T-Birds shake off slow start to defeat Raiders, 70-59

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It looked as if break time ended before the Cloud County Thunderbirds were ready to get back to work.
Playing their first game following the semester break, the T-Birds fell behind Central (Neb.) Community College 10-0.
Cloud County trailed much of the first half and was down 41-38 better than six minutes into the second half.
Scoring 10 points in less than three minutes, the T-Birds surged past the Raiders on their way to a 70-59 victory Wednesday night in Bryant Gymnasium.
"It couldn't have been much worse than getting down 10 to nothing," Cloud County coach Brett Erkenbrack said, "That was a surprise to me. I thought we had been practicing well, and we are basically pretty healthy. I am not sure why we came out the way we did."
It was the final non-conference game for the T-Birds, now 9-6. They open Jayhawk Conference Western Division play at Dodge City on Saturday night.
Knocking down a pair of three-point shots, Central grabbed the early 10-0 lead.
"We didn't seem to have any confidence. We were not aggressive offensively and were tentative defensively," Erkenbrack said.
Cloud County did not score until a basket by Jordan Alexander with 15:11 to play in the first half.
The T-Birds slowly chipped away at the deficit, and overtook the Raiders at 25-24 on a bucket by Courtney Fisher with 1:43 remaining in the half.
Tai Nittler scored on a drive, and Cloud County led 27-24.
Lana'e Washington-Carson hit from 17 feet for Central.
Fisher made one of two free throws to make it 28-26.
A follow by Washington-Carson as time ran out in the half pulled the Raiders even at 28-28.
Sophomore Jayna Smith scored the first two points of the second half to give Cloud County a 30-28 advantage.
Smith scored 13 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the game.
"We got a great effort out of Jayna Smith," Erkenbrack said, "She needed this effort to get a little more confidence in her knee."
Central (11-6) put together an 8-2 spurt to reclaim the lead at 36-32.
The Raiders were up 41-38 when Cloud County took control.
Two free throws by Smith, fourth straight points by Fisher, a pair of free throws by Raneisha Duncan and a layup by Alexander  put the T-Birds up 48-41. They would not trail again.
"That was the ball game," Erkenbrack said of the 10-0 run, "That was mainly due to the fact we picked up our defensive intensity. We got a couple of steals with Jayna and Courtney Smith. That allowed us to get a little breathing room."
Cloud County would extend the lead to 10 points, 55-45.
Baskets by Washington-Carson and Sophia Yarger got the Raiders within six points, 55-49.
Smith hit one of two free throws, Alexander followed up a missed shot, Linda Pagrode got a steal and a layup and Fisher scored inside to put Cloud County on top, 62-49.
Central got as close as eight points, 67-59, but the T-Birds scored the final three points of the game.
"It is good to get a win, and good to get a game under our belt before we go to Dodge City," Erkenbrack said.
Fisher led four T-Birds in double figures with 16 points and also pulled down nine rebounds.
Alexander finished with 15 points and eight boards.
Nittler came off the bench to score 13 points. She added five rebounds and three assists.
Cloud County hit 26 of 63 field goal attempts for 41 percent and 16 of 28 free throws for 57 percent.
The T-Birds had a 51-32 rebounding advantage.
Central was led by Shelby Allberry with 12 points.
Adrianna Beck scored 11 points for the Raiders, and Javona Wynee added 10 points.
The Raiders were 25 of 63 from the floor for 40 percent and four of eight from the line.


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