Thunderbirds grind out 56-51 win over Broncbusters

GARDEN CITY — On paper it may appear to have been an ugly win, but to Cloud County coach Chad Eshbaugh it was a masterpiece.
Leading from late in the first half until the end of the game, the Thunderbirds grinded out a 56-51 victory over the Garden City Broncbusters in a Jayhawk Conference Western Division battle Saturday night.
There were 65 missed field goal attempts, 19 missed free throws and 34 turnovers  in the game, but the end result was a thing of beauty for Eshbaugh.
“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. To me it is the prettiest win I have seen in a while,” Eshbaugh said.
Cloud County,  13-14 overall, is now 5-6 and tied with Garden City for fifth place in a bunched up Jayhawk West.
The top four teams will host first-round games in the Region 6 tournament.
Cloud County has three games remaining in the regular season, two at home.
“The way the Conference has been this season it gives us a fighting chance,” Eshbaugh said.
Cloud County had the biggest lead of the first half at 20-15.
Garden City went on a 9-2 run to go up 24-22.
Jumpers by Marvin Smith and Lorenzo Dillard gave the T-Birds the lead back at 26-24.
Smith scored 13 points and grabbed eight rebounds for Cloud County.
Dillard finished with 13 points and five boards.
There would be four lead changes in the final 3:00 of the first half.
Cloud County, trailing 29-28, got a jumper by Assane Diop and a basket by Dillard to go on top  to stay, 32-29.
The T-Birds would not surrender the lead in the second half, but couldn’t pull away from the Broncbusters.
“It was the fourth game in a week for both teams,” Eshbaugh said, “They are good defensively. I thought we played pretty well defensively. It was a slugfest.”
Cloud County would push the lead to six points in the second half.
The Broncbusters closed the gap to three points, 41-38, on a basket by Miles Banks.
Two free throws by Lionel Gomis and a a follow by Creighton Brinker gave Cloud County a 45-38 cushion.
Garden City fought back to within three points, 53-50, when Jeremy Wilson made one of two free throws with 1:36 on the clock.
Cloud County couldn’t convert on the offensive end, and Jade Cathey connected on one of two from the line to make it 53-51.
The Broncbusters had an opportunity to tie the game, but Jalen Variste missed two free throws with 34 seconds left.
Dillard missed a pair of free throws eight seconds later, but the Broncbusters turned the ball over.
Two free throws by Dillard with :10.7 to play put Cloud County up 55-51.
Cathey missed a three-point attempt, and Diop hit one of two free throws to give the T-Birds the 56-51 win.
“Probably our prettiest win of the year,” Eshbaugh said.
Gomis scored eight points and pulled down 11 rebounds for Cloud County.
The T-Birds’ leading scorer, Shaun Stewart, was limited to seven points.
Wilson led Garden City with 16 points.
Cathey scored 10 for the Broncbusters.
Cloud County hosts Hutchinson on Wednesday night.

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