T-Birds get overtime win
It took five extra minutes for the Cloud County Thunderbirds to finally shake off the pesky Highland Scotties.
Trailing by double figures for much of the first 32 minutes of the game, the feisty Scotties went on a 20-4 run to take an 81-78 lead on Cloud County with under two minutes to play.
The T-Birds then used an 8-2 spurt to go back on top 86-83.
Highland’s Martell Collins connected on a three-point attempt as time ran out in regulation to tie the game and force overtime.
Cloud County was able to outscore the Scotties 12-5 over the final 2:48 of the extra period to capture a 101-95 victory Friday night in Bryant Gymnasium.
“It is important in the process, for our young team, for us to find ways to win games and I was happy they found a way to win that one” Cloud County coach Chad Eshbaugh said.
With the win, the T-Birds snapped a three-game losing streak to improve to 5-3.
Highland suffered a third consecutive loss, and is now 4-3.
Cloud County jumped out to an 11-2 lead in the game, and would not trail until late in the second half.
Led by sophomore guard Shaun Stewart, the T-Birds pushed the lead to 13 points, 29-16.
Stewart connected on 7 of 10 field goal attempts, including four of five from three-point range, in scoring 18 points in the first half. He finished with 33 points 10 rebounds, six assists and four steals.
“I thought Shaun Stewart had a great game and did a whole lot of things to enable us to win. He stepped up and hit big shots and grabbed rebounds. He had a really nice ball game for us,” Eshbaugh said.
Toreé Somerville scored five points during an 8-0 run that got Highland back within five points, 29-24.
Cloud County pushed the lead to 14 points, 41-27 only to have the Scotties score seven straight to make it 41-33.
The two teams traded baskets, and Lorenzo Dillard hit a three and then Stewart drained a three in the final seconds of the half to give Cloud County a 49-35 advantage.
The T-Birds were 18 of 31 from the field for 58 percent in the first 20 minutes, including 7 of 11 from three-point range for 64 percent.
Dillard, a freshman guard, had 19 points and five assists in the game.
Knocking down three threes, Highland opened the second half with a 15-8 spurt, and trailed just 57-50 when Jamal LeFond made a layup with 15:55 to play.
Dillard connected on a three and Jeremiah Brooks and Assane Diop made two free throws each in a span of 1:07 to again give Cloud County a 14-point cushion, 64-50.
Diop, a 6-9 freshman, pumped in 27 points and pulled down 16 rebounds for the T-Birds.
“I thought Assane Diop was unbelievable on the board and really, really competed in the paint,” Eshbaugh said.
Cloud County led 74-61 when Highland made its big run.
The Scotties outscored the T-Birds 20-4 over a span of six minutes to go up 81-78.
“They are a good team and they shoot the ball pretty well. I was pretty confident a run was coming,” Eshbaugh said, “During that run we had three or four turnovers. We gave them 25 points off our turnovers.”
Stewart hit a three-point shot, and was fouled. He missed the free throw, but the game was tied with 1:23 to play.
A steal and a layup by Stewart 21 seconds later gave the T-Birds the lead back at 83-81.
Two free throws by Collins pulled Highland even.
Diop scored inside and Cloud County led 85-83.
Followng a missed three-point attempt by Highland, Diop was fouled with 10 seconds on the clock. He made one of two free throws to put the T-Birds up 86-83.
The ball was knocked out of bounds with 1.3 seconds left.
Highland inbounded to Collins, who buried a three as time ran out to force overtime.
“We had a communication error and allowed an easier shot than we felt comfortable giving up,” Eshbaugh said.
Collins scored on a drive early in the extra period to give the Scotties an 88-86 lead.
Three straight points by Diop put Cloud County back up, 89-88.
Collins made two free throws, and the Scotties led 90-89.
Dillard scored on a drive, the T-Birds got a steal and Diop followed up a missed shot.
Cloud County got a defensive stop, and Dillard made one of two free throws to up the lead to 94-90.
Highland got as close as three points, but the T-Birds were able to score seven points, five from the free throw line, in 45 seconds to get away with the win.
“I was proud of them. That would have been an easy game for us to fold at the end of regulation; it would have been an easy game for us to hang our heads when they hit the shot at the end to send it to overtime,” Eshbaugh said.
Collins led three Scotties in double figures with 28 points and grabbed eight rebounds.
Marc Ellis scored 21 points for HIghland and Jerricus Funderburke added 13 points.
Cloud County plays at Central (Neb.) Community College on Tuesday night.
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