Cloud County Men's Basketball Scores 90-75 Upset of #4 Hutchinson

Malang Athian Scored 17 of His Game-High 27 Points in the First Half as Cloud County Defeated #4 Hutchinson 90-75 on Saturday, November 19th
Malang Athian Scored 17 of His Game-High 27 Points in the First Half as Cloud County Defeated #4 Hutchinson 90-75 on Saturday, November 19th

An 0-2 start to the season has all but been forgotten by the Cloud County Community College men's basketball team as the T-Birds earned their fifth-straight victory by knocking off number-four nationally-ranked and perennial Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference power Hutchinson Community College 90-75 inside Arley Bryant Gymnasium on Saturday, November 19th.

Earning their biggest victory to date, the T-Birds improve to 5-2 on the year and start KJCCC play with a 2-0 record for the first time since the 2012-13 season. The win also marks two consecutive victories over Hutchinson since the 2004-2005 and 2005-2006 seasons when CCCC won consecutive home games over the Blue Dragons. HCC falls for the first time on the year to see a seven-game winning streak to start the season snapped and fall to 7-1 overall and 1-1 in the KJCCC after being held to 24 points below their previous season low of 99 points and nearly 43 points below their season average coming into the game.

Knowing that Hutchinson would want to push the tempo from the start and attempt to get into a track meet, Cloud County would show both poise and discipline to stick to their game plan while attacking defensively and forcing two early HCC turnovers that would allow the T-Birds to score the first seven points of the game. The early lead for CCCC would continue on throughout the opening four minutes of the contest as the seven-point margin would be cut down to one at 13-12 before a Corey Sawyer Jr. layup would put things back at a two-possession game. Continuing their run, the Blue Dragons would pull within one on the ensuing possession with a made three before eventually taking their first lead of the game at the 13:04 mark of the first half as shots from beyond the arc would fuel Hutchinson to overcome the early deficit.

Bouncing back with two made free throws by Sawyer Jr. and a Ja'Ron Briggs Jr. layup to go back up 19-17, Cloud County would see things continue and grow into a 17-2 run that would be capped off by a Malang Athian triple with 6:55 remaining. With things now at a 13-point lead for Cloud County, Hutchinson would break the run with their fourth of five made threes in the opening half as a response. Six of the next eight points would come on the offensive end for Cloud County to take a 14-point lead at 38-24 with 4:23 remaining by making their living with close shots after breaking the Blue Dragon full-court pressure. Also taking advantage of the charity stripe, CCCC would push their lead to a game-high 18 points at 45-27 with 1:46 remaining before halftime to put Hutchinson on the ropes before allowing HCC to score five of the final six points of the half to get back within 14 at 46-32.

Having built a double-digit cushion to work with over the final 20 minutes of action, Cloud County would extend their lead on each of their first two offensive possessions of the second period to go up 16 before an 8-2 Hutchinson run would threaten to pull the Blue Dragons back within single-digits. CCCC would do their best to keep things at a 10-point margin and would be successful until the 12:19 mark as a 5-1 spurt would bring HCC within seven at 56-49. A quick push back to double-digits by Cloud County would see the T-Birds get buckets from Andre Gray II and Joe Kearney to make things a 12-point advantage to potentially regain momentum.

Unfortunately for the T-Birds, Hutchinson would respond with another big push by scoring 11 of the next 13 points to close within three at 63-60 right after the under 10-minute media timeout. Having withstood the Blue Dragon run, Cloud County would get a pair of big buckets from Kearney and Justin Graham to keep things at a two-possession lead before turning to the free-throw line after having previously reached the bonus in the half. Leading by four with 7:20 remaining, CCCC would score each of the next five points in the game at the charity stripe on their way to putting together a 13-0 run to give the Blue Dragons a taste of their own medicine and go back up by a 78-63 margin with 4:43 remaining.

Needing a player to step up down the stretch to close out the win, Sawyer Jr. would once again come up big against HCC as the Oviedo, Florida native would the next three points for the T-Birds to go up 16 with just over three minutes left on the clock. A made Hutchinson three would be offset by a Kearney steal that would lead to a Briggs Jr. transition dunk as CCCC would have a response for every Blue Dragon offensive possession. Turning up the defense and chewing away clock on the offensive side of things, the T-Birds would never allow their lead to dip below 13 over the final three minutes of play and eventually come away with their second-straight win by a 15-point margin.

Shooting efficiency could not have been much better for CCCC as the T-Birds would shoot over 64 percent from the field in both halves to finish the game with a 65.4 percent (34-of-52) field goal percentage despite going just two-of-nine (22.2 percent) from beyond the arc. Holding Hutchinson to a 34.7 percent (25-of-72) field goal percentage, Cloud County would also outscore the Blue Dragons 20-16 at the charity stripe and get 62 of their 90 points in the paint. Another key to the T-Bird victory would be a 37-33 advantage in rebounds to offset 22 turnovers that would lead to 30 HCC points.

Massive performances from Athian (27 points), Sawyer Jr. (17 points), and Cheikh Sow (17 points) would lead the way for CCCC as the trio would also account for 19 rebounds, six assists, and seven steals. Kearney would finish one point away from joining the three in double-figures by scoring nine points and providing five steals and two blocks while Gray II would score eight off the bench. Hutchinson would get a team-best 19 from Antonio Green off the bench while season-leading scorer Aaron Franklin would be held eight points under his season average to finish with 17.

What's Next?
Cloud County hits the road for the first time in 10 days on Tuesday, November 22nd when the T-Birds travel to Independence to square off with a 3-5 overall Pirate squad. Independence earned their first conference win of the year on Saturday afternoon by beating Colby 81-69 in their KJCCC home opener as six of their eight games this season have come away from home.