CHANUTE, Kansas — The Cloud County Community College men's basketball team suffered a minor setback Wednesday evening, snapping its two-game win streak with a tight 84-80 road loss to Neosho County Community College.
Wednesday's defeat was especially painful for the T-Birds (12-11 overall, 6-8 KJCCC) given how well they played in the first half.
Cloud County stormed out to a 44-28 lead at the break over the Panthers (13-10 overall, 6-7 KJCCC) while outshooting them 59 percent (17-of-29) to 28 percent (11-of-40).
"They wanted it more. There's just no other way to put it," said Cloud County head coach, Jordan Altman. "It wasn't even their starters or top rotation guys who beat us. The guys who closed the lead and got them back in the game were averaging 10 minutes or less coming in. We were complacent and we gave that one away."
Neosho County capitalized on the missing defensive depth, shooting a blazing 66 percent (19-of-29) in the second half, including a 7-for-10 mark from 3-point range.
"There's no question about it that Brayden would have helped us, defensively," Altman said. "It was big not having him out there for sure. But when somebody goes down, someone else has to step up."
Despite the wave of made baskets by the Panthers, Cloud County was still in a position to win late as freshman forward Edoardo Del Cadia made a shot in the lane with 1:27 remaining to give the T-Birds a 78-77 lead.
Del Cadia was one of six Cloud County players in double-figures Wednesday, led by 17 points from sophomore guard Jerome Kidd Jr.,14 from redshirt freshman Nysir Scott, 11 points by Thompson and 10 points apiece from sophomores Jacob Shields and Adetomi Ayilara.
The two teams were tied at 78-78 with 43 seconds remaining when Neosho County's Jack Taliaferro buried a contested 3-pointer from the wing that put the Panthers on top for good at 81-78.
Scott scored a layup in transition the ensuing possession. But after a basket with 13 ticks left put the Panthers back on top by three at 83-80, they fouled to prevent any chance of a potential game-tying 3-pointer by the T-Birds in the final seconds.
While there were a few plays the T-Birds would like to have in the final two minutes, Altman said it was the first 18 minutes of the second half that was Cloud County's undoing.
Cloud County's young roster has doubled its win total from a season ago, but the next step in the progression is the mental maturation to win close games, road games, and avoid the miscues that can let wins slip away.
"We have some of the best kids, not only in Kansas, but probably some of the best in the country. There are so many great, high-character kids on our team," Altman said. "But we've told them sometimes we you have to be a little mean. Sometimes you have to take a differently mentality. Every night in junior college basketball, especially in Kansas, there are going to be some rough dudes on the other team. We're a little too nice sometimes."
The T-Birds will look to rebound this weekend when they head off to face Iowa Western Community College at 7 p.m. Saturday in Council Bluffs. They'll return to KJCCC action at 8 p.m. Wednesday at home against Butler Community College on Blackout Night inside Arley Bryant Gymnasium.