Short-handed T-Birds hang tough in 82-74 road loss to No. 21 Barton

Cloud County freshman JaVary Christmas scored 15 points and had four assists in Wednesday's 81-74 loss to Barton
Cloud County freshman JaVary Christmas scored 15 points and had four assists in Wednesday's 81-74 loss to Barton

GREAT BEND, Kansas — Moral victories don't pad the win column. But on Wednesday, the Cloud County Community College men's basketball team can take solace in its effort as the T-Birds hung tough against No. 21 ranked Barton in an 82-74 road loss.

The T-Birds (4-9 overall, 2-8 KJCCC) did so largely without standout forward Ramion Burt Jr. as the redshirt sophomore exited the game with 2:13 remaining in the first half and didn't return after a hard fall under the basket.

"We were following concussion protocol with Ray. We don't think there is anything broken or anything real significant, but he was pretty dizzy after the fall," said Cloud County head coach, Jordan Altman. "We'll reevaluate him (Thursday morning)."

Cloud County trailed 32-24 heading to the locker rooms, and were down by as many as 11 in the second half, but manages to stay in contact due to its defense as the Cougars were limited to 39 percent shooting from the field and just 4-of-20 (20 percent) from 3-point distance.

The T-Birds shot 42 percent for the game — 53 percent in the second half — while posting their best performance at the free-throw stripe (16-of-17, 94 percent) this season.

Cloud County was within three points at 49-46 following a floater from freshman guard Jerome Kidd Jr., and inched within five points on two occasions over the final 2:40 before being forced to foul.

"The second half was tremendous. If we can play the way we did in the second half consistently, we'll beat a lot of teams," Altman said. "When we got committed to attacking the rim in the second half, a lot of great things happened."

Unfortunately, it was the lost possessions on both sides of the floor that proved pivotal as Cloud County lost the turnover battle, 23-15, and Barton made the most of its 37 free-throw attempts (28-of-37, 76 percent).

Freshman guard JaVary Christmas, who received his first start of the season in the absence of forward Breyon Jackson, led all T-Birds with 15 points and four assists.

He was joined in double-figures by a trio of Cloud County guards as sophomore Solomon Finley tallied 14 points on 5-of-8 shooting, while redshirt freshman Alvin Thompson and sophomore Obi Patrick added 13 points and 11 points, respectively. The 11 points were a season high for Patrick in his first action since November 25.

The T-Birds will look to put all the pieces together at 8 p.m. Saturday when they return home to host Cowley College, hopefully with Burt Jr. and Jackson back in tow.

"Breyon Jackson has been dealing with some family issues and we just picked him up (Wednesday) afternoon. To go tie the No. 21 team in the country in the second half, without our two starting forwards, is a pretty good accomplishment," Altman said. "If there is any optimism in a loss like this, it is that we competed very closely with a very good team without a few of our best players."