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Cloud County Men Open Conference Play with 67-52 Home Win Over Northwest Kansas Tech

Sophomore Justin Graham Recorded His Second Double-Double of the Season as Cloud County Defeated Northwest Tech 67-52 Wednesday
Sophomore Justin Graham Recorded His Second Double-Double of the Season as Cloud County Defeated Northwest Tech 67-52 Wednesday

Taking control early but never really finding a way to get in position to feel comfortable until late, the Cloud County Community College men's basketball team would grind, scrap, and will their way to a 67-52 home win over Northwest Kansas Technical College to open Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference play inside Arley Bryant Gymnasium on Wednesday, November 16th.

Winners of four straight, Cloud County is now 4-2 overall and 1-0 in the KJCCC while Northwest Kansas Tech drops their first game in over two weeks to fall to 4-2 overall and 0-1 in the KJCCC.

Trailing just twice all evening with both occurrences coming in the opening three minutes of play, the T-Birds would get four early points from Joe Kearney along with a pair of Justin Graham free throws that would see CCCC go up 6-4 at the 15:58 mark of the first half while attempting to adjust to a 1-3-1 zone defense that the Mavericks had deployed. Seeing Northwest Tech tie things up at 6-6, Cloud County would respond with a Ja'Ron Briggs Jr. made three to set off an 11-0 run that would be capped off by a three-point play from Graham to make it a 17-6 game mid-way through the first half.

After giving up a Maverick layup on the next possession by Northwest Tech, CCCC would add to their lead with a Corey Sawyer Jr. transition layup before taking their largest lead of the first half following a Malang Athian triple with 6:05 left in the opening period. Directly following the Athian triple, the Mavericks would get a layup that would wind up starting a 10-2 run that would see the double-digit T-Bird lead cut to eight at 26-18 with 2:56 left in the half. Ending a three-plus minute scoring drought with a pair of free throws from Sawyer Jr. to go back up 10, Cloud County would see Northwest Tech manage to score two of the final three field goals of the half as the lead would settle at eight with a 30-22 Cloud County lead marking the end of the first half.

Utilizing a 9-2 run to open the second half, Northwest Tech would put pressure on the T-Birds as the eight-point halftime lead would be cut all the way down to just two at 33-31 before a technical foul on the Mavericks would allow CCCC to regain momentum following a pair of free throws by Sawyer Jr. After each team would come up empty on their next offensive possession, Cloud County would see three missed shots lead to offensive rebounds that would eventually set up a made Kearney three to push the lead back out to seven with just over 15 minutes left in the game. Two made free throws from each team would keep the T-Bird advantage at seven which is where it would stay for the next four-plus minutes of game action until a Sawyer Jr. made three just past the halfway mark of the half would see the CCCC lead get back to double-digits.

Extending their lead to 12, Cloud County would not be in the clear quite yet as eight minutes of game action would still leave plenty of time left on the clock for a potential Northwest Tech comeback. Locking down defensively, the T-Birds would manage to hold the Mavericks to just two made field goals over the ensuing five minutes of play while also conceding two free throws while managing to push their le to 13 at 56-43 with 4:21 left in the contest. Taking advantage of the charity stripe, CCCC would continue to add to their lead down the stretch and all but put the game out of reach as six made free throws in a span of 25 seconds with just over a minute left would give the T-Birds their largest lead of the game at 67-49 to shut down any hopes by the mavericks of a comeback and close things out for a 15-point victory.

Held to just 18 made field goals (18-of-52, 34.6 percent), CCCC would take advantage of a 27-19 advantage in free-throw attempts by connecting on 23 attempts (85.2 percent) as a nine-point difference at the charity stripe would loom large. Outscored 28-18 in the paint, the T-Birds would flip the script on Northwest Tech with a 28-18 advantage in points off turnovers while also holding a slim 35-32 advantage in rebounds.

Cloud County's 67 total points would come courtesy of just five players as Sawyer Jr. would lead all players with 22 points along with five assists and four steals. Notching his second double-double of the year, Graham would finish with 14 points and 10 rebounds in the contest while Briggs Jr. would score 13 off the bench with Kearney and Athian both pitching in nine points. The Mavericks would get a team-high 14 points from Keyishon Miller after being held 30 points under their team scoring average.

What's Next?
Cloud County will put their four-game winning streak on the line Saturday afternoon as number-four ranked and undefeated Hutchinson will come to Arley Bryant Gymnasium for a 4 PM tilt on November 19th. The Blue Dragons were held under 100 points for the first time all season on Wednesday night but found a way to overcome a 15-point first-half deficit to defeat Independence 99-94 on Wednesday night to improve to 7-0.