Lady Blue Devils face No. 1 JCCC Thursday after rally ousts Highland 54-50
There may have been better Kansas City Kansas Community College women's basketball teams come down the pike but none with more guts and determination than the Lady Blue Devil team that knocked off No. 4 ranked Highland 54-50 Tuesday night.
Trailing by 11 points in the fourth quarter with a shorten squad made even shorter by the loss of sophomore co-captain Janay Jacobs with a shoulder injury, the 11th ranked Blue Devils managed to reach back for something special – a 14-0 rally that gave them a lead they never surrendered.
"I told them, 'Yes, we're tired, beat up, hurt,' but if we give up and don't push through now, we're going to have the rest of the spring to rest," said KCKCC Coach Joe McKinstry. The result: Only one Highland field goal the last nine minutes as the Blue Devils defensively forced seven turnovers and limited the Scotties to that one field goal in 13 attempts.
The win sends the Blue Devils into the Region VI Division II championship game for the second straight year. With only a 36-hour turnaround, the Blue Devils (28-3) take on No. 1 ranked and unbeaten Johnson County (31-0) Thursday at 1 p.m. at Hartman Arena in Park City just north of Wichita. JCCC cruised into the other half of the championship game with a 73-48 win over Hesston.
Sophomore Cheyenne North led the Blue Devils with 25 points and 15 rebounds, her 13th double double of the season. She also blocked three shots as part of her game-changing man-to-man defensive effort against Highland's 6-1 All-American candidate, Szonja Vukov. The Jayhawk Conference scoring leader who had scored 22 and 28 points against KCKCC in two previous games, Vukov managed only 3-of-18 shots and 1-of-8 from three and finished with just eight points and eight rebounds.
"That's the first time I've seen it in Cheyenne's eyes that she wasn't going to let us lose that game," said McKinsty. "She was vocal and challenging; it's something you just don't do, you have to earn."
Arrica Daye quarterbacked the big comeback with five assists and nine points; Sierra Roberts had nine points, all on three-pointers; and Erin Anderson had five points and six rebounds. McKinstry was just as impressed with the minutes played. North and Roberts played 39 minutes, Daye 37, Anderson 30 and Brooklyn Wagler 27.
The game was played in big runs, the first by the Blue Devils who roared to a 19-5 lead in the first nine minutes only to be outscored 34-15 in the middle two quarters as Highland took advantage of 17 Blue Devil turnovers and below 30 percent shooting to open a 45-34 lead in the opening seconds of the fourth quarter.
But the Scotties did not score again, not until the 2:54 mark. By then the Blue Devils had surged to a 48-45 lead. North had three field goals and two free throws in the rally before Roberts put KCKCC in front 46-45 with a three-pointer with 5:14 left. After North made it 48-45 with her eighth basket of the game, Highland got back even on Jameka Dowell's three-pointer with 2:54 that set up the biggest plays of the game.
Daye connected on her only three-pointer and then added a twisting layup for a 58-53 lead with one minute left. Highland got back to 53-50 but North converted one of two free throws for a two-possession lead with 36 seconds remaining to seal the Blue Devils' fifth straight win.
Not only did KCKCC limit Highland to just one field goal in the final nine minutes but turned the ball over just once in the final period after 17 turnovers the first three quarters. "Arrica Daye really did a good job against their press and I got on a couple of sophomores for eight turnovers the first half and they had one the second," said McKinstry. "We've been beat up and sore most of the season so it says a lot for this team to overcome and have an opportunity to play for a championship."
PHOTO IDENTS –
End of a win
There were hugs and big grins as KCKCC redshirt players stormed the floor while Highland players could only dejectedly walk away after the Lady Blue Devils rallied for a 54-50 regional playoff win Tuesday. (KCKCC Photo by Alan Hoskins)