Simply speaking, the Southeast (Neb.) Community College Storm were able to knock down shots and the Cloud County Thunderbirds weren’t.
Southeast connected on 10 of 21 three-point attempts, including 8 of 11 in the second half, while Cloud County went 5 of 26 from three-point range, 3 of 13 over the final 20 minutes, in suffering an 84-79 loss Tuesday night in Bryant Gymnasium.
The Storm connected on 15 of 29 field goal attempts for 52 percent in outscoring the T-birds 52-47 in the second half.
“The game can sometimes be complicated, and it can be pretty simple. They were 10 of 21 from three, and we were 5 of 26. Their ability to make shots was critical, especially the timely ones they hit,” Cloud County coach Chad Eshbaugh said.
Cloud County, after opening the season with four consecutive wins, has now dropped three straight including two in a row at home.
“I am disappointed and frustrated because we dropped one here at home. Southeast has a nice team. They shot the ball well,” Eshbaugh said.
Southeast improved to 8-1 with the win.
Knocking down a pair of threes, the Storm got out to an 8-2 lead in the game.
A three-point play by Shaun Stewart and baskets by Assane Diop and Stewart gave Cloud County a 9-8 advantage.
The T-Birds would lead by as many as six points, 18-12, in the first half but couldn’t pull away from the Storm.
“I felt like we were playing okay in the first half, and we just couldn’t get away from them. We didn’t shoot the ball well in the first half and we didn’t shoot it well from three in the game,” Eshbaugh said.
Southeast scored seven straight points to reclaim the lead at 19-18.
A jumper by Marvin Smith, a three by Trenton Kuhlman and a free throw by Jeremiah Brooks put Cloud County back on top, 24-19.
Trailing 32-29, the Storm made three of four free throws in the final 1:50 of the half to tie the game at 32-32.
The two teams traded baskets over the first six minutes of the second half.
There were four ties and six lead changes.
Cloud County was up 47-46 when Barton Smith II and Jordan Brooks each went one of two from the line and Josh Roberts knocked down a three to give Southeast a 51-47 lead.
The Storm would not trail again in the game.
“I never felt like we got them uncomfortable defensively,” Eshbaugh said.
It was a 56-5 game when Altez Davis and Tyrell Allen connected on consecutive threes to push Southeast’s lead to 62-55.
“Three or four (threes) came from guys you probably did not expect, based on film, to be their three-point shooters. The Davis kid made three of them and they were all pretty big shots,” Eshbaugh said.
The Storm took their biggest lead of the game, 74-64, when Jarrod Gamble completed a three-point play with 3:18 to play.
Cloud County made one final run.
Lorenzo Dillard scored on a drive, the T-Birds forced a turnover and got a bucket by Diop to make it 74-68.
Smith II missed a free throw for Southeast, and Stewart drove to the basket and scored to get Cloud County within four points, 76-71, with 1:13 to play.
Southeast stretched the lead to 80-73.
Kuhlman buried his third three of the game to close the gap to 80-76 with 20 seconds on the clock.
Roberts made two free throws for the Storm.
Stewart was fouled on a three-point attempt, and connected on all three free throws to make it 82-79 with 13 seconds left.
Smith II was fouled less than two seconds later. He knocked down both attempts to give Southeast the 84-79 cushion.
Stewart led all scorers with 24 points. The sophomore guard was 7 of 18 from the field and 10 of 12 from the line and also had seven rebounds.
Dillard finished with 15 points, eight rebounds and seven assists for Cloud County.
Smith scored 10 points before leaving the game because of an injury in the second half.
Diop had nine points and 11 rebounds.
Davis and Gamble scored 16 points each for Southeast.
Roberts added 15 points.
Cloud County hosts Highland Community College at 7:00 Friday night.