CCCC suffers conference loss to Garden City

GARDEN CITY — A heartbreaking 67-63 loss to the Garden City Broncbusters left the Cloud County Thunderbirds down, but not out of the race for an upper division finish in the Jayhawk Conference Western Division.
A win, in a game in which they led by seven points with under 12 minutes to play, would have given Cloud County sole possession of the third place in the Jayhawk West.
Giving up a 15-8 run over the final eight minutes, the T-Birds, 15-11 overall, fell to 6-5 in the Conference and tied for fourth place with Barton County.
Garden City, also 15-11 overall, moves to 7-4 in the West and alone in third place behind Hutchinson and Seward County.
The top four teams in the Conference host a first-round game in the Region 6 tournament.
Cloud County hosts third-ranked Hutchinson on Wednesday night and 10th-ranked Seward County on Saturday night before finishing up the regular season on the road against Colby.
“We are still not out of it, but we have a tough stretch,” Cloud County coach Brett Erkenbrack said, “If we win at least one more game, Barton would have to win at least two games.”
Barton County also has games against Hutchinson and Seward County remaining.
Garden City, which defeated Cloud County on its home floor earlier in the season, jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the game.
The T-Birds would battle back to take a 13-12 lead when Jayna Smith completed a three-point play with 11:00 to play in the first half.
Smith went 7 of 11 from the field and five of six from the free throw line in leading Cloud County with 17 points. She also had nine rebounds.
The two teams would spend the next 11 minutes going back and forth.
With the game tied at 25-25, Loysha Morris hit a three-point shot to give Garden City a 28-25 halftime lead.
Knocking down a pair of threes, and getting four points from Jordyn Alexander, the T-Birds scored the first 10 points of the second half to take a 35-28 advantage.
Turnovers and missed shots would allow Garden City to fight back to tie the game at 35-35.
“We just made some poor decisions with the basketball,” Erkenbrack said, “I don’t remember a game when we had the ball taken away off the dribble like we did.”
Cloud County put together a 9-2 spurt to go up 44-37 when Tai Nittler connected on a three.
Nitltler scored 12 points in the game.
Back came Garden City to tie the game at 46-46.
Leading 55-52, the T-Birds would go better than 4:30 without scoring as the Broncbusters pumped in nine points to go up 61-55.
A free throw by Smith and a baseline jumper by Nittler made it 61-60.
Cloud County had opportunities to pull closer, but missed a shot and turned it over twice.
A layup by Tori Spann gave Garden City a 63-60 lead with 1:23 to play.
Two free throws by Sandra Davis pushed the lead to 65-60 with 24 seconds on the clock.
Raneisha Duncan buried a three to get Cloud County within two points, 65-63, with 10 seconds left.
Two free throws by Morris five seconds later locked up the win for the Broncbusters.
“There is not a lot of shame in losing to Garden City at home,” Erkenbrack said.
Duncan matched Nittler with 12 points.
Linda Pagrode scored 10 points for the T-Birds.
Davis led Garden City with 14 points.
Morris scored 12 points for the Broncbusters, and Shauqunna Collins added 11 points.

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