by Alan Hoskins, KCKCC
Kansas City Kansas Community College’s nationally ranked Lady Blue Devils showed little effects from a three-week holiday break Tuesday, validating their climb to No. 5 in the nation with a 105-53 win over Saint Mary junior varsity in Leavenworth.
The No. 5 ranking in the latest NJCAA Division II national poll is the highest in regular season play since 2014-2015, a ranking that will get a severe test in the Blue Devil Classic Saturday.
The Blue Devils will put their 15-2 record on the line at 4 p.m. against McCook (Nebraska) Community College, a Division I team with an 11-4 record.
The game is the middle contest of three Saturday games. Fort Scott plays On Point Academy at 2 p.m. and KCKCC faces Metropolitan Community College (formerly Penn Valley) at 6 p.m. in a pair of men’s contests.
The Classic opens Friday with Fort Scott facing Metropolitan at 5:30 p.m. and KCKCC playing On Point at 7:30 p.m.
“It was a great way for our team to respond after a long break,” said KCKCC coach Joe McKinstry of Tuesday’s win at Saint Mary. “I challenged our team to look sharp with our execution and defensive effort and not give in when their legs or lungs wanted to and was very pleased with how they responded.”
Five Lady Blue Devils scored in double figures and eight had seven or more points in the win. Sophomore guard Camryn Swanson of Blue Springs led the scoring with a career high 24 points that included six 3-point goals (6-of-12), placing her in a tie for fourth place on the all-time list for 3-pointers in a single game.
Nija Collier had 19 points, and six rebounds, Lenaejha Evans 14 points and four assists, Lillie Moore 12 points, eight steals and six rebounds and Kisi Young 10 points and a game high nine rebounds to round out the double-digit scoring.
Caitlyn Stewart added nine points and a game high five assists while Caroline Hoppock and Lexy Watts contributed seven points each. A guard, Watts was also second in rebounds with seven.
“A great job sharing the basketball and finding the open areas against their zone defense,” McKinstry said. “Camryn Swanson continues to knock down shots along with Nija, Lenaejha, Lizzie (Scott) and Caroline chipping in as well. Defensively, Lillie Moore was extremely active and gave us some great fast break opportunities with her eight steals.”
The Blue Devils made 39-of-80 shots for 48.8 percent, won the rebounding battle 43-31 and committed just 12 turnovers. Defensively, Saint Mary was held to 35.8 percent shooting and forced into 23 turnovers as KCKCC opened quarter leads of 26-12, 49-27 and 81-37.
The Jayhawk Conference, which begins play with KCKCC hosting Labette Wednesday, Jan. 23, has three of the Top 5 teams in the nation and four in the Top 20. Johnson County (16-0) is No. 1 followed by Central Illinois (15-1), Highland (14-1), North Iowa Area (10-3) and KCKCC while Fort Scott (13-2) is No. 19.