COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa — A second half meltdown resulted in a third consecutive loss for the Cloud County Thunderbirds.
Leading 37-17 at halftime, Cloud County looked to be on its way to a comfortable win over Mineral Area College in the second round of the Holiday Inn/Hampton Inn Classic hosted by Iowa Western Community College on Saturday.
Stepping up the defensive pressure and forcing a number of Cloud County turnovers, and shooting a blistering 73 percent (19 of 26) from the field, Mineral Area outscored the T-Birds 57-36 over the final 20 minutes to pick up a 74-63 victory.
“It was a gradual and continual deal,” Cloud County coach Brett Erkenbrack said, “That has kind of been the characteristic of this team. We will play for a while and then we will stop.”
Cloud County, with the third consecutive loss, falls to 3-4 on the season.
Mineral Area, which was beaten 81-72 by Iowa Western on Friday, improves to 5-1.
In the other game played Saturday, Butler Community College downed Iowa Western, 78-55.
Limiting Mineral Area to just 19 percent (5 of 26) shooting from the field, and connecting on 20 of 27 free throws for 74 percent, the T-Birds built the commanding 20-point lead.
“We got off to a good start. I thought we defended well the first half,” Erkenbrack said.
Getting a little help from Cloud County, the Cardinals started to climb back into the game in the second half.
The T-Birds finished with 30 turnovers in the game, and Erkenbrack said he believes 20 of those came in the second half.
“I would say, legitimately, we allowed 12 layups, and we didn’t guard anybody. We didn’t even attempt to guard anybody,” Erkenbrack said.
Mineral Area would erase the 20-point deficit, and go on to win by 11 points.
“Mineral Area is a pretty good little team, but we should have won that game pretty easily. I am not sure we expended enough energy in that second half to beat anybody,” Erkenbrack said.
Cloud County was led by sophomore Jordyn Alexander with 18 points and six rebounds. She hit 8 of 13 field goal attempts and two of four free throws.
Courtney Fisher finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds for the T-Birds.
Cloud County was 19 of 50 from the floor for 38 percent and 22 of 29 from the line for 76 percent.
After shooting 27 free throws in the first half, the T-Birds shot just two in the second.
“We got into some foul trouble in the first half, as did Mineral Area. We continued to foul in the second. Whether or not they did, we didn’t get to the line,” Erkenbrack said.
Mineral Area had four players score in double figures, led by Robneisha Lee with 16 points.
Kasia Kiejdrowska scored 14 points for the Cardinals. U’Knique Gaines finished with 13 points, and Alaya Cooper-Johnson added 10.
Mineral Area was 24 of 52 from the field for 46 percent and 24 of 38 from the line for 63 percent.