It was a win that the Cloud County Thunderbirds needed.
Struggling to knock down shots, the T-Birds had suffered four consecutive losses. They shot under 30 percent from the field in three of those four defeats.
Led by sophomores Ed Dyson and Gerrae Williams, the T-Birds halted the losing streak by clipping the Pratt Beavers 57-55 in a Jayhawk Conference Western Division matchup Wednesday night in Bryant Gymnasium.
Dyson was 7 of 10 from the field, including two of three from three-point range, and two of four from the free throw line in scoring 18 points.
Williams connected on five of seven three-point tries, and finished with 17 points as Cloud County completed the regular season sweep of Pratt.
“It is nice for them to experience a positive result,” Cloud County coach Chad Eshbaugh said, “We have been playing consistently defensively, and have not made shots in the last four games.”
Cloud County, now 13-11 overall and 4-6 in the Conference, shot 50 percent (12 of 24) from the floor in the first half, and made 6 of 10 three-point attempts in taking a 36-26 lead on Pratt.
The Beavers, aided by some key Cloud County turnovers, battled back to within a point, 50-49, when Ralph Abraham made one of two free throws with 6:09 to play in the game.
“We didn’t value the basketball. Our turnovers have to get better,” Eshbaugh said, “We had 18 of 19 turnovers. That is too many at this time of the year. Our number is 12.”
Back to back baskets by Dyson and Marvin Smith gave Cloud County a 54-49 cushion.
Aaron Abram threw down a dunk for Pratt.
Williams answered with a three, and it was a 57-51 game.
Pratt, 12-11 overall and 2-7 in the Conference, got a follow by Abram and two free throws by DeShun Robert to get within two points, 57-55, with 49 seconds remaining.
Cloud County ran the shot clock down, but Dyson was unable to score on a drive with 17 seconds left.
Looking for a basket to tie the game or take the lead, the Beavers turned it over.
Smith was fouled with 1.5 seconds on the clock. He missed the front end of a one-and-one, but a three-quarter court heave by Pratt wasn’t close, and the T-Birds escaped with the win.
“We are tough to beat when we shoot the ball just a little,” Eshbaugh said.
The T-Birds shot 44 percent (20 of 45) for the game, but made just 10 of 20 free throws.
“We didn’t shoot it great the second half, but if we don’t turn it over and make free throws, we are still pretty comfortable,” Eshbaugh said.
Smith scored eight points and blocked four shots for the T-Birds.
Sean Michaelson, who made 4 of 10 three-point attempts, scored 16 points for Pratt.
Abram had 10 points for the Beavers.
Abram and Michaelson knocked down threes as Pratt got out to an 8-2 lead in the game.
It was 8-3 when Dyson hit a three, Pratt turned it over, and Williams buried a three to give the T-Birds their first lead, 9-8.
“I think Gerrae and Ed both had good games for us offensively. They gave us a spark, gave us some confidence,” Eshbaugh said.
There were three lead changes and two ties over the next three minutes.
Consecutive threes by Dyson and Williams put Cloud County on top to stay, 21-15.
It was 24-19 when Cloud County got a three by Williams, a jumper by Marcus Fillyaw, a free throw by Dyson and a follow by Rodrick Robinson to open up a 32-19 advantage.
The T-Birds led by 10 points at halftime.
Dyson scored the first two points of the second half, and it was 38-26.
Pratt then started to cut into the lead.
A 9-2 run made it 40-37.
Cloud County scored five straight points, four by Dyson, and led 45-37.
The T-Birds managed just five points over the next 5:35 as the Beavers closed to within a point.
Cloud County was able to respond with a 7-2 spurt, and held on for the win.