by Alan Hoskins, KCKCC
Kansas City Kansas Community College’s newly crowned Jayhawk Conference Division II champions dug themselves a hole from which they could not escape at No. 20 ranked Johnson County Saturday.
Trailing by 18 points late in the first half, the Blue Devils rallied to within four points in the closing seconds before dropping a 99-91 decision.
The loss snapped a 9-game winning streak for the Blue Devils (8-2), who finished a game ahead of JCCC (7-3) in the final Jayhawk standings. Both teams draw first-round byes in the Region VI playoffs which begin Friday.
The No. 1 seed, KCKCC (16-13) will be the host of the winner of the Labette (16-12) at Fort Scott (18-11) first-round game Tuesday, March 3, while JCCC will play host to the Hesston (13-14) at Highland (19-10) winner. The championship game will be played at the Hutchinson Sports Arena March 6.
With 6-10 sophomore Lukas Milner turning in a career performance, the Cavaliers never trailed in avenging an 82-65 loss to KCKCC two weeks ago. Averaging just over 12 points a game, Milner had not scored more than 19 points this season before pouring in 33 on 14-of-21 shooting. He also had 10 rebounds, six off the offensive boards.
“We had no answer for him and they did a great of feeding him in the post,” KCKCC coach Brandon Burgette said. “He’s a big presence in the post and we weren’t physical with him.” The Cavaliers had 20 assists on 33 field goals.
Shooting 60.7 percent (17-of-28) in the first half, JCCC led 43-25 with two minutes left and had a 45-30 bulge at halftime before the Blue Devils made repeated runs at comebacks. Four times the Blue Devils cut the deficit to under double digits but each time JCCC turned back the challenges as Milner scored 23 of his 33 points in the second half and the Cavaliers made 16-of-28 shots for 57.1 percent.
Still trailing 91-78 with two minutes left, the Blue Devils got a dunk from Jermaine Yarbough and a 3-pointer from Deron McDaniel to cut the lead to 95-91 with 25 seconds left but the Cavaliers closed out the win with two free throws each by Dale Talley and Nic Slavin, JCCC converted 25-of-42 free throws including 10 straight by JaQuaylon Mays, who had 21 points.
Six of the seven Blue Devils who played extended minutes scored in double figures led by big second-half performances by McDaniel and Yarbough. McDaniel scored 17 of his 22 points including 5-of-10 3-pointers in the second half; Yarbough had 14 points, all in the second half.
Calvin Slaughter added 16 points, Robert Rhodes 12 and Ezekiel Lopes and Jalen Davis 11 each for the Blue Devils, who knocked down 20-of-32 second half shots (.625) and finished at 50 percent for the game. Rhodes had 10 rebounds for KCKCC but the Cavaliers dominated the rebounding 36-23.
“We couldn’t keep them off the glass and I don’t think we guarded as well as we can,” Burgette said. “The deciding factors were free throw block outs and the second chance points we gave up. We have to get better at the little things and compete and fight harder.”