On a night when shots weren’t falling, the Cloud County Thunderbirds relied on a defense to defeat Northern Oklahoma College-Tonkawa 74-42 in the first round of the Thanksgiving Classic Saturday night in Bryant Gymnasium.
Cloud County, which hit just 24 of 73 field goal attempts for 33 percent, limited Northern Oklahoma to 30 percent (17 of 56) shooting and forced 35 turnovers on their way to the win.
The T-Birds limited the Mavericks to just 16 first-half points, and forced 22 turnovers, and were not challenged in the second half.
“They are a team that is struggling,” Cloud County coach Brett Erkenbrack said, “I thought our positioning on both ends of the floor was pretty good. We missed a lot of shots that normally we would make that could have made the game look prettier.”
Iowa Western pulled out a 65-62 win over Butler County in the other game played in the tournament on Saturday.
Scoring the first four points, Cloud County would not trail against Northern Oklahoma.
The T-Birds did lead just 14-9 nearly 10 minutes in when a jumper by Aleesha Coulter and five straight points by Ajai Ford made it a 21-9 game.
“I thought Ajai Ford had a really nice game and gave us a lift in the first half. She outran people down the floor and that was good to see,” Erkenbrack said.
Northern Oklahoma was able to get back within nine points, 25-16 late in the first half.
Cloud County scored the final seven points of the half, and led 32-16.
After the two teams traded baskets to open the second half, the T-Birds went on a 16-4 run to push the lead to 50-22 when Kamika Mason made two free throws with 13:38 to play.
Pearlrae Thomas started the surge with a three-point play, and Paige Champlin scored seven of the points.
The Mavericks got as close as 24 points, 52-28.
Cloud County scored eight points, five by Thomas, in less than three minutes to open up a 60-28 advantage.
The T-Birds would lead by as many as 38 points, 68-32, on their way to the win.
Raneisha Duncan led the way for Cloud County with 13 points, four rebounds, five assists and five steals.
Ford scored 11 points for the T-Birds.
Thomas had 10 points, four rebounds, three steals and three blocked shots.
Champlin finished with nine points and eight rebounds.
“It was a good opportunity to get everybody involved,” Erkenbrack said.
Deborah Means led Northern Oklahoma with 10 points.
The Mavericks were just 17 of 56 from the field for 30 percent and 3 of 10 from the line.