EL DORADO — The numbers were stacked against the Cloud County Thunderbirds.
Cloud County shot just 36 percent (21 of 58) from the field, including 6 percent (1 of 16) from three-point range, 44 percent (10 of 23) from the free throw line and committed 20 turnovers in suffering a 73-53 Jayhawk Conference Western division loss to Butler County Wednesday night.
The Cloud County starters combined for just 24 points in the loss that dropped the T-Birds to 12-8 overall and 3-3 in Conference play.
Butler County picked up its third consecutive win to improve to 16-4 on the season and 4-2 in the Jayhawk West.
“To win on the road in this League, or any league that is tough, you have got to play well, it is not enough to play hard,” Cloud County coach Chad Eshbaugh said, “We didn’t do those things well. Those are the problems (missed free throws and turnovers) that led to the outcome.”
Scoring the first six points of the game on a three-point play by Sean Osler and a three-point shot by Bakari Triggs, Butler County would never trail.
Cloud County got baskets by Isaiah Anaekwe and Alioune Mboup to pull within two points, 6-4.
The Grizzlies then rattled off eight straight points to open up a 14-4 advantage.
Struggling to knock down shots, the T-Birds would get no closer than seven points the rest of the way.
“There are nights when you are not going to hit jump shots. To overcome that you have to make free throws and take care of the basketball,” Eshbaugh said.
The T-Birds would battle back to within seven points, 20-13, when reserve guard Derek Henry hit their only three of the night.
Butler County answered with a 7-1 spurt to open up a 27-14 advantage.
Two free throws by Mboup and a jumper by James Williams made it a 27-18 game.
The T-Birds trailed 29-20 when the Grizzlies outscored them 9-2 in a two-minute stretch to go on top 38-22.
Emeka Okoronkwo followed up a Cloud County miss, and it was 34-28.
One free throw each by Jordan Madrid-Andrews and LaMont Pruitt gave Butler County a 40-24 halftime lead.
Sean Goodwin scored the first two points of the second half, and the Grizzlies had an 18-point cushion, 42-24.
The two teams went back and forth over the next 11 minutes.
Cloud County could pull no closer than 14 points.
“Up until about the five-minute mark in the game I felt we were going to put ourselves in a position to be there at the end,” Eshbaugh said, “We got ourselves to the line, but didn’t cash in, and those are basically the same as turnovers.”
The T-Birds were down 53-39 when Butler County got a free throw by Madrid-Andrews and baskets by Sean Osler and Goodwin to extend the lead to 58-39.
Cloud County could get no closer than 18 points after that.
“I don’t fault the effort, we are just battling consistency,” Eshbaugh said.
Marvin Smith came off the bench to lead Cloud County with 14 points.
No other T-Bird scored more than six points in the game.
Butler County had four players score in double figures led by Shomari Triggs with 14 points.
Osler tossed in 13 points for the Grizzlies. Goodwin had 12 points and Trent Richardson chipped in 10.
Butler County hit 27 of 53 field goal attempts for 51 percent and 17 of 33 free throws for 52 percent.
Cloud County wraps up its first trip through the Jayhawk West by hosting unbeaten and number one ranked Hutchinson on Saturday night and then traveling to Great Bend to face 19th-ranked Barton County next Wednesday night.