Arley Bryant Gymnasium has been the site of some thrilling games between Barton Community College and Cloud County over the years. Several of those high-scoring affairs.
Wednesday night proved no different.
A day after entering the Top 25 for the first time this season the Cougar men saw their four-game winning streak snapped with less than one second to play at Bryant Gym as Cloud upset Barton 95-94 in Jayhawk West play.
“We kept scoring, they kept answering,” Coach Craig Fletchall said. “All we needed was one stop. But we couldn’t get it.”
Despite the loss Barton stays alone in second place in the West with a 6-2 mark at the midway point. The Cougars are 18-4 overall. Cloud, ranked in the Top 25 as recently as the first week of January won for just the second time in the West. The Thunderbirds are now 2-6 in the West and 15-7 overall.
Barton was in position to pick up the road win but couldn’t close the deal. And when Devon Thomas found Demonte Ojinaka for his 13th assist on the night the Thunderbirds had closed the game on a 5-0 run for the win.
The Cougars took a 93-90 lead with just less than two minutes to play when Khalil Gracey knocked down a 3-pointer from the right win in front of the Barton bench. The Cougars extended it to 94-90 when Ahmad Walker hit 1-of-2 free throws with 1:26 to play.
Those would be Barton’s final points.
Thomas wasted no time for the Thunderbirds, taking the ball down the floor, getting a screen at the right elbow and hitting a layup to make it 94-92 with 1:13 left.
The Cougars ran the shot clock down but Kenny Enoch’s trey rimmed out with 32 second left and Thomas fouled was on the rebound. Thomas failed to tie the game, hitting 1-of-2 free throws to make it 94-93.
Barton missed another chance to extend its lead when the Tyrone Acuff missed a layup after the Cougars penetrated a scrambling Cloud defense to give Acuff the short shot with 10 seconds left.
Cloud pushed the ball up the floor and called timeout in front of its bench to set up the last play with 4.6 seconds to play. Thomas drove to the basket pulling the Barton defense to him when he found Ojinaka for a short jumper in the lane with 0.9 seconds to play.
“It came down to one possession and the best player on the floor made a play,” Coach Fletchall said of Thomas. “He drove the baseline, we double teamed him, and he made a pass falling out of bounds to an open kid under the basket.”
Ojinaka hit the shot and was fouled. He intentionally missed the free throw forcing Barton to just heave the ball the length of the floor as the clock ran out.
Walker finished the game with 30 points – 28 of those in the second half when Barton put 54 points on the board. Gracey added 18 on 5-of-8 3’s and led Barton with eight rebounds. Acuff finished with 15. Walker also had six rebounds and six assists. Jalin Barnes added 11 points and Enoch 10.
Thomas led Cloud with 23 points, 13 assists, seven rebounds and just one turnover. Ojinaka added 20.
Barton will take to the highway again Saturday when the Cougars load up for a trip to Liberal to battle Seward County. The Saints are coming off a loss to Hutchinson in the Green House at Liberal Wednesday, falling to 3-5 in the West and 10-11 overall.
“We have to regroup,” Coach Fletchall said. “We are disappointed but we have to put the game behind us and move on. Seward is a good team that is well-coached. We are going to have to be ready to play or we are going to find ourselves on a losing streak.”
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