Kansas City Kansas Community College sophomore Aliyah Myers is the Defensive Player of the Year and, with teammate Tiaira Earnest, a member of the first All-Kansas Jayhawk DII women’s basketball team for 2021. The two Blue Devils were also named to the All-Region VI first team.
A third Blue Devil, sophomore Hannah Valentine, was named to the All-KJCCC third team in a vote of conference coaches who could not vote for members of their own team.
The trio led the Blue Devils to the NJCAA DII national tournament for the third time in six years by handing No. 1 ranked Johnson County its first defeat in the Plains Regional championship game. JCCC would go on to finish runnerup to Parkland in the national tournament while the Blue Devils finished 21-4 with two losses to JCCC and two in the national tournament.
A 5-7 guard from Derby, Myers led the Jayhawk Conference in steals with 74, an average of 3.5 per game, and also in assists with 120, an average of 5.0 per contest. “Extremely happy that the other coaches recognized what Alliyah met to our team,” said KCKCC Coach Joe McKinstry. “She is the most complete guard we have had in my tenure.” Myers also finished second in scoring (13.5) and was third in rebounding (5.5).
Earnest, a 5-6 sophomore from Detroit, finished second in steals with 42 despite missing the Blue Devils’ first 11 games because of injury. She averaged a team high 14.8 points a game in conference play and 12.5 for the season. Despite her lack of size, she was second in rebounding with 5.6 per game. She had a career high 30 points against Fort Scott, the most points scored by a Blue Devil in McKinstry’s six years at KCKCC.
“Tiaira really elevated her game from her freshman to sophomore season,” said McKinstry. “Her speed and athleticism were very hard to defend and combined with her shooting ability and defense made her a huge weapon for our program.”
Valentine, a 5-9 sophomore from Platte County, led the Blue Devils in scoring with a 13.6 average but missed the last 11 games including the playoffs and national tournament because of a leg injury. She also led the team in rebounds (6.5) and field goal shooting, knocking down 75 of 125 shots for 60 percent.
“One of our most consistent players since Day One, Hannah was a great addition to our program this year and very deserving of being recognized as one of the top players in our conference,” said McKinstry. “Our leading scorer prior to her injury and the conference leader in field goal percentage, she is going to do big things wherever she lands next season.”
Myers and Earnest were joined on the first team by Jaylen Townsend and Lajahda Boyland of Johnson County, Jayla Smith of Labette and Leikyn Walker of Fort Scott. Townsend, who led JCCC in scoring (14.6) was named the conference’s Most Valuable Player while Walker is the first Fort Scott player to be named Freshman of the Year after leading the conference in scoring (19.5). Veteran Ben Conrad of JCCC was named Coach of the Year.
Kansas City Kansas Community College is one win from another trip to the NJCAA DII national women’s basketball tournament courtesy of the Blue Devils’ biggest win of the season.
Trailing by as many as 15 points in the first half, the Blue Devils surged to a 12-point lead in the second half and then had to hold on for dear life for a 64-59 win over Labette.
The win vaulted the fifth ranked Blue Devils into the Plains Region VI championship game against unbeaten and No. 1 ranked Johnson County Saturday at Friends University in Wichita. Tipoff is at noon. The game will be streamed on the KJCCC website. JCCC (19-0) defeated Highland 80-41 in Wednesday’s other semifinal.
The Blue Devils led 62-52 with four minutes to go only to have the Cardinals close to 62-59 and set up the biggest play of the game – a block of a game-tying 3-point attempt by Labette’s Tamiah Robinson by 5-7 sophomore guard Aliyah Myers with 23 seconds remaining. The block was recovered by KCKCC’s Mercer Roberts, who made two game-clinching free throws with 19.7 seconds to go.
“Great job defensively by Aliyah,” said KCKCC Coach Joe McKinstry. “We were fortunate to be ahead by three instead of two when they’d probably go for the basket. And then Mercer was strong in getting the rebound and stepping up and making those free throws.”
KCKCC scored the first seven points of the game only to have the Cardinals finish the first quarter on a 23-5 run and a 23-12 lead. Labette’s biggest lead ballooned to 27-12 before DJ Guillory got things reversed, scoring 13 of her game high 14 points in the first half.
The Blue Devils finally went ahead for good on a Myers’ 3-pointer and an Ikla Elam layup early in the third quarter. Outscoring Labette 20-10 in the third quarter, KCKCC led 54-45 after three periods and widened the margin to 52-40 with four minutes to go and before winning a close race to the finish.
