T-Birds open the season with 81-69 road win over Central Community College-Columbus

Cloud County sophomore Jerome Kidd Jr. scored 17 points and grabbed five rebounds in Thursday's 81-69 win.
Cloud County sophomore Jerome Kidd Jr. scored 17 points and grabbed five rebounds in Thursday's 81-69 win.

COLUMBUS, Nebraska — The Cloud County Community College men's basketball team tipped off the 2018-19 season in fine fashion Thursday, picking up an 81-69 road win over Central Community College-Columbus.

Cloud County (1-0) repaid the favor to Central Community College-Columbus (0-1) after the Raiders stole a 71-65 win in last year's opener in Concordia.

"We really needed to get our confidence going and that's the important part of the non-conference schedule; to get some games you can go win and develop while not having to face the top-flight talent we'll see once we get into conference play," said Cloud County head coach, Jordan Altman. "It was a good win and I'm glad we'll have a couple more non-conference games like this so we can find our groove before getting into the Jayhawk Conference."

The T-Birds owned a slim 38-37 lead at the break, but were able to break the game open early in the second half when they rattled off an 11-0 run in a three-minute span that turned a 49-49 tie into a 60-49 advantage with 12 minutes remaining.

Redshirt freshman Nysir Scott capped the momentum-changing run for Cloud County with a steal and transition layup for two of his seven points on the evening.

Central wouldn't inch any closer than eight points the rest of the way.

"It (the run) was created on both sides of the floor for us," Altman said. "We hit some shots and really dug in to get some stops. Once we strung a couple of stops and scores together, and Jerome had a big dunk that got the bench excited, it kind of snowballed from there."

Sophomore guards Jerome Kidd Jr. and Alvin Thompson paced all T-Birds on Thursday as they each finished with 17 points and five rebounds, with 31 of those 34 points coming from inside the 3-point line.

As a team, Cloud County shot 53 percent (36-of-68) compared to 38 percent (28-of-74) for the Raiders.

"I thought Jerome really took to our game plan the minute he went out on the floor," Altman said. "Because of how successful he was our other guys started to match him. We were very determined to get to the rim tonight and that's where Alvin and Jerome got most of their points."

Joining the backcourt duo in double-figures were newcomers in freshmen Gabe Pieschl and Edoardo Del Cadia.

Del Cadia, a big 6'8 stretch forward out of Italy, was limited to 13 minutes Thursday as the T-Birds were forced to match up with the Raiders' smaller lineup. He was efficient in his floor time, though, as Del Cadia finished with 10 points, five rebounds and two blocked shots.

Pieschl, the all-time leading scorer at nearby Marysville High School, earned his first start and finished with 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting, four rebounds, a pair of steals and a block in 21 minutes.

"What I've always liked about Gabe is that he finds a way to help us whether he's hitting shots or not," Altman said. "He did a lot of great things for us offensively and defensively. A blocked shot, two steals to go with 10 points is not bad for a freshman coming out of Marysville."

Forwards Iyen Enaruna and Adetomi Ayilara each chipped in seven points in the win, as well.

Cloud County will look to build off Thursday's victory when it heads off to Pratt this weekend for the two-day Pratt Classic.

The T-Birds will play Next Level Hoops Academy at 5 p.m. on Saturday before concluding the weekend with a 4 p.m. game on Sunday against Kansas Wesleyan University JV.

"We've really been stressing to the guys that there is a fundamental mentality to winning," Altman said. "I'm really hoping with these two games here that we can build our confidence and work on some things in our offense without necessarily being pressured by a team as talented as we'll see in the KJCCC."