KCKCC WOMEN JOLT NO. 1 JCCC 63-56 IN BIGGEST PLAYOFF UPSET
Lady Blue Devils blank Cavaliers in final five minutes in avenging 30-point defeat
It may be the greatest upset in Region VI women's tournament play. And if not it has to be in the conversation.
Just 22 days ago, Kansas City Kanas Community College had been embarrassed by a 30-point loss to a Johnson County team that was undefeated, ranked No. 1 nationally and the defending national champion. And probably a 15-20 point favorite.
But today it is the Lady Blue Devils who are headed for the NJCAA Division II national tournament thanks to a gutty defensive effort that gave up only one free throw in the final five minutes of a 63-56 championship win Thursday at Hartman Arena in Park City. The one free throw came with seven seconds remaining.
"I know I'm mean; I know I'm grouchy; I know I push you hard but it's because I love you and know the capabilities you have if you reach back and get them and tonight you did," first year KCKCC Coach Joe McKinstry told his champion Blue Devils in an emotional clubhouse celebration. "And now we get to play for the national championship on their (JCCC's) floor."
Indeed, the NJCAA Divisional II national tournament will be contested at Johnson County March 15-19. At the same time, the KCKCC men will also be playing in the national tournament by virtue of a 77-67 win over Brown Mackie.
Credit a well-conceived and well-executed game play for the Lady Blue Devils' win. "Johnson County is a very good team, very good," said McKinstry. "We had not played zone against them in our other two games with them so we needed to do something different. We knew we couldn't stop them off the dribble, that had already been proven. With a zone, we felt we could take away the dribble and limit them to just one shot. Also, with so few players I felt it would help in keeping us out of foul trouble."
For a quarter, it looked like the strategy might have misfired. The Cavaliers drained 5-of-8 three-pointers and led 17-16. "If they shoot like that, you just have to live with it," said McKinstry/ "But you have to go with the percentages." And did – the Cavaliers making just 4-of-23 treys the last three quarters.
Offensively, McKinstry also sprung another surprise on the Cavaliers. "In our game at Johnson County, they disrespected Arrica Daye as a scorer, laying off her on perimeter shots. I told her they'd would be giving her room and to take the shot."
And did she ever, 4-of-6 from 3-point range in a night she led all scorers with 17 points. "Coach told me I would be open and to knock 'em down," said the pint-sized (5-4) sophomore guard who also had six rebounds and three assists.
She got lots and lots of help. Cheyenne North had her 14th double double of the season, 14 points and 11 rebounds including eight of KCKCC's final 16 points. Brooklyn Wagler led all rebounders with 14 as KCKCC won the battle of the boards 40-32. Sierra Roberts took just three shots but two of them were huge three-pointers; Erin Anderson scored eight points; and Brie Tauai was 3-of-4 off the bench.
The Blue Devils took a 47-45 lead into the fourth quarter but all the odds were against them. Neither Anderson nor Roberts left the game, the other three starters only briefly after an exhausting win over Highland 36 hours earlier. "But Johnson County had never been in this situation because they'd won every game so easily. We'd been through it," said McKinstry.
For three quarters, the lead had changed hands 18 times and there were 11 ties in a furious battle befitting a championship game. JCCC would take its last lead at 48-47 with 9:08 left but Daye's jump shot quickly got KCKCC a lead back the Blue Devils would not surrender. A North layup and a huge 3-pointer by Roberts extended the lead to 54-50 but JCCC stayed close on Erica Nelson's fourth 3-pointer.
JCCC's Chastity Franklin matched yet another North layup to keep the Cavaliers' deficit at 56-55 with 5:00 left but they would not score again until the final seven seconds. North made two free throws with 3:01 left for a 58-55 lead, then added a layup 32 seconds later and Daye closed out the 7-0 finish with three free throws and set off a wild mid-court celebration.
The win ended a four-game JCCC winning streak over the Blue Devils including a 70-51 win in last year's Region VI championship en route to the national title. This will be KCKCC's second appearance in a women's national tournament, the 1997 team that finished 35-2 placed fifth in the Division I national tournament,
A Region VI championship and a berth in the NJCAA Division II national tournament gave KCKCC's Lady Blue Devils plenty to celebrate after a 63-56 upset of No. 1 ranked and unbeaten Johnson County Thursday in Park City. (KCKCC Photo by Alan Hoskins)
KCKCC assistant coaches Dawn Adams (left) and Chamissa Anderson were the first to congratulate head coach Joe McKinstry on his first Region VI championship. (KCKCC Photo by Alan Hoskins)