“Even though I was not happy at the end of the first quarter, I said ‘We’re all right,’ we just have to play our way and for us to respond with a 22-12 second quarter and get within one at the half was huge,” said McKinstry. “Guillory was terrific in the second quarter. She knocked down a three, drove to the back and was huge on defense.”
Without a field goal the final 4:29, the Blue Devils were just 3-of-17 on fourth quarter shots for a frigid 17.6 percent. Unable to convert any of their last five shots, the Blue Devils resorted to defense highlighted by big defensive rebounds by Guillory and Roberts and culminated by Myers’ game-saving block of Robinson’s hurried 3-point attempt.
In addition to Guillory’s 14 points and seven rebounds, KCKCC got 11 points and five rebounds from Elam and 10 points from Jewell Hart, who was playing in only her second game after sitting out most of the season with an injury. Myers added seven points, eight rebounds and six assists, Tiaria Earnest five points and three assists and Roberts six points and seven rebounds.
Blue Devil reserves were also pivotal, getting five points from DQ Guillory and key field goals from Aysia Arrowood and Faith Putz and outscoring the Cardinals 23-11. In addition, KCKCC had just eight turnovers to 18 from Labette although the Cardinals had a 54-44 rebound edge and outshot the Blue Devils .347-.333.
“While they didn’t score a lot, Murcer, Hart and Elam made things difficult and had some big shots and rebounds,” said McKinstry. “They (Labette) scored 70 points on us a week ago so I was pleased we held them to 59 points. And we won the second half rebound battle.”
Saturday’s meeting will be the third between JCCC and KCKCC, the Cavaliers winning 65-53 and 75-55 for the Blue Devils (19-2) only losses of the season. However, in 2016, the Blue Devils dropped a 91-61 decision at JCCC only to come back two weeks to defeat the Cavaliers 73-66 in the regional little game on the way to cruising too the national championship.
Officially, it was Sophomore Night for Kansas City Kansas Community College’s No. 5 ranked women’s basketball team Saturday. In reality, it was Mercer Roberts Night.
The 5-11 sophomore from Myrtle Beach, S.C., scored the first 12 Blue Devil points in the second half to help build a 19-point lead on the way to a 77-70 upset of previously unbeaten Labette.
The win, KCKCC’s biggest of the season, ended Labette’s 22-game winning streak dating back to last season, and put the Blue Devils (6-2) in position to clinch a first round bye in the Region VI playoffs beginning April 5. KCKCC (17-2) closes out regular season play at Fort Scott Wednesday.
Roberts, who had not scored more than 10 points in any game this season and was averaging 5.9 points and 4.3 rebounds, exceeded her all-time best in less than five minutes. She started the second half with back-to-back 3-pointers and then scored three straight layups for a 49-30 lead. She finished with a team high 19 points (7-10), seven rebounds and two assists.
As it turned out, the 19-point lead was barely enough. The Cardinals made repeated runs at catching up. Aliyah Myers’ 3-pointer stemmed one charge; Roberts’ layup stemmed another but it took four clutch free throws by DJ Guillory and key rebounds by Ikla Elam, Guillory and Roberts to hold on. Labette closed to 70-66 before Guillory made two free throws with 29 seconds left and then added two more after the Cardinals had closed to 73-70 with 18 seconds remaining.
Three Blue Devils joined Roberts in double figures. Guillory had 14 points and seven rebounds, Tiaira Earnest 13 points and three assists; and Elam 11 points and seven rebounds against a lanky Labette roster of seven 6-footers. However, it was the smaller Blue Devils who won the rebound battle 46-43. Paramount to the win was also the play of Aliyah Myers, who had eight assists and six steals in her final regular season game.
“Mercer Roberts played best game of her life,” said KCKCC Coach Joe McKinstry. “We’ve known she’s not just capable of making threes but that she can impact the game in other ways and today we saw that. Ikia Elam gave us a huge lift as the equalizer we needed around the basket against a team as big as Labette. She was aggressive, battled for rebounds and did a great job with what we needed from her defensively.
“With Hannah Valentine out for the season, we really needed DJ Guillory to pick up Hannah’s minutes and today she was fantastic. She made plays around the rim, was very active rebounding on both ends and was great defensively as well. If I’m being honest though, everyone who got in contributed for us and had a huge role in this win. Sometimes you just need to prove to yourself of what is possible and I know they are capable of whatever they dedicate themselves to”
The two shortest starters in the Kansas City Kansas Community College lineup stood tallest in the Blue Devils 83-50 win over Hesston Wednesday night.
