by Alan Hoskins, KCKCC
Kansas City Kansas Community College is back in the NJCAA DII women’s national championship game for the second time in four years, thanks to an 83-75 win over Cape Fear Community College Friday.
The Blue Devils (31-4) will meet the winner of the Union County-Lackawanna semifinal Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in Harrison, Arkansas.
Facing a Cape Fear team that had scored 63 first half points on the way to a tournament record 116-105 win over NIACC in quarterfinal play Wednesday, the Blue Devils limited the Sea Devils to one field goal in the first 7½ minutes on the way to a 25-5 lead and were in control the rest of the way despite some uncharacteristic faulty free throw shooting in the final minutes.
Leading 72-54 after three quarters, the Blue Devils missed 10 of 12 free throws the final minutes and did not score a field goal in the last 3:22 although never in danger of giving up the lead.
“I think you saw the best of KCK basketball and maybe some of the worst of KCK basketball,” KCKCC coach Joe McKinstry said. “Obviously these girls have not been in this kind of situation before and we got a little excited and probably panicked a little.”
Offensively, Cape Fear had no one to handle the Blue Devils’ Magnolia, Arkansas, duo of Lillie Moore and Kisi Young. Moore had 22 points, 12 rebounds and five assists; Young 12 points and 11 rebounds.
Guard Lenaejha Evans also had a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds while Brodi Byrd added 15 points and Nija Collier 13 points and six rebounds before fouling out.
Assist leader Caitlyn Stewart went to the bench with two fouls just 1:18 into the game but Lexy Watts stepped in with a pair of standout passes for assists in the early run.
“That’s one thing about this team; we don’t miss a thing whoever we have in there because of our depth,” McKinstry said.
Defensively, KCKCC limited the Sea Devils to 24 of 67 shots for 35.8 percent, far under their season average of .471. Cape Fear also managed just five 3-pointers in 21 attempts (.238), again well under the season average of 41 percent.
Other than just 13 of 27 free throws, the Blue Devils were 32 of 72 from the field (.444) and 6 of 22 from 3-point (.273) and thoroughly dominated the rebounding 51-32 with 16 rebounds coming off the offensive boards.
“Thirteen of 27 free throws is just awful but we’ve got to forget those and all the miscues (21 turnovers) and get ready for Saturday,” McKinstry said.
With a boisterous partisan crowd voicing support, Byrd opened the game with a pair of 3-pointers and KCKCC never trailed, surging ahead 10-2 on the way to the 25-5 lead.
KCKCC led 46-30 at halftime with Moore leading the way with 15 points and seven rebounds. Biggest lead was 63-40 midway through the third quarter.
“Our crowd was fantastic, it was more like a home game,” McKinstry said. “Now we have an obligation to represent our conference, the toughest in the country.