Mavericks bounce T-Birds from Region 6 Tournament

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A late season resurgence that earned the Cloud County Thunderbirds a home game in the first round of the Region 6 Tournament ended abruptly with an 82-73 overtime loss to Northwest Kansas Technical College Saturday night in Bryant Gymnasium.
Cloud County had reeled off five consecutive wins to climb to the number four seed out of the Jayhawk Conference Western Division.
Northwest Kansas Tech, which is not in the Jayhawk Conference, was awarded the fifth seed out of the East.
The Mavericks wiped out a four point Cloud County lead in the final 1:36 of regulation to tie the game at 59-59 and force overtime.
Northwest Kansas Tech put together a 7-1 run to go from 61-59 down to up 71-62, and held off the T-Birds to move on to the tournament quarterfinals.
Cloud County finishes the season 16-15.
“We were playing well at the end of  the season, there is no doubt. We felt like we were playing our best basketball,” Cloud County coach Chad Eshbaugh said, “We knew Northwest Tech was a very good basketball team. Not your typical five seed. We really didn't put much stock in playing at home against a lesser opponent.”
Northwest Kansas Tech (19-12) plays Independence (17-10) in the quarterfinals at 1 p.m. Thursday at Koch Arena in Wichita.
In the other first-round games:
Independence def. Colby, 80-63; Butler def. Barton, 63-59: Hutchinson def. Allen, 93-83; Coffeyville def. Dodge City, 67-64; Pratt def. Labette, 93-71; Neosho County def. Garden City, 74-59; and Seward County def. Cowley, 82-39.
Northwest Kansas Tech, unintimidated by playing on the road, limited Cloud County to just three field goals in the first nine minutes of the game in building a 17-6 lead.
“Some of it was nerves. They were excited to play and wanted to play,” Eshbaugh said.
Cloud County would put together an 11-2 run to close the gap to 19-17.
The Mavericks responded with a 7-2 spurt to go up 26-19.
Consecutive three-point baskets by Shaun Stewart and one free throw each by Lorenzo Dillard and Kamil Shasi  gave the T-Birds their first lead at 27-26.
Gian Clavell made two free throws, and Northwest Kansas Tech led 28-27 at halftime.
There would be six lead changes in the first nine minutes of the second half.
Cloud County was struggling to make shots, hitting just 7 of 26 field goal attempts for 27 percent, but was able to keep pace by knocking down 18 of 27 free throws.
Consecutive threes by James Sylvester gave the Mavericks a 46-40 lead.
Sylvester  led all scorers with 25 points.
Five points by Stewart and two free throws by Marvin Smith pulled Cloud County even at 46-46.
Stewart finished with 18 points and five rebounds.
The two teams would be tied on two occasions over the next four minutes.
It was a  52-52 game when Cloud County scored four straight points to go up 56-52 with 2:44 to play.
The two teams traded baskets to make it 58-54.
Sylvester made one of two free throws, Northwest Kansas Tech got a stop, and Marcus Walden scored to close the gap to 58-57.
Dillard was fouled with 37 seconds on the clock. He made the second of two free throws to give Cloud County a 59-57 lead.
The Mavericks tied the game at 59-59 when Walden tipped in a missed shot with 29 seconds remaining.
Cloud County held for the final shot, and Stewart missed on a guarded three-point attempt. A tip try by Smith wouldn’t drop and the game went to overtime.
“We ran a set and Shaun fumbled the ball. We wanted to get to the rim off a curl. He fumbled and had to take a jump shot. The second thing is we got all kinds of opportunities to get the rebound. He took it with enough time. We missed a layup at the buzzer,” Eshbaugh said.
Two free throws by Dillard 14 seconds into the extra period put the T-Birds up 61-59.
Dillard matched Stewart with 18 points and had six rebounds.
A three-point play by Clavell and baskets by John Caraballo and Clavell gave the Mavericks a 66-61 lead.
“Anytime you go to an overtime situation it is going to be who hits the first run,” Eshbaugh said, “Number three (Clavell) hit a couple of tough shots and all of a sudden you are down four or five. That gets you into a situation that things have to go your way at the free throw line. To their credit they didn't miss any free throws.”
Cloud County got as close as four points, 73-69, when Stewart hit a three with 56 seconds to play.
Northwest Kansas Tech connected on 9 of 12 free throws over the final 55 seconds to keep the T-Birds at bay.
Smith scored 13 points and grabbed seven rebounds for Cloud County.
“We shot the ball poorly and missed some shots we had been making. Jump shots come and go, but we missed some shots at the rim,” Eshbaugh said.
The T-Birds shot just 32 percent (20 of 62) from the field for the game.
Clavell tossed in 21 points for the Mavericks, and Luis Huertas added 14 points.
The Mavericks were 23 of 50 from the floor for 46 percent.


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