Tiaria Earnest, a 5-6 sophomore from Detroit, and 5-7 Derby soph Aliyah Myers each scored 20 points and Myers added a near record 10 steals to help boost the Blue Devils’ record to 11-1. Lacy Whitcomb, a 5-6 freshman from SM South added 17 points and 5-9 Hannah Valentine 16 as the quartet combined for 73 of KCKCC’s 83 points.
The win also evened the Blue Devils’ Jayhawk Conference record at 1-1 heading into a Saturday afternoon doubleheader clash with Highland starting at 2 p.m. Both the women’s and men’s games will be streamed on the KCKCC Blue Devil website.
In addition to their scoring, Myers had 10 steals, Whitcomb 7 and Earnest 6 as the Blue Devils converted 37 Hesston turnovers into 41 points. The 10 steals by Myers were just two off the KCKCC record and tied her for third all time. She also led in assists with six.
Valentine had eight rebounds and Mercer Roberts and Myers six each as the Blue Devils won the rebounding 47-37. Offensively, the Blue Devils were 33-of-81 for 40.7 percent but only 6-of-29 for .207. Hesston was limited to 17-of- 48 for 35.4 percent and .231 from three.
Leading 15-6 after one quarter, the Blue Devils outscored Hesston 21-5 the first five minutes of the second quarter to lead 36-11. KCKCC led 40-18 at the half with Myers and Earnest scoring 12 points each.
Ranked No. 6 in the latest NJCAA DII women’s basketball poll, Kansas City Kansas Community College made a statement for climbing even higher Monday.
Facing a Jefferson College team that had defeated No, 10 Lincoln Land and lost to No. 7 Parkland in Hillsboro, Mo., the Blue Devils (6-0) posted a 73-44 win and then followed it up with an 86-66 home win over Graceland JV Tuesday.
“I really didn’t see that coming,” admitted KCKCC Coach Joe McKinstry of the win over Jefferson. “They had played two top 10 teams and beaten one so I thought we might be in for a long night. Plus we’d had a long trip to William Penn on Friday and a four-hour trip Monday so to go into their place and play the way we did, I was pretty happy.”
The Blue Devils jumped out to a quick 10-2 lead but after the Vikings closed to 10-9, KCKCC opened an 18-9 first quarter lead and stretched it to 33-17 at halftime. “I told the team at halftime I didn’t feel like we were up16 points because of how hard Jefferson was playing. I can’t remember being up that much and feeling like it was a two possession game because they were playing so hard. But every time Jefferson made a comeback, we would answer.”
The Vikings made their biggest run in the third quarter, scoring 19 points. “Ikia Elam had huge moments in the third quarter, scoring two baskets and making two great passes to De’Jaria Guillory for buckets,” said McKinstry.
Nine Blue Devils played and all had at least five points. Hannah Valentine and Jada Mayberry had 13 points each, Aliyah Myers 9, Guillory and Faith Putz 8, Mercer Roberts and Ilam 6 and Lacy Whitcomb and Trinity McDow 5 each. “The balanced scoring, answering every run and the defensive effort were all very satisfying,” added McKinstry.
ON TUESDAY, the Blue Devils needed a big second half to subdue a feisty Graceland JV team 86-66. The Yellowjackets led by as many as six points in a first half that had four ties and seven lead changes. Trailing 31-25 with 3½ minutes left in the second quarter, KCKCC needed an 11-5 run to forge a 36-36 halftime tie before taking control with a 12-2 run to start the second half.
The Blue Devils got another big performance from Valentine, who had a double double with 24 points on 10-of-14 shots and 12 rebounds, both game highs. Putz added 19 points including a trio of 3-pointers; Myers 13 points; and McDow 10. It was big all-around night for Myers, who had six assists, four steals and eight rebounds. Whitcomb led in steals with seven along with five assists while Guillroy had seven rebounds.
Graceland shot 50 percent both from the field and 3-point (6-of-12) in the 36-36 first half while the Blue Devils shot just 38.9 percent for the game and .216 from 3-point. However, the Blue Devils had a 53-37 rebound advantage and forced 31 turnovers while making 19.
With a home game against State Fair Saturday cancelled by the pandemic, the Blue Devils are now idle until next Tuesday when they host Metropolitan in a doubleheader starting at 5:30 p.m.
Sophomore Hannah Valentine maneuvers between three Graceland defensive players for two of her game high 24 points in KCKCC’s 86-66 win Tuesday. (KCKCC Photo by Alan Hoskins)
With another game coming up Friday, Kansas City Kansas Community College coach Joe McKinstry went to his bench early and often in a 110-55 rout of Park University’s JF team Thursday.
