throws over the final 15 seconds to lock up the win.
“The last 10 minutes I thought we played well. We got into a little bit of a rhythm offensively,” Erkenbrack said.
Coulter led three T-Birds in double figures with 14 points.
Jayna Smith scored 14 points and handed out four assists.
Thomas finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Cloud County hit 21 of 56 field goal attempts for 38 percent and 15 of 21 free throws for 71 percent.
Copeland scored 20 points for Barton County, and Phillips added 11 points.
The Cougars were 21 of 59 from the floor for 36 percent and 10 of 19 from the line for 53 percent.
Cloud County led 11-6 in a sloppy first half when Barton County scored six straight points to go o top 12-11.
The T-Birds turned the ball over 11 times in the first 20 minutes.
“Just silly ones (turnovers). In a low possession game, when they are playing a zone all night, and we throw the thing in the bleachers, it makes it tough,” Erkenbrack said.
Cloud County was trailing 15-13 when Smith knocked down a three-point shot to make it 16-15.
Smith scored nine of her points in the first half.
“I thought Jayna Smith had a good game, especially a good first half when we really didn’t have any other offense,” Erkenbrack said.
Alexander made one of two free throws, and the T-Birds led 17-15.
A three by Copeland put Barton County back up 18-17.
Smith hit a baseline jumper, and Kamika Mason connected on two free throws to give the T-Birds the lead back at 21-18.
Barton County pulled within one, 21-20, on two free throws by Taylor Mayes.
Coulter hit a three, and Thomas tossed in four straight points, including a basket at the buzzer, to give Cloud County a 28-20 halftime lead.
The Cougars were able to claw back into the game in the second, but couldn’t overtake the T-Birds.
Cloud County plays at Colby on Saturday night.