For Immediate Release March 6, 2016
GUTTY BIG FINISHES HAVE KCKCC WOMEN IN NATIONAL TOURNAMENT
Highland held to one field goal in final quarter; No. 1 JCCC to one free throw in final 5:20
Wind sprints are part of every practice for Kansas City Kansas Community College's women's basketball team – which is one of the reasons the Lady Blue Devils are in the NJCAA Division II National Tournament next week.
The No. 4 seed, KCKCC will open national tourney play Wednesday at 11 a.m. against Waubonsee of Illinois.
To get to the national tournament which will be played at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park March 15-19, the gutty and determined Blue Devils (29-3) had to stage big game-changing finishes against two of the top five teams in the nation.
Trailing No. 4 ranked Highland by 11 points in the fourth quarter, the Blue Devils held the Scotties to just one field goal and three free throws in the final quarter in a 20-5 rally that earned a 54-50 win. Less than 48 hours later when they should have been totally exhausted, the Blue Devils held No. 1 ranked Johnson County to just one free throw in the final five minutes of a 63-56 win. It was the first loss in 32 games for the defending national champions.
. "I've always believed that being in shape and playing hard can overcome a lot of mistakes or when things are not going the way you want," said KCKCC Coach Joe McKinstry.
The turning point, said McKinstry, came between the third and fourth quarters of the Highland game with the Blue Devils trailing 45-34. "Something happened that I had been searching for all season regardless of who did it. Cheyenne North called out her teammates for not playing like it was a win or go home game. She had a look in her eye that she was there to play after that Tuesday night. All I did was let her say her piece and then told them you have 10 minutes to prove it."
Halfway through the final period, KCKCC had the lead. North scored 10 points and grabbed five rebounds in the final period while Sierra Roberts and Aricca Daye had go-ahead 3-pointers in a 20-5 finish. "With as fast as Highland plays, we were dog tired and beat up but they found a way to push through and get stops and score on the other end," said McKinstry.
"Against Johnson County in the final game, we were exhausted but in a much better position because Johnson didn't push the ball and we used a zone defense which requires less running and more communication. Also, as each minute passed with us in the lead, it put more pressure on Johnson and made those 20-foot jump shots more difficult. And we made five of six big free throws."
North also led the way in that win. After a Roberts' 3-pointer put KCKCC in front 54-50, North scored on two layups and two free throws and Daye added three free throws as the Blue Devils were 5-of-6 while JCCC was scoreless from the 5:20 mark until the final seven seconds.
KCKCC started the season with 16 straight wins before losing at Highland and at home to JCCC 64-60. "That was a tough way to start the conference but I felt it should help prepare for the regional tournament," said McKinstry. "Then after playing each of them the second time, we were able to start preparing offensively and defensively for the regional tournament."
In a season where injuries have depleted the roster, McKinstry is down to just nine healthy players with only six getting the majority of playing time. Those players with McKinstry's evaluations:
Cheyenne North – The leading rebounder (10.9) in Region VI, the 5-11 sophomore also led the league in blocked shots (2.9) and finished fourth in regional scoring (15.8). "A very unselfish player who did it all, scored, rebounded, blocked shots. She's been very focused and determined the last month or two."
Erin Anderson – One of the Region's top defenders with 3.2 steals a game, Anderson finished fifth in Region VI in scoring (15.5). "Someone I can count on every game; very consistent. A great example of working hard. If you're not ready to work hard at practice, you'll get exposed."
Aricca Day – The Blue Devils' floor general with 4.2 assists a game, Daye also averagd 7.1 points and 2.5 rebounds despite her size (5-foot-3). "She's truly embraced the role of point guard the last month, getting the ball to the right place. She really rose to the challenge in the region championship game, scoring 17 points including four 3-pointers.:"
Sierra Roberts – The leader in 3-point goals (73), Roberts averaged 11.0 points and 3.5 rebounds. "Probably our best team defender. Good quickness, good hands and always in the right place. Because of the respect teams have for her, they cannot not guard her and that opens the way for others to knock down shots."
Brooklyn Wagler – The lone freshman in the starting lineup, Wagler led Region VI in field goal accuracy (55.1 percent) while averaging 11.0 points and finishing second in rebounding (7.1). "Very undersized physically (5-foot-7), she just outworks everyone she goes up against. "
Brie Tauai – Only teammate Wagler shot better from the field than Tauai, who was second in region at 53.7 percent while averaging 9.2 points and 4.6 rebounds despite a painful shoulder injury. "Probably our best pure shooter. Great scoring off bench. Just need to get her healthy."
The Blue Devils are without 5-10 sophomore forward Janay Jacobs, who underwent surgery on a shoulder injury prior to the regional tournament. Valencia Scott, who averaged 5.3 points and 1.3 assists, is the backup for Daye and Anderson in the back court while 5-8 freshman Kylia Jarrett of Bonner Springs has averaged 2.7 points and 2.7 rebounds from the forward spot. Freshman Brooklyn Bockover from Wichita has seen limited time at guard position because of a foot injury.
Members of KCKCC's national tournament-bound women's basketball team were introduced to members of the College's Board of Trustees Tuesday. The Lady Blue Devils will open tourney play against Waubonsee (Ill). Wednesday at 11 a.m. at Johnson County Community College. (KCKCC Photo by alan Hoskins)