Shorthanded T-Birds defeat Colby

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There was a bit of an adjustment period for the Cloud County Thunderbirds.
Playing without their top two scorers and rebounders, Jordyn Alexander and Courtney Fisher, the T-Birds struggled for the first 26 minutes against Colby Community College.
Back to back three-point shots by Tai Nittler and Alyssa Steppe started a 15-0 Cloud County run in the second half that turned a 42-36 deficit into a 51-42 lead.
The T-Birds were able to hold on down the stretch and defeat the Trojans 70-57 in a Jayhawk Conference Western Division matchup Saturday night in Bryant Gymnasium.
Alexander suffered an ankle injury in the first half against Seward County on Wednesday night, and is day to day. Fisher tore her ACL in the second half against the Saints and is out for the remainder of the season.
“Obviously we were asking some people to do some things they haven’t done all year,” Cloud County coach Brett Erkenbrack said, “At any level, junior high to the NBA, take out your top two scorers and it is going to have some kind of an effect.”
Cloud County, now 13-9 overall, finished up its first trip through the Jayhawk West at 4-3.
The T-Birds begin the second half of the conference season by hosting Pratt on Wednesday night.
“This is a really big week for us,” Erkenbrack said.
Jayna Smith, playing more in the post without Alexander and Fisher in the lineup, finished with 19 points, 10 rebounds and four assists for the T-Birds. She was 8 of 14 from the field and three of four from the line.
Nittler contributed 18 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
Raneisha Duncan scored 13 points.
Kimi Lindshield, seeing her most extensive action of the season, added 10 points and five rebounds.
Colby, now 2-21 overall and 0-7 in the Conference, came out firing from the outside.
The Trojans knocked down five three-point shots on its way to a 22-16 lead.
“We talked about it yesterday and before the game. That is their game,” Erkenbrack said of the Trojans’ three-point shooting.
Cloud County would battle back to tie the game at 26-26 when Agnes Aramina scored with 4:55 to play in the first half.
Baskets by Ariel Hutchinson and Deja Cato and a three by Hutchinson put Colby up 33-26.
The Trojans were 6 of 15 from three-point range in the first half.
Lindshield made one of two free throws, and Cloud County trailed 33-27 at halftime.
Smith scored the first three points of the second half to get the T-Birds to within three points, 33-30.
Colby would push the lead back to six points, 42-36.
Cloud County then scored 15 points in just over three minutes to take control of the game.
Nittler tossed in seven of those points.
Colby connected on five of eight free throws in a span of 2:43 to make it a 51-47 game.
Smith scored inside and Duncan hit a jumper to up the T-Birds’ lead to 55-47.
Colby got within six points on two occasions.
It was 57-51 when Cloud County got a follow by Duncan and baskets by Smith and Nittler to go up 63-51 with 2:32 remaining in the game.
The Trojans could get no closer than 10 points after that.
“The bottom line is we had to do what we had to do to try to win the game. Fortunately we were able to do that,” Erkenbrack said.
After hitting six threes in the first half, the Trojans missed all five attempts in the second half.
“We did a lot better job in the second half because they didn’t hit any,” Erkenbrack said.
Cato led the way for Colby with 15 points.
Amanda Miller scored 10 points for the Trojans.

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