Published in the Iola Register on Nov. 16, 2012.

T-Birds hold off comeback by MIdland

MIDLAND, Texas — Rattled by a furious second half comeback by Midland College, the Cloud County Thunderbirds regrouped and made some big plays in the closing minutes to defeat the Chaparrals 72-71 in the opening round of the Women’s National Invitational Tournament Thursday night at Chaparral Center.
Cloud County, which had beaten Midland 54-45 earlier in the season, played stellar first half in building a 40-18 lead.
Midland turned up the defensive pressure and roared back in the second half to go up 57-53.
Cloud County was able to withstand the run, hit some critical shots, and hand the Chaparrals  their first loss in the first round of the tournament they host.
“It was two different games, maybe three different games, all in one,” Cloud County coach Brett Erkenbrack said, “This is a tough place to win down here, especially having beaten them two weeks ago and them hosting the tournament. It is certainly a big win for us.”
Cloud County (5-1) was scheduled to play unbeaten and second-ranked Central Arizona College in the semifinals at 4:00 today.
Central Arizona knocked off Angelina College 87-67 on Thursday.
Fourth-ranked Trinity Valley Community College whipped College of Southern Idaho, 79-49 and Odessa College got past 13th-ranked Northern Oklahoma-Enid.
Trinity Valley and Odessa meet in the other semifinal game.
Midland College will play Angelina College in the losers’ bracket, and College of Southern Idaho takes on Northern Oklahoma-Enid.
Cloud County limited Midland to 16.7 percent (7 of 42) shooting from the field in the first half.
Sophomore Aleesha Coulter knocked down four three-point shots as the T-Birds built the 40-18 advantage.
“We played about as well as you can play in the first half on both ends of the floor,” Erkenbrack said, “Part of it was they didn’t shoot very well and part of it was we played pretty good defense.”
Midland (3-3) turned things around early in the second half.
The Chaparrals outscored the T-Birds 41-13 to take a 57-53 lead.
“They got a lot more physical in the second half,” Erkenbrack said, “It made it difficult for us to get anything started in our offense.”
Midland also got to the free throw line, hitting 16 of 27 attempts.
Trailing 64-61, the T-Birds went on a 9-2 spurt to take a 70-66 advantage.
Freshman Raneisha Duncan knocked down a three during the run.
Cloud County was clinging to a 70-68 lead when Midland’s Meghan Braeuer missed a three-point attempt with 13 seconds to play.
The ball was tipped out of bounds to Cloud County.
Duncan was fouled with 11.8 seconds left. She made both free throws to put the T-Birds up 72-68.
Midland was able to hit a three as time ran out to make the final margin just one point.
“There were a lot of big plays in the game. Paige (Champlin) hit a big three. Raneisha hit a huge three. Jordyn Alexander got a big offensive rebound and putback,” Erkenbrack said.
Coulter, who was five of eight from three-point range, led Cloud County with 17 points.
Pearlrae Thomas scored 16 points and grabbed 14 rebounds for the T-Birds.
“Pearl Thomas was outstanding on the boards, and defensively, and made some big shots,” Erkenbrack said.
Duncan finished with 14 points.
The T-Birds hit 22 of 52 field goal attempts for 42 percent, including 8 of 14 threes for 57 percent, and 20 of 24 free throws for 83 percent.
Achiri Ade had 17 points and 14 rebounds for Midland.
The Chaparrals got 16 points from Braeuer, 13 from Tia Dixon and 10 from Catherine Kruschke.
Midland was 22 of 74 from the floor for 30 percent and 19 of 30 from the line for 63 percent.