Less than one second stood between the Barton Community College men’s basketball team winning its fifth straight game but the No. 25 ranked Cougars couldn’t hold on to a four point late lead in falling 95-94 to Cloud County Community College Wednesday night in Concordia. Making their 2015 debut in the national polls one day prior, the Cougars drop to 6-2 in Jayhawk play and 18-4 overall while Cloud County, who has been ranked as high as No. 13 in the national poll before losing six of its next seven, improves to 2-6 in conference and 15-7 overall. Barton will look to regroup as a road trip looms on Saturday as the Cougars travel to Liberal to take on Seward County Community College in an 8:00 p.m. conference battle at the Greenhouse.
Barton found itself trailing by nine in the opening ten minutes as Cloud came out hot burying three treys. Barton countered with long distance shooting of its own as Kenny Enoch and Khalil Gracey led the Cougars roaring back to take a 40-36 lead into the locker room.
The Cougars increased the lead out to eleven in the first three minutes of second half action getting another Gracey three and nine points from Ahmad Walker. As was the case throughout the second half, each time Barton seemed to be in control the Thunderbirds would answer grabbing its first lead with twelve minutes left sparking a back and forth final quarter of the game.
During the next seven minutes Barton grabbed three four point leads but a combination of transition buckets and three-pointers brought the T-Birds back each time. The Cougars grabbed their final four point lead following a Walker 1-for-2 trip to the free throw with 1:21 remaining which proved to be the final points Barton would score on the night.
After a Devon Thomas jumper, an Enoch trey attempt beating the shot clock buzzer rimmed out and Walker was caught on the rebound fouling Thomas. Making 1-of-2 free throws to cut the Cloud deficit to one, the T-birds got a big defensive stand as the Cougars weren’t able to convert a drive and dish situation giving the ball back to Cloud with ten seconds to play. Moving the ball up the floor call a timeout in front of their home bench with 4.6 seconds remaining, the T-birds switched the pressure upon the Cougars for a defensive stop in keeping its four game win streak intact.
Proving why he leads Region VI in assists at nearly seven a game, Thomas drew in two Barton defenders on the drive finding Ojinnaka in the paint for his thirteenth assist as Ojinnaka converted the game winning jumper with .9 seconds on the clock. Fouled on the play, Ojinnaka intentionally missed the bonus throw and the Cougars were unable to make a miraculous full-court desperation attempt.
Scoring only two first half points, Walker exploded in second half action to lead five Cougars in double-figures matching a career high thirty points to go along with six dimes. Gracey came off the bench knocking down 5-of-8 from behind the arc for eighteen points and led the Cougars with eight rebounds while Tyrone Acuff was a perfect 2-for-2 behind the arc to finish with fifteen. Jalin Barnes added eleven and Enoch’s 2-of-5 in three pointers led to ten points. Leading the Region VI in steals at 11.6 per game the Cougars could only manage six on the night led by reserve Tyron Hamby‘s three.
The duo of Thomas and Ojinnaka put up a pair of twenty-plus performances to lead four Cloud County players in double digits. Adding to his thirteen assists, Thomas led the T-birds with his double-double performance scoring twenty-three while also grabbing a team high seven boards. Ojinnaka, who knocked down 4-of-6 behind the arc, finished with twenty. Creighton Brinker and Caleb Meyer also added to the 13-of-28 Cloud three pointers on the night in a combined 4-of-7 effort scoring sixteen and twelve points respectively.