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Cloud County Men Fall in Final Minute at Hutch, 88-82

Freshman Cheikh Sow Scored 19 Points and Went 8-of-12 from the Floor for Cloud County on Sunday, January 22nd
Freshman Cheikh Sow Scored 19 Points and Went 8-of-12 from the Floor for Cloud County on Sunday, January 22nd

Erasing a 14-point second-half deficit to tie things at 82-82 with 1:22 remaining, the Cloud County Community College men's basketball team would be outscored 6-0 the rest of the way to fall by a final score of 88-82 at Hutchinson Community College inside the Hutchinson Sports Arena in Hutchinson, Kansas on Sunday, January 22nd.

The loss will see Cloud County fall to 12-8 overall and 8-6 in the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference while splitting the season series with Hutchinson. HCC is now tied with Cloud County in the KJCCC standings while improving to 14-6 overall and 8-6 in conference play.  

Making a quick adjustment to the constant pace and pressure of Hutchinson would be no problem in the opening minutes of the game as CCCC would score the first eight points of the contest despite five turnovers in the opening four minutes of the game. After holding the Blue Dragons scoreless over the first 3:19 of the game, Hutchinson would get on the scoreboard with a made three as each of their first four made shots would become from beyond the arc to cut a once eight-point lead for Cloud County down to two. The T-Birds would manage to hold a lead up until a Hutchinson made trey with 13:07 left in the first half as there would be a clear contrast in scoring with CCCC attacking the paint and scoring in transition while the Blue Dragons would turn to hit shots from outside.
Following the lead change, HCC would manage to score two quick layups to turn a one-point lead into a five-point advantage which is where things would stay for the next five-plus minutes of action. Hutchinson would then be hit with a delay of game technical following an offensive rebound and put back to extend their lead to six before putting together an 8-0 run after a pair of Corey Sawyer Jr. free throws to take a 12-point lead with six minutes left in the first half. The lead for Hutchinson would remain double digits until the final two minutes of the first half as a Sawyer Jr. three-point play would bring CCCC back within single-digits at 44-35 with the deficit dropping to seven before an eighth and final first-half triple from the Blue Dragons would close out the half to put the deficit at 10 heading into halftime.

Trading buckets to begin the second half, Cloud County and Hutchinson would go back and forth throughout the first four minutes of the second half to match each other's scoring output to keep things at a 10-point deficit. Getting back to single-digits on a made Sawyer Jr. free throw, CCCC would then see Hutchinson score five straight points to take their largest lead of the day at 57-43 with 14:31 remaining and in danger of letting the game get out of reach. Staying resilient would be the T-Birds however to score four quick points in the span of eight seconds to start a 6-0 spurt and pull within six just two minutes later.

Responding with five points of their own to go back up double-digits, HCC would once again take control of the tempo to force the T-Birds into a faster-paced style of play to hold a 64-53 lead at the midway point of the second half. Cloud County would respond by scoring eight straight points to get within a single possession at 64-61 with just over eight minutes remaining to begin to put pressure on the host Blue Dragons. CCCC would close to within a point on  Cheikh Sow three-point play to set up a back-and-forth final stretch of the contest as the lead would get higher than six over the final six minutes of the game. Each time it would appear that Hutchinson would be poised to make a run to get some breathing room from the T-Birds, Cloud County would have a response by sticking to their game plan and taking advantage of being in the bonus.

Down 80-75 with 3:13 remaining, Cloud County would get two free throws from Sawyer Jr. and a Sow three-point play at the hoop to tie things at 80-80 with 2:17 remaining. Both teams would then trade baskets in their next offensive possessions to keep things tied with 1:22 remaining before an offensive rebound would lead to a second-chance go-ahead bucket for HCC. Trailing by two with 39 seconds left, CCCC would go empty on their next offensive possession as a missed three-point shot would lead to a long rebound for Hutchinson and a transition layup to make things a two-possession game with 13 seconds left. Driving to the hoop for a quick layup,  CCCC would turn the ball over and be forced to foul as HCC would hit a pair of free throws to finish off a six-point victory in the final three seconds.

Offensively, Cloud County would shoot nearly 60 percent from the field by going 29-of-49 (59.2 percent) from the floor despite hitting just one of their 11 three-point attempts in the game (9.1 percent). CCCC would also get 23 points from the charity stripe, going 23-for-30 (76.7 percent) from the free throw line to outscore the Blue Dragons by 13 from the line. Hutchinson would shoot 45.8 percent in the game while hitting 12 threes to outscore the T-Birds by 33 from beyond the arc while also holding a 24-19 advantage in points off turnovers. HCC would also hold a 34-29 advantage in rebounds and a 24-4 advantage in second-chance points.

Four of the five T-Bird starters would reach double-figures which included a game-high 26 points from Sawyer Jr. who would score 14 of his 26 from the free-throw line to go along with four steals and two assists. Sow would score 19 points on eight-of-12 shooting from the floor and grab five rebounds while Joe Kearney (12) and Malang Athian (10) would be the other two players for CCCC to score at least 10 points. Hutchinson would be led by Aaron Franklin who would score 19 points and grab four rebounds while playing a team-high 33 minutes for the Blue Dragons.

What's Next?
Cloud County will return home for the first time in 10 days to play host to Independence Community College in a 6 PM contest on Wednesday, January 25th. The Pirates are currently one game under .500 at 9-10 overall and 5-8 in the KJCCC after having their weekend contest at Colby postponed due to weather. In the earlier meeting this year between teams in Independence on November 22nd, CCCC won by a score of 81-72 while never trailing in the contest.