Cloud County Men's Basketball Fades Late in Season-Ending Loss to #13 Dodge City

Sophomore Corey Sawyer Jr. Scored a Game-High 26 Points in His Final Game as a T-Bird on Tuesday, March 7th
Sophomore Corey Sawyer Jr. Scored a Game-High 26 Points in His Final Game as a T-Bird on Tuesday, March 7th

In a game that would see neither team lead by more than nine, the Cloud County Community College men's basketball team would see top-seed and host Dodge City Community College manage to come up with key shots down the stretch to hand the T-Birds an 87-79 loss in the NJCAA Region VI Tournament quarterfinal round in the Student Activities Center in Dodge City, Kansas on Tuesday, March 7th.

The loss to the 13th-ranked Conquistadors ends CCCC's season at 16-16 overall while DCCC advances to Friday's semifinal round in Wichita, Kansas to take on fourth-seeded Butler.

With the previous two games in the regular season between Cloud County and Dodge City serving as back-and-forth battles amongst two contrasting styles of play, the third rendition of the 2022-23 season would be no different as both teams would match the other with eight points apiece through the opening 4:35 of action. After trading the next four points, the Conquistadors would get their first made three of the game followed by a transition bucket to take their largest lead of the first half at 15-10 with just over seven minutes gone by in the first half.

Cloud County would respond by getting made three from Andre Gray II before a Ja'Ron Briggs Jr. three-point play to take their first lead of the game at 16-15. Trading the lead back and forth over the ensuing four possessions, CCCC would take their largest lead of the game with a pair of Justin Graham free throws putting CCCC up 25-19 with 10:49 left in the opening period. The T-Bird lead would remain over the next three minutes of action before back-to-back triples by Dodge City would put the Conquistadors back on top by a 29-27 margin with three ties coming at 29-29, 31-31, and 33-33 heading into the final five minutes of the half. Down the stretch of the opening period, the DCCC lead would hover between one and three points with CCCC briefly reclaiming the lead at 37-36 with 3:20 remaining before allowing Dodge City to score nine of the final 13 points to hold a four-point lead at the break.

Battling back to tie things at 47-47 three minutes into the second half, Cloud County would eventually take the lead once again at 50-49 on a Briggs Jr. three-point play before seeing a 7-0 DCCC spurt match the largest lead of the game for the Conquistadors up to that point. Another bucket by Briggs Jr. followed by  Joe Kearney trey would bring the T-Birds back within one at 56-55 as the next six-plus minutes of game time would see Dodge City manage to hold a lead of between three and five points.

Trailing 68-65 with 6:41 remaining in the game, CCCC would give up a dunk to Dodge City's Jacobi Sebock that would start a 7-2 run for the Conquistadors that would extend the lead to eight and force a Cloud County timeout with 4:05 remaining. Following a split of two free throws on the T-Bird offensive end of the court, the Conquistadors would convert two free throw attempts to take their largest lead of the game as Cloud County would get no closer than four in the final two minutes of the game to see Dodge City outlast a short-handed CCCC team.

With both teams shooting over 40 percent from the floor, it would be DCCC who would shoot 49.2 percent (30-of-61) from the field while connecting on eight-of-20 (40.0 percent) three-point attempts compared to a 42.6 percent (26-of-61) effort from Cloud County that included a four-for-22 (18.2 percent) three-point outing. One of the few statistics that would finish in favor of the T-Birds would be an 82.1 percent (23-of-28) free-throw shooting performance by CCCC compared to Dodge City who would hit on 19-of-27 (70.4 percent) of their free-throws and outscore Cloud County 13-9 in points off turnovers and 8-3 in second-chance points.

Leading all scorers in the game would be Corey Sawyer Jr. with 26 points that included a 15-for-16 free-throw shooting effort to go along with seven rebounds. Matching a career-high would be Briggs Jr. with 16 points while Kearney would score 15 points and have a team-best three steals. Dodge City would get a team-best 22 points from Cam Malray who would hit on nine-of-12 field goal attempts and tie for a game-high with nine rebounds in 31 minutes of action.