CONCORDIA, Kansas — The Cloud County Community College women's basketball team gave No. 8 ranked Hutchinson Community College all it could handle Wednesday, but a tough final 2:43 for the T-Birds aided the visiting Blue Dragons as they held on for a 60-49 victory.
With 2:57 remaining, Cloud County (10-4 overall, 3-2 KJCCC) had inched within 3-points of the nationally ranked Blue Dragons (12-0, 5-0 KJCCC) at 50-47 following a layup by sophomore guard Kamryn Collins.
Unfortunately for the T-Birds, a handful of turnovers and missed perimeter shots halted the run there as Hutchinson outscored Cloud County, 10-2, over the final two minutes and change.
"We battled. It was a 3-point game there with about two and half minutes to go," said Cloud County head coach Brett Erkenbrack. "We a couple bad decisions and bad possessions in a row where our post people didn't touch the ball, we missed a couple threes, and didn't get back defensively and it was game over."
It was a disappointed end to what had been a tight and competitive game between the former KJCCC West rivals four the better part of four quarter.
Sophomore forward Cassidy Haufler, fresh off her KJCCC Division I Player of the Week award, did most of the heavy lifting for the T-Birds as she finished with a team-high 17 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks en route to her eighth double-double of the season.
"I thought Cassidy Haufler was really good for most of the night," Erkenbrack said. "She had a big night, but I don't know if we had a really good performance out of anyone else and that was kind of my message after the game. At some point in time this year, I think we're going to have three, four or five other players play well at the same time. But it's hard to beat a good Hutchinson team without having 2-3 people play real well."
Haufler was the lone T-Bird in double-figures as Cloud County battled an array of foul trouble from the opening quarter.
Sophomore forward Scout Frame scored five of her nine points in the first quarter, but also picked up a third foul just before the period ended. She was limited to just 11 minutes on Wednesday.
"Certainly, with Scout out of there it takes a lot away from our offense," Erkenbrack said. "It allowed Hutchinson to double and triple Cassidy inside there a little bit and we didn't counter that very well."
Despite the absence of their leading scorer, the T-Birds were able to stay close thanks to its defensive effort. Cloud County held Hutchinson to 36 percent shooting (19-of-53) with mixed and matched lineups, receiving quality minutes on the defensive end from freshmen Cathryn Whitehead and Maeson Dewey to keep the deficit at 32-25 at the half.
"I thought Maeson Dewey came in and did a really nice job for us," Erkenbrack said. "We had some weird lineups in there tonight because of the foul situation and asked some people to do things that they weren't accustomed to doing and hadn't worked on very much. But for the most part they battled hard."
Cloud County would make its run back in the third quarter as freshman guard Emmiley Hendrixson drilled a pair of 3-pointers — she finished with eight points — and Frame made two free throws with 3:17 remaining in the quarter to give Cloud County its first lead of the second half at 37-36.
While Wednesday's loss was disappointing, Erkenbrack said he is encouraged by the growth of the team during the fall semester and thinks the Christmas break comes at an opportune time.
"As I told our young ladies, it's hard to feel good when your last game before Christmas ends up as a loss," Erkenbrack said. "But overall, to be 10-4 and 3-2 in the conference, it could have been worse and could have been better. I think we have gotten better, and I've seen a lot of improvement in our play, especially so far in the conference season. The break kind of comes at a pretty good time, really. I think we need to be refreshed, recharged mentally and physically."
Cloud County will tip-off the spring semester portion of its schedule at 3 p.m. Saturday, January 5 on the road against Northwest Kansas Technical College.