The win was the third in a row for the unbeaten Blue Devils, who resume action Friday against William Penn’s JV at 5:30 p.m. in Oskaloosa, Iowa. The KCKCC men also play at 7:30 p.m. and both games will be streamed by William Penn.
McKinstry played 12 Blue Devils, 11 scored and 10 played 10 or more minutes, not so much for the rest but the experience for his young squad. “I think we have good depth and I want everyone who plays to do everything expected of them,” said McKinstry. “I’m not big on the scoreboard. Regardless of what the scoreboard says or the quality of the team we’re playing, I want our players playing hard and smart. I don’t want anyone playing on their own agenda and with our balanced scoring I think we did a good job of that. Games like this give us an opportunity to work hard and get better.”
The Blue Devils had just too much size, quickness and athleticism against Park, regularly beating the Pirates down the floor for an avalanche of layups. Knocking down 12-of-20 first quarter shots (.600), the Blue Devils surged to a 27-9 first quarter lead and led 56-21 at halftime thanks to a 40-foot buzzer beater by sophomore Aliyah Myers.
KCKCC was led by freshman Hannah Valentine and sophomores Jada Mayberry and Myers. Valentine had her first career double with game highs of 20 points and 10 rebounds; Mayberry had a career high nine assists, seven rebounds and 15 points; and Myers stood out both offensively and defensively Scoring 18 points and handing out six assists offensively, she led defensively with five steals along with five defensive rebounds and a blocked shot.
Three other Blue Devils were in double figures and a fourth narrowly missed. Freshmen Ikla Elam had 14 points on 7-of-9 shooting; Faith Putz scored 12 points and grabbed five rebounds; and De’Jaria Guillroy scored 10 points while sophomore Mercer Roberts had eight points and seven rebounds.
Scoring at least 27 points in every quarter, the Blue Devils were 49-of-93 from the field for 52.7 percent although just 7-of-27 from 3-point (.259). They also controlled the rebounding 61-26 and forced 22 turnovers while committing 14.
Winning a season opening game is always good. Beating a ranked team is even better as Kansas City Community College’s women proved Wednesday.
Ranked No. 9 in the first NJCAA DII basketball poll of the season, the Lady Blue Devils wiped out a 4-point deficit in the final 2½ minutes for a 71-67 win over No. 15 ranked North Central Missouri in Trenton.
A 3-pointer from deep in the corner by Wichita sophomore Jada Mayberry, the biggest goal of her young career, proved to be the difference. The trey broke a 66-66 tie with 1:07 remaining and freshman Faith Putz clinched the win with two free throws with 10 seconds to go.
The Blue Devils, who led 57-50 entering the final quarter, trailed 66-62 before Park Hill freshman DeQuaria Guillory tied it with a pair of close range field goals, the last with 1:17 left.
“Extremely proud of this group to come away with a win against a ranked opponent on the road in their first game,” said KCKCC Coach Joe McKinstry. “North Central is a very good team, one that is going to win a lot of games this spring.”
McKinstry went deep into his bench in the opener, getting scoring from 10 players. Guillory led a very balanced attack with 11 points while Mayberry and Platte County sophomore Hannah Valentine added 9 each, freshman Ikia Elam 8, sophomore Mercer Roberts and freshman Trinity McDow 7
each and De’Jaria Guillory 6.
“We have plenty that we can improve upon but it’s great to see the balanced scoring as well as forcing NCMC into 25 turnovers,” said McKinstry. “This group has the potential to hurt their opponents in a lot of ways.”
Statistically, the two teams were about as even as the final score. The Pirates had a slight .429-.418 edge in field goal accuracy; KCKCC won the rebound battle 31-30. Neither team shot free throws well, the Blue Devils 9-of-19; the Pirates 12-of-24.
The Lady Blue Devils stay on the road Saturday, playing Central College in Columbus, Neb., at 1 p.m. with a men’s game to follow at 3 p.m. before opening at home against Park University JV Jan. 28.
In 2019-20, Joe McKinstry started Kansas City Kansas Community College women’s basketball season with just one returning starter – and still won 25 games.
So the fact he’ll have only one returning starter for the 2021 is no reason for gloom and doom. In fact, “I think this group is as talented as any we’ve had,” says McKinstry. Strong optimism coming off national championships in 2016 and 2019.
