Unbeaten and seventh-ranked Iowa Western Community College did what good teams do, make plays down the stretch to win close games.
The Reivers went six of six from the free throw line in the final 22 seconds to hold off the Cloud County Thunderbirds 76-71 Tuesday night in Bryant Gymnasium.
Cloud County had trimmed an eight-point deficit to just three points with just over two minutes to play in the game, but couldn’t chase down the Reivers.
It was the T-Birds’ second loss to the Reivers, and they will head into the semester break at 9-5.
Iowa Western improves to 14-0 on the season.
“To win a game like that you have to play exceptionally well, and we didn’t play exceptionally well. Thirteen of 24 at the foul line hurts in a game like that,” Cloud County coach Chad Eshbaugh said.
Cloud County led the final 5:46 of the first half, and was on top 42-39 early in the second half when Iowa Western put together a 12-0 run to go on top to stay, 51-42.
The Reivers would lead by as many as 10 points, and were up 68-60 when Tavian Pomlee hit from 15 feet with 3:45 to play.
Alioune Mboup, in a span of 29 seconds, scored inside and made one of two free throws to get Cloud County within five points, 68-63.
A dunk by Rodrick Robinson made it a 68-65 game with 2:20 to play.
Ryan Bowie hit from 12 feet, and Iowa Western led 70-65.
A jumper by Connor McDaniel again closed the gap to three points, 70-67, with 49 seconds on the clock.
Devin Brooks made two free throws to put the Reivers up 72-67.
Cloud County again made it a three-point game, 72-69, when Marcus Fillyaw scored with 16 seconds left.
Billydee Williams was fouled one second later, and knocked down both free throws.
James Williams followed up a Cloud County miss with 5.8 seconds on the clock, and it was 74-71.
Two more free throws by Brooks with 5.1 seconds remaining put the game away for Iowa Western.
“You have to give them credit. They made their foul shots,” Eshbaugh said, “It is disappointing because we felt like we had an opportunity to win the game.”
Marvin Smith came off the bench to score 15 points and grab seven rebounds for Cloud County.
Gerrae Williams finished with 12 points.
Robinson had 11 points and five boards for the T-Birds.
Cloud County struggled shooting the ball, hitting just 28 of 73 field goal attempts for 38 percent and 13 of 24 free throws for 54 percent.
“We attacked the basket well at times. To their credit they have a lot of length and a great shot blocker. He altered a lot of our shots a the rim.”
Tyrone Haughton, a 6-9 freshman, had seven blocked shots in the game.
Brooks and Williams scored 19 points each for Iowa Western.
Pomlee chipped in 14 points.
The Reivers were just 25 of 76 from the floor for 33 percent, and made 20 of 29 free throws for 69 percent.
Cloud County trailed by as many as seven points, 15-8, in the first seven minutes of the game.
Smith scored six points during a 14-4 spurt that gave the T-Birds a 22-19 advantage.
Iowa Western would pull even at 24-24.
McDaniel made a three, and Cloud County led the rest of the way in the first half.
The T-Birds were on top 42-39 early in the second half when Iowa Western rattled off 12 straight points to take a lead it would not relinquish.
“I think we are all disappointed. I am disappointed. They are disappointed. We had an opportunity to make a statement in our final game first semester,” Eshbaugh said, “It is one that is going to sit with us for a little while.”
Cloud County is now off until Jan. 5 when it hosts Colby in the Jayhawk Conference Western Division opener.