by Alan Hoskins, KCKCC
Fired by a spectacular shooting performance by freshman Cody Dortch, Kansas City Kansas Community College has earned a men’s first-round playoff game.
A pressure-packed 70-67 win at Fort Scott Saturday assured the Blue Devils of no worse than a fourth- place finish with two games to go – at Highland Wednesday night and home against Johnson County Saturday afternoon.
Should KCKCC finish fourth, the Blue Devils will play host to Fort Scott in a first-round playoff game Wednesday, Feb. 28.
Displaying the poise of a gunslinger, the Blue Devils squelched every Fort Scott challenge either with sensational 3-point shooting or near flawless free throwing. How good? Five straight 3-pointers without a miss to take control; no turnovers the final eight minutes; and seven of eight free throws in the final 50 seconds.
While neither started, Dortch and Daiyon Taylor led the Blue Devils with 18 points each.
A 6-2 freshman guard from Paragould, Arkansas, Dortch was a perfect 5-for-5 from 3-point while Taylor, a 6-6 freshman from Detroit, was 8-for-12 from the field, grabbed eight rebounds and hit the game-clinching free throws.
Arother Ratliff had nine points and four rebounds while Jalen Davis and Malcolm Tate added six points each, Tate on a pair of 3-pointers.
“Good composure and a total team effort,” KCKCC coach Kelley Newton said. “We got 47 points off the bench which was the key to the win – led by Cody and Daiyon.”
Dortch scored 15 points in the final nine minutes, pushing KCKCC to a 10-point second-half lead with four straight 3-point goals in a span of four minutes and then helping clinch the win with three free throws in the final 31 seconds.
Leading 63-58 with 46 seconds remaining, the Blue Devils made seven of eight free throws to hold off the Greyhounds. Calvin Slaughter made the first two and Dortch one of two before Fort Scott got within a single possession at 66-63.
It was one of two times the Greyhounds got within three points in the final 12 seconds but Dortch squelched the first with two charity tosses and Daiyon Taylor wrapped up the win with two more with 9.8 seconds remaining.
Trailing 27-25 at halftime, Fort Scott made a sizzling 15-of-25 second half shots for 60 percent but the Blue Devils were just as good, drilling 14-of-24 for 58.3 percent and 6-of-9 3-pointers.
KCKCC never trailed in the second half but led only 40-37 when Dortch began his 3-point assault with less than nine minutes remaining.
A Taylor basket and Dortch trey helped KCKCC open a 47-37 lead and set the stage for three straight Dortch 3-pointers and a 58-48 lead and Arother Ratliff boosted the margin to 61-50 with a three with 3:30 left – the Blue Devils’ fifth straight trey without a miss.
Netting 9-of-16 from 3-point (.563), the Blue Devils finished with 51 percent shooting (26-of-51) from the field to .469 for Fort Scott and had a 31-26 edge in rebounding. Fort Scott had one less turnover (11-10).