by Alan Hoskins, KCKCC
As far as wins go, Kansas City Kansas Community College got a huge one in the Blue Devils’ pursuit of first-ever Region VI and Jayhawk Conference championships at Fort Scott Wednesday.
Turning in one of their best defensive performances of the seasons, the Blue Devils (8-2) posted a pressure-packed 59-47 victory that kept them one game ahead of Highland (7-3) for first place in Region VI play with two games to go. However, KCKCC and Highland are deadlocked for first in the Jayhawk at 4-2.
The Blue Devils can clinch no worse than a tie for the regional title with a win at Labette Saturday at 4 p.m. or at home next Wednesday in their regular season finale against Johnson County; a sweep will assure an outright title. Meanwhile, Highland closes the season by hosting Fort Scott Saturday and going to Labette on Wednesday.
KCKCC had to overcome a frustrating start at Fort Scott, scoring only five points in the first nine minutes and trailing 11-5. But the Blue Devils gave up only seven points the final 11 minutes and took a 22-18 halftime lead by holding the Greyhounds to 25 percent shooting including just one of nine 3-pointers.
The Blue Devils opened their biggest lead at 39-27 with 9:48 left and the closest Fort Scott could get was 45-38 with four minutes left but Jon Murray rebounded in one field goal and broke loose for a layup to reopen the lead to 49-38 and Mike Lee pretty much took it from there, breaking the Greyhounds’ press and running vital seconds off the clock. During the final 11 minutes, the Blue Devils had just one turnover and converted 10 of 12 free throws including four straight by Murray and five of six by Kellen Turner.
“A great win, a great team effort,” KCKCC coach Kelley Newton said. “Our defense was the key. We did a good job keeping them to one shot.”
The Blue Devils limited the Greyhounds to just 14 field goals in 44 attempts (31.8 percent) and had a 33-27 advantage in rebounding led by Murray and Garrick McCuller with seven each and Lee with five.
Murray led the scoring with 19 points and Turner added 11 for the Blue Devils, who got a big performance off the bench from Artavious Banks, who took just six shots and made five for 10 points and four rebounds off. The Blue Devils took just 43 shots, making 19 for 44.2 percent.