Late rebound locks up T-Bird win

NORFOLK, Neb. — Cloud County’s 21st offensive rebound of the game allowed the Thunderbirds to run the final 4.1 seconds off the clock and secure a 72-69 win over Northeast Community College on Wednesday night.
Cloud County was clinging to a 71-69 lead when Jordyn Alexander was fouled with just over four seconds to play.
Alexander made the first of two free throw attempts to put the T-Birds up by three points. She missed the second, but Jayna Smith was able to tip the ball out to Alexander as time ran off the clock.
TheT-Birds connected on just 7 of 22 free throws in the game for 32 percent, but the 21 offensive rebounds helped them avenge an earlier 58-55 home loss to the Hawks and improve to 9-4 on the season.
“To go seven of 22 from the line and win on the road against a good team, we certainly had to do a lot of good things to get that done,” Cloud County coach Brett Erkenbrack said, “I saw some things that give me some hope.”
Trailing by as many as eight points in the first half, Cloud County surged to a 67-55 lead when Pearlrae Thomas made two free throws with 5:41 to play in the game.
Thomas scored 15 of her game high 19 points in the second half.
Northeast, now 11-2, mounted a comeback
Two free throws by Emily Gamble and four straight points by Ivana Vuletic made it a 67-61 game.
Cloud County responded with baskets by Alexander and Thomas, and led 71-61.
Gamble knocked down two free throws, Northeast forced a Cloud County turnover, and Vuletic hit a jumper.
Following an empty offensive possession by Cloud County, the Hawks got a bucket by Gamble to close the gap to 71-67.
A shot clock violation on the T-Birds gave the ball back to Northeast with 17 seconds to play.
Andrea Johnson missed a three-point attempt, but Alison Klostergaard came up with the ball, and was fouled with 4.9 seconds on the clock.
Klostergaard made both free throws to get the Hawks within two points, 71-69.
Cloud County inbounded the ball to Alexander, and she was fouled immediately.
Alexander went one of two from the line, and the T-Birds came up with the offensive rebound to lock up the victory.
“Jayna Smith is doing a lot of good things for us. The play she made was really big. She made a great effort to tip that ball to Jordyn. If that ball goes out of bounds with 4.1 seconds a lot of things could still happen,” Erkenbrack said.
Smith scored just five points but had 10 rebounds, six offensive, and three assists.
Aleesha Coulter had 13 points, five assists and four steals for the T-Birds.
Alexander finished with 12 points and nine rebounds.
Paige Champlin had eight points and eight rebounds, and Raneisha Duncan added eight points and nine assists.
“We got good production out of our post people. Pearl Thomas was outstanding in the second half. I thought Jordyn Alexander had a solid game and Paige had a solid game,” Erkenbrack said.
Vuletic led the way for Northeast with 16 points.
Johnson scored 13 points and Klostergaard chipped in 10 points and 12 rebounds.
Northeast jumped out to a 10-2 lead in the game.
Cloud County fought back to go up 22-18.
The Hawks scored nine straight points, and led 27-22.
Cloud County trailed 32-28 at halftime.
With Thomas leading the way, the T-Birds opened the second half with a 9-2 spurt to reclaim the lead at 37-34. They would not trail again in the game.
“We had a lot of people make a lot of big plays for us,” Erkenbrack said.
Cloud County will play its final non-conference game at Northern Oklahoma-Tonkawa on Sunday afternoon.

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