Heading into the home stretch of the regular season, the Cloud County Thunderbirds need to play well and need to win games. They accomplished both on Wednesday night.
Shooting 51 percent (36 of 70) from the field, Cloud County cruised past the Dodge City Conquistadors 91-48 in a Jayhawk Conference Western Division game.
Cloud County, now 18-7 overall, improves to 9-3 in the Jayhawk West, and is tied for third place with Seward County.
Hutchinson, at 11-1 leads the Conference. Garden City (10-3) is second. Butler County sits in fifth place at 8-4.
Cloud County still has games remaining at Garden City, at Hutchinson and at home against Butler County, with the top four teams in the West hosting first-round games in the Region 6 Tournament.
“It is good to play well. We needed to play well,” Cloud County coach Brett Erkenbrack said, “We talked yesterday, and we talked today at our shootaround, we wanted to play a full 40 minutes. We played close to a full 40 minutes.”
The T-Birds swept the regular season series from Dodge City, which is now 12-14 overall and 3-10 in the Conference.
Aleesha Coulter hit a three-point basket 12 seconds into the game, and Cloud County never trailed.
Dodge City did tie it up on a three by Kelli Tolar.
A follow by Jayna Smith, a layup by Pearlrae Thomas and consecutive baskets by Jordyn Alexander put the T-Birds on top to stay, 11-3.
Dodge City remained within striking distance for the first seven minutes, and trailed just 18-11 on a layup by Jameeshia Armstrong.
Smith scored on a drive to start a 10-0 Cloud County run in a span of just 1:35 that made it a 28-11 game.
Five different T-Birds scored during the run.
Smith finished the game with 10 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and four steals.
Cloud County had 24 assists on their 36 made field goals.
“It has been a long time since we have been able to get out in transition like that,” Erkenbrack said, “I think we passed the ball very well.”
Leading 34-18, the T-Birds got a basket by Kamika Mason, a follow by Smith and a layup by Ajai Ford to open up a 40-18 cushion.
Mason came off the bench to score 14 points and grab eight rebounds. She also had five blocked shots.
Tolar made two free throws for Dodge City, but Mason, a 6-1 freshman, scored six straight points, and Cloud County led 46-19.
“Kamika Mason was exceptionally good most of the night on both ends of the floor,” Erkenbrack said, “We had good play from our post people, all five of them.”
Two more free throws by Tolar made it a 46-21 game at halftime.
Alexander, a 5-11 freshman who led Cloud County with 20 points, scored the first four of the second half, and Thomas followed with a basket to stretch the lead to 52-21.
“I was very happy with the way we came out in the second half. We didn’t have an extended lapse,” Erkenbrack said.
Dodge City was able to score 12 points over the next five minutes, but still trailed 62-33.
Cloud County reeled off 10 straight points to extend the lead to 72-33.
The T-Birds would go on to lead by as many as 46 points, 91-47.
The 91 points is the second most scored by Cloud County this season.
Coulter, who hit four of five three-point attempts, scored 14 points for Cloud County.
Thomas and Megan Stagner chipped in nine points each.
The T-Birds had a 50-30 rebounding advantage, and committed just eight turnovers.
Tolar led Dodge City with 11 points.
The Conquistadors were 18 of 57 from the field for 32 percent.
Cloud County plays at Garden City on Saturday night.