It was a bit of a struggle, but the Cloud County Thunderbirds snapped a three-game losing streak and locked up a home game in the first round of the Region 6 playoffs, by defeating Barton County 52-38 Wednesday night in Bryant Gymnasium.
With the win in the final game of the regular season, the T-Birds, now 20-10 overall, improved to 10-6 in the Jayhawk Conference Western Division.
Cloud County finished in a tie with Seward County for fourth place in the Conference, but owns the tiebreaker.
The top four teams in the West host first-round games in the playoffs.
Cloud County will host either Neosho County or Allen at 6:00 Saturday night.
“We are at home. We got to 20 wins. We got to 10 wins in the Conference. Those are things that should lift everybody’s spirits,” Cloud County coach Brett Erkenbrack said, “We are looking forward to Saturday night, and hope we have a good crowd.”
Hutchinson (15-1) won the Jayhawk West. Garden City (13-3) finished second and Butler County (12-4) was third.
Seward County had an opportunity to secure the fourth spot, but lost to Garden City Tuesday night in a makeup game and 90-62 to Hutchinson.
Despite shooting just 24 percent (9 of 38) from the field, Cloud County led Barton County 26-21 at halftime.
“We did some good things at times, but weren’t putting the ball in the basket,” Erkenbrack said.
Barton County, 13-16 overall and 3-13 in the Conference, was able to keep the game close through the first 15 minutes of the second half.
On top just 33-32, the T-Birds were able to stretch the lead to 41-36.
A three-point basket by Megan Stagner put Cloud County up 44-36.
The T-Birds then outscored the Cougars 8-2 to secure the win.
“We hit some big shots, some crucial shots in the final four or five minutes,” Erkenbrack said, “We got a big three from Megan Stagner. A three from Aleesha (Coulter) and a big basket from Paige (Champlin),” Erkenbrack said.
Cloud County finished just 18 of 73 from the floor for 24.7 percent.
“If you shoot less than 25 percent from the field, it isn’t going to be pretty,” Erkenbrack said.
Jordyn Alexander scored 12 points and grabbed eight rebounds for the T-Birds.
Pearlrae Thomas finished with 10 points and five rebounds.
Coulter and Raneisha Duncan chipped in eight points each.
Ashton Bruner led Barton County with 12 points.
The Cougars finished 17 of 53 from the field for 32 percent, but missed all seven three-point attempts.
Cloud County had a 56-41 rebounding advantage.
“Obviously we needed to win, and we needed to have as good a feeling as we could heading into the playoffs,” Erkenbrack said.