“Whether they come together and meld as a unit is another story. We’re heavy on talent but light on experience and, like everyone else, we’re going to have to adapt to what COVID has presented us and not let youth and inexperience get in the way of what we’re trying to accomplish.”
Tabbed to finish third in the Jayhawk Conference pre-season poll, play begins Wednesday, Jan. 20, at North Central Missouri and at Central Nebraska Saturday before the home opener against Park University JV Jan. 28
The Blue Devils will build around a quartet of veterans headed by 5-7 Aliyah Myers of Derby, who started 30 games last season. She’ll be joined by 6-0 forward Mercer Roberts of Myrtle Beach, S.C.; 5-6 guard Tiara Earnest of Detroit Mumford; and 5-6 of Wichita Kapaun Mt. Karmal. Combined, they had 10 starting roles a 25-7 season with all seven losses to ranked teams.
Myers finished third in scoring as a freshman, averaging 11.5 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.4 assists, and finished the season with a 25-point performance against Region VI champion Labette. “She’s as good at driving to the basket and getting to the rim as any guard we’ve ever had,” said McKinstry. “And she can guard the 1 through 4 positions.”
Mercer was second in rebounding (4.5) while averaging 4.3 points; Earnest averaged 6.8 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.6 assists; and Mayberry 7.4 points and 3.0 rebounds. “We are going to rely on Roberts for consistency at forward,” says McKinstry. “She’s a great rebounder who can contribute in a lot of ways. Earnest is lightning quick and very athletic. I’m excited for her experience to kick in and for her to feel more comfortable in the things we need from her. Mayberry is very strong and athletic. Very good as a ball defender, I look for her to increase her contributions on the offensive end.”
Additional experience will come from two transfers. Hannah Valentine, a 5-9 forward from Platte County, transferred from Barton County where she averaged 8.0 points on a team that reached the DI regional championship game while 5-6 De’Jaria Guillory of Park Hill South had significant playing minutes at Southwest Baptist. A third transfer, 5-9 guard Aysia Arrowood of Valley Center, was a redshirt freshman at Cowley County.
“Valentine is a very high IQ player who does a little bit of everything and we hope her experience playing for a championship can be a great influence,” says McKinstry. “Guillory is a super athletic guard who loves defense and that playing in a very tough NCAA DII conference will be a benefit. Arrowood is a big time shooter who we will rely on for constancy on the perimeter.”
A trio of freshmen will add depth to the backcourt – 5-6 Lacy Whitcomb of SM South; 5-8 Faith Putz of Urbandale, Iowa; and DeQuaria Guillory, a younger sister of De’Jaria but who attended Park Hill. “Whitcomb is our only true point guard so the point guard position will be by committee,” says McKinstry. “She’s a very crafty player, enjoys getting teammates involved and is a tremendous shooter. Putz is an athletic guard whose ball-handling and athleticism makes her a threat from both guard positions, DeQuaria Guillory is a big, strong player who will used in a variety of ways including the point,”
The Blue Devils will have considerably more size than a year ago with the arrival of three freshmen – 6-0 Trinity McDow of Paola; 6-1 Ikia Elam of Pontiac, MI.; and 6-1 Jewell Hart of Truman High School; and the return of 5-9 Kiara Brown of FL Schlagle.
“McDow had a great fall; a high IQ player who can help around the basket and step out and shoot from the perimeter,” says McKinstry. “With experience, Elam could be one of the best forwards in the league with her ability to block shots, rebound and a phenomenal motor. As a freshman at Truman, Hart was an all-stater but she’s had two torn ACL injuries. When healthy, she’s a very high impact player.”
Brown also has been battling a series of injuries and illness. A top defender and scorer at Schlagle, she originally was a 2017 signee. “For all Kiara has gone through to put herself in position to be on the roster shows just how tough she is and a tremendous example for our other players,” says McKinstry.
A schedule trimmed from 30 games to 22 will preclude the Blue Devils another 25-win season . “Much tougher schedule than last year,” says McKinstry. “Three games against DI teams vs. one last year; 18 games against NJCAA teams; and playing in the toughest conference in the country.”
The Jayhawk Conference had a streak of six years in a row of putting teams in the NJCAA DII Final Four ended when the COVID pandemic forced cancellation of the 2020 national tournament. “It looks like a three-horse race between Labette, Johnson County and us,” says McKinstry. “JCCC and us look about the same with returners; Labette has a real good returnee back.” Jayhawk coaches agree, voting Labette No. 1, JCCC No. 2 and KCKCC No. 3 in the annual pre-season poll.