T-Birds unable to chase down Cowley County

ARKANSAS CITY — Chasing from the opening tip, the Cloud County Thunderbirds were unable to track down the Cowley College Tigers in the quarterfinals of the Region 6 Women’s Basketball Tournament.
Cowley scored four points in the first minute of the game, would never trail on its way to a 68-53 win over Cloud County Tuesday night.
The Tigers led by as many as 20 points in the first half, and were up 38-20 at halftime.
After falling behind by 22 points early in the second half, the T-Birds closed the gap to 10, but couldn’t draw any closer.
“There were a couple of things we had to do in that ballgame, and one was get off to a good start, and we certainly didn’t do that,” Cloud County coach Brett Erkenbrack said, “We had to handle our own on the board, and we got killed there.”
Cowley had a 53-34 rebounding advantage in the game.
Cloud County finishes the season at 21-11 with the loss.
Cowley, the Jayhawk Conference Eastern Division champions, are 28-4 and will play Garden City in the tournament semifinals at 3:30 p.m. Friday at Hartman Arena in Park City.
Garden City  (29-3) defeated Coffeyville, 68-45.
Hutchinson knocked off Seward County 67-52, and Butler County downed Independence, 76-62.
Hutchinson (31-1) plays Butler County (26-6) in the other semifinal on Friday.
Brittany Bush had two baskets in the first minute to give Cowley the early 4-0 lead.
T’Ondria Nolen and Tonisha Walker scored to stretch the Tigers’ lead to 8-0.
“We didn’t come out of the locker room with the kind of intensity necessary to prolong our season,” Erkenbrack said.
Trailing 13-3, the T-Birds got five points from reserve Kamika Mason and a three-point basket by Ajai Ford during an 8-2 spurt to get within four points, 15-11.
Cowley answered with a 15-3 spurt that made it a 30-14 game.
The Tigers would extend the lead to 38-18.
Brittany Stafford scored, and Cloud County trailed 38-20 at halftime.
Walker, who led Cowley with 21 points, hit a three early in the second half, and the Tigers led 41-20.
Cloud County got a three by Raneisha Duncan, and it was 41-23.
The Tigers pushed the lead to 22 points, 47-25, when the T-Birds mounted a comeback.
Three-point baskets by Jayna Smith and Aleesha Coulter, sandwiched around a free throw by Paige Champlin, made it 47-32.
Monita Johnson made one of two free throws for Cowley.
Champlin hit from 15 feet, but Walker connected on a jumper for the Tigers.
A basket by Smith, a three-point play by Champlin and a free throw by Smith pulled Cloud County within 10 points, 50-40, with 11:00 remaining in the game.
“The second half we made some adjustments offensively that gave us better opportunities to score. We got it down to 10, and looked like maybe we had a chance. We didn’t play well enough defensively all game,” Erkenbrack said.
Cowley scored eight quick points to extend the lead to 58-40.
“A lot of it was they just outran us in transition. They just ran right by us,” Erkenbrack said.
A three by Smith cut it to a 15-point game, 58-43.
That is as close as the T-Birds would get.
Smith, with 15 points, was the only T-Bird to score in double figures. She was six of nine from the field, including four of seven from three-point range, and three of five from the free throw line.
The T-Birds finished 20 of 65 from the field for 31 percent and just 6 of 13 from the line for 46 percent.
Cowley got 15 points and 13 rebounds from Bush.
Johnson also scored 15 points for the Tigers.
Cowley hit 23 of 55 field goal attempts for 42 percent and 19 of 26 free throws for 73 percent.

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