CONCORDIA, Kansas — The Cloud County Community College men's basketball team was certainly thankful to be home Friday, using a big first-half effort and key contributions down the stretch to win its home opener, 81-76, over North Platte Community College to tip-off the Cloud County Thanksgiving Classic.
Friday's non-conference showdown was a rematch between the two teams from last Saturday, when the Knights (5-1 overall) defeated the T-Birds (6-2 overall) out in Nebraska, 76-66.
Round Two in Concordia got off to a much better start for the T-Birds as they leaped out to a 24-6 lead by the first media timeout and carried a 44-28 lead into the halftime locker rooms following a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by freshman guard Ty Duin.
Freshman forward Edoardo Del Cadia led all first-half scorers with 10 of his 12 points as the T-Birds were running and gunning off missed shots and nine first-half turnovers by the Knights. Cloud County outshot North Platte, 42 percent (16-of-38) to 23 percent (6-of-26), through the game's first 20 minutes.
"Our defense is the No. 1 indicator on how our offense is going to go," Altman said. "At times we really locked in. When defense leads to transition and we're able to score in the open court, that's when we're at our best."
North Platte would make things interesting in the second half, though, rebounding from a 3-of-17 performance behind the 3-point line in the first half to shoot 9-of-17 from deep during its surge in the second half.
The Knights, who trailed by 20 with 17:38 left, cut the deficit to single-digits with 9:39 remaining, then inches all the way back to within two at 67-65 at the 4:48 mark on a 3-pointer by Donta Smith.
"It was a little upsetting because we talked about it at halftime that (North Platte) did not shoot very well from 3-point range in the first half. We warned they guys that they were going to continue to fire and continue to shoot those threes," Altman said. "Unfortunately, we got caught with our hand down a little bit. That was some communication errors, as well."
Fortunately, the T-Birds were able to regroup as they answered with a mini 7-2 run over the next 1:21, which included a pair of strong finishes at the rim by redshirt sophomore Alvin Thompson and sophomore Jerome Kidd Jr., to keep North Platt at bay.
Kidd Jr. scored 14 points while Thompson finished with a team-high 15 on 6-of-13 shooting. He also added a team-high four steals and grabbed four rebounds.
"Alvin needed to have a big game like that. He's scored an awful lot of points for us and he'll leave Cloud County with a pretty nice point total, but we've never looked or made him the guy we turn to at the end of the game," Altman said. "(Friday) that was him and he came through for us."
Cloud County had a total of five players finish in double-figures on Friday as redshirt freshman Nysir Scott and freshman forward Iyen Enaruna each scored 11 points to join Del Cadia, Kidd Jr. and Thompson.
Enaruna grabbed a team-high 12 rebounds, as well, for his second career double-double.
"Probably our biggest asset as a team is that all 10 guys who suited up for us have the potential to score and have a big night statistically," Altman said. "Sometimes that'll be the starters and sometimes that'll be guys off the bench."
Cloud County will now turn its attention to a 4 p.m. meeting with Iowa Western Community College on Saturday to conclude the holiday weekend tournament.
Iowa Western (7-1 overall) won 109-104 in overtime Friday against Pratt Community College.
After seeing a spirited crowd Friday evening, Altman said he is hopeful fans will come back out Saturday and throughout the winter to see a high-flying T-Birds team that has already matched last year's win total.
"It was a great home opener, we were so happy to be home and not have life on the road," Altman said. "This is a fun team. We run very fast, there's a lot of dunks, there's a lot of transition and there's a lot of unselfish play making the extra pass. We need to build a little rapport with our fan base and get some fans out here because this is a really exciting team."