Kansas City Kansas Community College's defense stepped up when it was needed most Monday night, paving the way for a 76-75 win over North Central Missouri in Trenton.
"We had three good stops down the stretch," said KCKCC Coach Kelley Newton. The last one was a heavily contested North Central 3-pointer that went astray at the horn.
The win avenged an earlier 78-52 home loss to the Pirates and set the Blue Devils (6-12) up for back-to-back home games Thursday and Friday that will close out non-conference play.
KCKCC will host Saint Mary JV Thursday at 7 p.m. after the Blue Devil women entertain Southeast Nebraska at 5 p.m. On Friday, the Blue Devil men will host Park University JV at a time yet to be determined.
A spectacular 3-point shooting performance by Taylor Turner, a 6-1 freshman guard from Albuquerque, N.M., paved the way for the win at North Central. Turner drained 8-of-11 3-pointers in a career high 26-point performance. "Taylor was on fire; he really gave us a great lift offensively."
Sophomore Arother Ratliff added four 3-pointers in 10 attempts and 17 points and a game high eight rebounds for the Blue Devils. Calvin Slaughter and Daiyon Taylor scored eight points each, Kelyn Bolton and Jonathan Richmond six apiece and DuVonte' Beard five to round out the KCKCC scoring. Bolton led in assists with five and hauled in seven rebounds while Daiyon Taylor had six rebounds and Taylor Turner five.
Trailing 41-31 at the half, the Blue Devils were down by as many as 13 points at one time and were still down by nine before their big comeback. Ratliff finally put KCKCC ahead for the first time 64-63 with a 3-pointer with 6½ minutes left and the Blue Devils never trailed again although the Pirates twice pulled even.
Daiyon Taylor broke a 67-67 deadlock with a rebound shot with 4:30 left and Slaughter put KCKCC ahead to stay 70-67 with a layup and free throw a minute later. Ratliff's follow shot made it 74-69 but former Blue Devil Solomon Thomas hit a trey with 2:03 to go. Two Taylor Turner free throws with 1:48 left were just enough to hold off another Pirate trey with 1:18 to go before the Blue Devil defense twice stepped front and center in the final 59 seconds.
"Our guys really stepped up and competed for 40 minutes," said Newton. "It was a growth spurt that was very great to see. To get those three last stops, two in the final minute, was really showed growth as a team. Our defense really came up big down the stretch."