Cloud County and Central (Neb.) Community College have a history of playing close games.
The Thunderbirds and the Raiders split a pair of one-point games last season.
The trend continued Tuesday night as the two teams exchanged blows for 45 minutes in a game that was not decided until Central’s James Spencer missed a floater on the baseline as time expired in overtime that allowed Cloud County to claim a 92-90 decision in Bryant Gymnasium.
The T-Birds and the Raiders will meet again on Dec. 4 in Columbus.
“The last five games we have played them, I think three are overtime games. It seems like we match up well against each other,” Cloud County coach Chad Eshbaugh said.
Each team seemed to be in control at various times in the game, but neither team could maintain control.
Cloud County got out to a 21-9 lead in the game, but Central closed the gap to 34-33 at halftime.
The Raiders put together a 12-1 run in the second half to take a 45-40 advantage, only to have the T-Birds rattle off seven straight points.
“It was one of those games that you were comfortable that you could get back into it when you were behind, but I was never comfortable when we were ahead. You just knew it was going to be close,” Eshbaugh said.
The two teams exchanged the lead 11 times over the final 14 minutes of regulation.
Central took its final lead when Tyson Criswell scored with 58 seconds remaining to make it a 78-76 game.
A basket by Connor McDaniel pulled Cloud County even at 78-78 10 seconds later.
Criswell was called for traveling with 41 seconds left, and the T-Birds got the ball back.
With the shot clock winding down, Marcus Fillyaw had his shot attempt blocked.
Central’s James Spencer missed a long jumper as time ran out, and the game went to overtime.
Ed Dyson gave Cloud County an 80-78 lead just four seconds into the extra period, but the Raiders answered with a three-point shot by Criswell.
Baskets by Gerrae Williams and Marvin Smith put Cloud County back up 84-81.
Steven Ferrarini scored for Central, but Williams buried a three, and the T-Birds led 87-83.
Following a bucket by the Raiders, McDaniel completed a three-point play to up Cloud County’s lead to 90-85.
Central wouldn’t go away, and the T-Birds missed two of four free throws in the final 17.8 seconds.
“I was proud of our ability to get the line, but we have got to make more,” Eshbaugh said.
Cloud County finished just 17 of 37 from the line for 46 percent.
It was 90-87 when Rodrick Robinson went one of two from the line for the T-Birds.
David Plain buried a long three-point shot with 11.7 on the clock, and Central was down just 91-90.
Williams was fouled a second later, and hit one of two free throws.
Central had a chance to force a second overtime, but Spencer couldn’t hit a guarded shot on the baseline as time ran out.
“We were pleased to make that last shot really, really difficult,” Eshbaugh said.
Dyson, a 6-4 sophomore, scored 30 points and grabbed five rebounds for Cloud County.
Fillyaw, a freshman guard, finished with 16 points, seven rebounds and eight assists.
Smith added 12 points and eight rebounds.
Williams finished with 11 points and five assists.
McDaniel grabbed 11 rebounds.
Criswell pumped in 30 points for Central.
Spencer had 26 points and 12 rebounds.
Plain scored 14 points for the Raiders, and Ferrarini added 10 points.
Trailing 7-5, 3:30 into the game, Cloud County outscored Central 16-2 over the next 5:43 to take a 21-9 lead.
Central chipped away at the deficit, and trailed by just a point at halftime.
Baskets by Smith and Fillyaw in the first 32 seconds of the second half made it a 39-33 game.
Central used an 11-0 spurt to go up 44-39 and the two teams battled it out from there.
“These games are great for the fans. For our players, you learn a lot about your team,” Eshbaugh said of the tight battle, “You can’t be a good team until you learn to handle adversity.”
Cloud County will travel to Beatrice, Neb. to play two games in a tournament hosted by Southeast Community College this weekend.
The T-Birds play the Concordia University junior varsity at 4 p.m. Friday and host Southeast at 8 p.m. Saturday.