CONCORDIA, Kansas — The Cloud County Community College men's basketball team, and first-year head coach Jordan Altman, earned win No. 1 of the 2017-18 season on Saturday, leading wire-to-wire in a 73-58 victory over Kansas Wesleyan JV.
"It feels really good. I've been waiting a long time to have an opportunity to coach a program like this and to compete at the highest level of junior college basketball," said Altman, who is just the fifth head coach in Cloud County's 50-year history. "Getting that first one out of the way was a goal I've had for many, many years. Now we can move forward and try to win some games that'll help us get to the postseason."
Cloud County (1-1 overall) leaned on its defense through the first 20 minutes as the T-Birds limited the visiting Coyotes (0-2 overall) to a dismal 16 percent shooting in the first half.
Sophomore point guard Solomon Finley provided the exclamation point as he nailed a deep 3-pointer at the buzzer to give Cloud County a 27-15 lead at the break.
The T-Birds offense then started to click early in the second half, playing primarily through sophomore Ramion Burt Jr. The 6-foot, 8-inch forward scored 10 of his 13 points in the second half — tying him with Finley for the team lead — while adding seven rebounds and a team-high five assists.
"Ray is going to be our leader. He and (Finley) are going to lead us in almost category throughout the season," Altman said. "We need him to get a little bit more aggressive at the rim. I don't think (Kansas Wesleyan JV) had a single person on its roster that could guard Ray."
Burt Jr.'s frontcourt mate Breyon Jackson had a solid performance Saturday, as well, finishing with seven points and a team-high eight rebounds in 24 minutes. As a team, Cloud County owned a 26-16 advantage in points in the paint.
"Breyon set the tone for us with rebounding," Altman said. "The ones he grabbed were not only important, but they were the types that really go toward the mentality of a rebounder. They weren't ones that fell into his lap. He really had to work and go after a lot of those rebounds."
The T-Birds would lead by as many as 17 points at the 10:02 mark of the second half, courtesy of a 3-pointer from freshman forward Adetomi Ayilara, but would have to withstand one final gasp from Kansas Wesleyan JV.
The Coyotes, who shot 9-of-15 from 3-point range in the second half, used the long ball to spark an 11-0 run over the next 1:58 to crawl back within six points at 50-44 with 8:02 remaining.
"It's a real issue we have. It comes back to a mentality that I'm struggling to break with the guys. I told them in the locker room they thought the game was theirs," Altman said. "We led by 17 with 10 minutes remaining and a quick 3-4 minutes later it was a six-point ballgame."
Cloud County quickly regained control, however, answering with a 10-2 run of its own — capped with a bucket from redshirt freshman Alvin Thompson with 4:19 remaining — to balloon the lead back up to 14 points at 60-46.
Freshman guard JaVary Christmas joined Burt Jr. and Finley in double-figures on Saturday with 10 points off the bench.
The T-Birds will look to build off the performance when they continue their seven-game home stand at 8 p.m. against Bethany College JV.