COLUMBUS, Neb. — It was inevitable that the game between Cloud County and Central Community College was going to be a close one that would not be decided until the final seconds.
Cloud County slipped past Central 92-90 in overtime earlier in the season, and the two teams played a pair of one-point games last season.
The Thunderbirds completed the season sweep by scoring the final four points of the game to pull out a 71-68 win Tuesday night at the Raider Fieldhouse.
The win snapped a two-game skid for the T-Birds, who are now 8-4.
Central had won three straight heading into the game.
Cloud County was leading 67-66 when a dunk by James Spencer put Central up 68-67 with 1:17 to play in the game.
A basket by Rodrick Robinson, off an assist from Marcus Fillyaw, put the T-Birds back up by a point, 69-68.
Spencer missed a jumper in the lane with time running out, and Ed Dyson grabbed the rebound and was fouled.
“We did a really good job of making him (Spencer) take a tough, contested shot,” Cloud County coach Chad Eshbaugh said.
Dyson hit two free throws with four seconds on the clock to give the T-Birds the three-point win.
“More than anything else we needed to tough out a road win, and we did that. I was proud of them,” Eshbaugh said.
There were 16 lead changes and six ties in the game, and the biggest lead by either team was seven points.
Trailing 15-11, the T-Birds scored nine straight points to go up 20-15
Central answered with nine unanswered points to reclaim the lead at 24-20.
Cloud County then put together a 15-4 run to grab a 35-28 advantage.
The T-Birds led 37-32 at halftime.
Central battled back to lead 53-51 with just over 11 minutes to play.
There were seven lead changes the rest of the way, and the T-Birds were able to make plays down the stretch to get the win.
Dyson led the way for Cloud County with 18 points. He was six of eight from the field and six of six from the line.
Connor McDaniel scored 13 points for the T-Birds, and Robinson added 11.
Cloud County was just 25 of 70 from the field for 36 percent, and made 18 of 27 free throws for 67 percent.
The T-Birds had a 53-38 rebounding advantage.
“We really rebounded the ball well,” Eshbaugh said, “From my perspective, I was really pleased. We didn’t shoot it very well, but for the most part we took good shots.”
Spencer led four Central players in double figures with 19 points.
Tyron Criswell scored 16 for the Raiders. Dave Plain finished with 12 points, and Riak Bel added 10.
Central shot 44 percent (28 of 64) from the floor and 46 percent (6 of 13) from the line.
Cloud County will host the York College junior varsity at 4 p.m. Saturday.