Published in the Iola Register on Jan. 20, 2014.

T-Birds come from behind for win

Cloud County stayed within striking distance in the first half, and then struck in the second.
The Thunderbirds fell behind Barton County 8-0 in the first 1:42, and trailed the entire first half, but never allowed the Cougars to get out of touch.
Trailing just 45-38 at halftime, Cloud County shot 54 percent from the field in outscoring Barton County 53-37 over the final 20 minutes on its way to a 91-82 Jayhawk Conference Western Division win Saturday night in Bryant Gymnasium.
Cloud County chipped away at the halftime deficit, and grabbed a 59-57 lead just under seven minutes in.
The T-Birds lost the lead briefly, and then went on a 10-2 run to seize control, and held on for their first Conference win of the season.
“Even in the first half, I thought we were playing pretty well,” Cloud County coach Chad Eshbaugh said, “In the second half, we were able to knock down a couple of shots, get a couple of baskets in transition and get multiple stops.”
Cloud County, now 9-10 overall, had opened the Conference season with consecutive losses on the road, and needed to pick up a win in its first home game.
“If we would have lost this one and won the rest of them it wouldn’t have made much difference. If we would have won this one and lost the rest it wouldn’t have made much difference. It was a game that was good for our confidence,” Eshbaugh said, “It was a big game for us. It was a game we needed, and it was a game I thought we played well enough to demonstrate that.”
Three-point baskets by Tyler Corley and Isaac Williams helped Barton County, 13-6 overall and 1-2 in the Conference, get out to a quick 8-0 lead.
Lorenzo Dillard scored six points during an 8-2 Cloud County spurt that made it a 10-8 game.
Dillard led the T-Birds with 22 points. The freshman guard was 6 of 15 from the field and eight of eight from the line, and had seven rebounds and five assists.
Barton County scored the next five points to again lead by eight points, 16-8.
Cloud County was playing catchup after that.
The T-Birds would get as close as three points, and trailed by as many as nine.
Barton County got a three-point basket with 21 seconds to play in the first half to go up 45-38.
Williams scored on a drive 32 seconds into the second half to put the Cougars up 47-38.
Two free throws by Assane Diop and a three-point shot by Shaun Stewart got Cloud County within four points, 47-43.
Barton County extended the lead back to seven points, 52-45, but the T-Birds continued to battle back.
Cloud County, trailing 57-55, got four points by Dillard in 23 seconds to go up 59-57.
It was then that Barton County rallied to reclaim the lead at 63-61 in a foul plagued second half.
There were 36 fouls called, and 58 free throws shot in the final 20 minutes.
“It was a little hard to establish a flow. I was proud of the guys, it was tough to fight through some of that adversity,” Eshbaugh said.
Emeka Okoronkwo scored four straight points and Stewart buried a three-point shot to put Cloud County on top to stay, 68-63.
Okoronkwo came off the bench to score 17 points for Cloud County. He made three of six field goal attempts and 10 of 14 free throws.
“He has been playing pretty well,” Eshbaugh said of Okoronkwo, “Obviously he was huge for us. He hit some jump shots and he got to the line 14 times by attacking.”
Corley made one of two free throws for Barton County, but Okoronkwo went three of four from the line to put the T-Birds up 71-64.
Raheem Johnson scored inside, and it was 71-66.
That is as close as Barton County would get.
Cloud County was leading 73-67 when sophomore Marvin Smith outscored Barton County 9-3 over a two minute stretch to make it 82-70.
Smith finished with 13 points in the game.
Barton County would get as close as six points, 87-81, when Darius Gibson completed a three-point play with 1:17 to play.
The Cougars would not score again, and T-Birds held on for the win.
Stewart scored 20 points and grabbed six rebounds for Cloud County.
The T-Birds finished 27 of 57 from the floor for 47 percent and 29 of 40 from the line for 73 percent.
Gibson finished 8 of 13 from the field and 10 of 10 from the line in scoring 27 points for Barton County.
Corley scored 19 points for the Cougars, and Johnson added 16 points.
Cloud County plays at Hutchinson on Wednesday night.