In the 50 years of Jayhawk Conference men's basketball, Kansas City Kansas Community College had never won, never tied for a conference championship. That streak is over! The drought has ended!
A 74-69 win over Fort Scott in a furiously fought battle that went right down to the wire Saturday clinched no worse than a tie for the 2020 championship with two games to go starting with a home contest Wednesday with Highland at 7:30 p.m.
"I don't like to share; we want to cut the nets down," said first year KCKCC head coach Brandon Burgette. "But every game gets tougher." The win was the Blue Devils' eighth in a row in improving to 15-12.
While there's been no Jayhawk championship, KCKCC is not without conference titles. From 1940-69, Blue Devil teams dominated the Interstate Conference, winning 12 championships.
Late heroics by Jalen Davis and Deron McDaniel in the final three minutes rallied the Blue Devils past Fort Scott. In a span of 58 seconds, McDaniel pulled KCKCC even 64-64 with his third 3-pointer of the game and Davis followed with two tie-breaking free throws and a 3-pointer for a 69-64 lead with 1:39 remaining and the Blue Devils protected the lead from the free throw line – two each by McDaniel and Jermaine Yarbough after a game-clinching rebound.
"Deron made some clutch shots, Jalen hit big throws, Jermaine had key rebounds and Robert Rhodes had four blocked shots and was great on the boards," said Burgette. "Robert has been our savior all year, protecting the rim and rebounding the basketball." In addition to four blocks, Rhodes hauled down 16 rebounds and scored six points before fouling out with 1:09 left.
Davis and McDaniel shared offensive honors with 18 points each while Yarbough and Calvin Slaughter had 10 apiece and Ezekiel Lopes nine. Yarbough also had seven rebounds and Slaughter five although the Greyhounds had a 41-39 edge on the boards. In addition, the Blue Devils had 17 assists on 24 field goals with DeAngelo Bell and McDaniel handing out five each and Slaughter four.
KCKCC trailed by as many as eight points and led by as many as eight in the first half in a roller coaster game that would have six lead changes and seven ties. Trailing 34-27 at halftime, the Greyhounds surged to a 49-43 lead in the first six minutes of the second half. McDaniel wiped out most of that lead with a trey and a layup to set up a furious race to the finish.
Twice Fort Scott led by four points but two free throws by Yarbough and a McDaniel field goal kept KCKCC close and the Blue Devils went ahead briefly 61-59 on a Rhodes basket and two more Yarbough free throws. However, a Craig Jordan 3-pointer and two free throws put the Greyhounds in front 64-61 and set up the Blue Devils'13-5 finish in the final 2:37.
"We did a great job of keeping our composure when they went on a run and got key stops when it mattered," said Burgette. "We struggled defensively all night and then did a good job of guarding them in the last two minutes."
Statistically, the two teams were as close as the outcome. KCKCC shot .414, Fort Scott .406 from the field; KCKCC was 9 of 29 from 3-point, the Greyhounds 8 of 29. The Blue Devils had a slight edge in turnovers, 11 against Fort Scott's 14.
In other action Saturday, Johnson County (5-3) stayed two games back of KCKCC with a 59-51 win at Labette while Highland (4-4) moved into a tie for third place with Fort Scott with a 73-63 win over Hesston. Fort Scott will be at Labette and Hesston at JCCC in other action Wednesday.
KCKCC's basketball team had much to celebrate Saturday. Sophomores Calvin Slaughter (left) and Jalen Davis were presented photos and basketballs in recognition of their play the last two years and the Blue Devils clinched a share of KCKCC's first ever Jayhawk championship with a 74-69 win over Fort Scott. (KCKCC Photo by Alan Hoskins)