Jayna Smith provided the spark that helped jumpstart the Cloud County Thunderbirds, and get them rolling to a 68-48 Jayhawk Conference Western Division win over Pratt Community College Wednesday night in Bryant Gymnasium.
With Cloud County trailing Pratt 11-7 in the first half, Smith, a 5-10 freshman from Holton, scored 10 points during a 12-3 run that put the Thunderbirds on top to stay, 19-14.
Smith added four points during a 9-0 Cloud County spurt in the second half that turned a seven-point lead into a 46-30 advantage.
The Beavers would get no closer than 12 points over the final 10 minutes.
“I thought Jayna Smith was really good all night, especially in the first half. She was certainly the spark,” Cloud County coach Brett Erkenbrack said.
Smith finished the game with 14 points. She hit six of nine field goal attempts and two of two free throws and also had 12 rebounds, two steals and two blocked shots.
With the win over Pratt, and a Garden City victory over number one ranked Hutchinson, the T-Birds moved to within a game of first place in the Jayhawk West.
Cloud County, now 18-6 overall, is 8-2 in the Conference, and Hutchinson is 9-1.
Garden City and Seward County are tied for third place at 7-3.
The T-Birds will play at Seward County on Monday night.
Pratt dropped to 14-9 overall and 3-6 in the West.
Managing just two field goals in the first 10:38 of the game, Cloud County fell behind Pratt 11-7.
Smith then heated up during that run that gave the T-Birds the lead. She had two steals along with the 10 points during that stretch.
Pratt got a pair of free throws by Elle Stein to close the gap to 19-16.
Megan Stagner knocked down a three-point shot, and Cloud County led 22-16.
Stein scored on a follow for the Beavers.
A three-point basket by Raneisha Duncan and a short bank shot by Stagner gave Cloud County a 27-18 halftime lead.
The T-Birds shot just 31 percent (10 of 32) in the first 20 minutes.
“I felt fortunate to be up by nine points at halftime,” Erkenbrack said.
Pratt whittled the deficit to just four points, 32-28, in the first four minutes of the second half.
Jordyn Alexander scored inside and Aleesha Coulter hit a three to extend the lead back to nine points, 37-28.
A basket by Hayli Jo Smith got Pratt within seven points, 37-30, with 15:31 to play in the game.
A bucket by Smith, a jumper by Ajai Ford, a short bank shot by Smith and a three-point play by Ford pushed Cloud County’s lead to 46-30.
Ford, a freshman point guard, scored all 10 of her points in the second half. She also had four rebounds, four assists and two steals.
Pratt got as close as 12 points, 49-37.
Ford scored on a drive and Kamika Mason scored inside to make it 53-37 with just under nine minutes to play.
The Beavers got no closer than 14 points after that.
“It certainly was not our best game of the year. I still say Pratt is a pretty good team. We had to do some things right to win by 20 points,” Erkenbrack said.
Alexander scored 14 points for Cloud County, 10 in the second half.
Coulter added nine points, five rebounds and five assists.
The T-Birds hit 17 of 30 field goal attempts in the second half for 57 percent and finished 27 of 62 for 44 percent.
Tatiana Grant led Pratt with 11 points and six rebounds.
Kelsey Strobel scored 10 points for the Beavers.
Pratt was just 17 of 52 from the floor for 33 percent.