Kansas City Kansas Community College's Lady Blue Devils survived a battle with the flu and a blackout on the road Wednesday to set up the season's biggest game against a non-ranked foe.
Down to just eight players because of the flu, the Blue Devils' bench stepped front and center in a 75-66 win at Hesston to take undisputed possession of fourth place in the Jayhawk Conference.
The win put the Blue Devils (3-4) in position to wrap up a first round home playoff berth Saturday when they host fifth place Fort Scott (2-5) at 2 p.m. in KCKCC's final regular season contest at home. It's also Sophomore Day with the team's lone sophomore, Alix Wilson, and two-year team manager Elizabeth Briggs honored in post-game ceremonies.
With rebound leader Lillie Moore and Piper guard Miya Ford unable to make the trip, the Blue Devils needed big performances from the bench and got more than could be expected. All three non-starters, Camryn Swanson, Gena Ojeda and Lizzie Stark, scored in double figures and in fact, outscored the five starters 39-36.
A 5-9 guard from Blue Springs, Swanson returned from injury just in time to drain 5-of-10 3-point attempts for 15 points. Ojeda, the Jayhawk leader in 3-point accuracy from SM Northwest, was 4-for-11 from distance and finished with 13 points; and Stark, a 5-11 forward from Liberty North, had her first double-double with 11 points and a game-high 10 rebounds.
Kisi Young led the scoring with 16 points and seven rebounds; Wilson and Nija Collier had eight points each; and Wilson and Caitlyn Stewart had seven rebounds apiece. Stewart and Ashley Daniels led in assists with four each.
"This was one of the strangest games I've ever been a part of," said KCKCC Coach Joe McKinstry. "At one point in the first half, the lights in the gym went out right in the middle of a play. I've never seen that before!"
KCKCC never trailed after the opening moments, building a 16-11 first quarter lead and stretching it to 45-32 at halftime. Young led the way with 12 points; Swanson made 3-of-5 3-pointers; and Wilson had all of her eight points in the second period. Hesston never got closer than eight points in a second half that saw non-starters Stark, Ojeda and Swanson score all but one KCKCC point in the fourth quarter.
Statistically, the Blue Devils won the rebounding battle 44-34 and had a slight edge in shooting (.373-.344) but turnovers were a problem for both teams, KCKCC committing 21 and the Larks 22. The big difference came in 3-pointers where the Blue Devils had an 11-4 edge.
"This was an ugly game but even in the ugly ones, someone has to win," said McKinstry. "We had a lot of adversity in this game with only eight players suiting up. Ugly or not, I'm glad our group came out on top."
In other Jayhawk action Wednesday, Highland (7-0) all but wrapped up the league championship with a 86-66 win at second place Johnson County (5-2) while Labette was defeating Fort Scott 76-59.