Blue Devil men lose heartbreaker on tip-in in final seconds

by Alan Hoskins

One turnover, a defensive rebound, missed free throw. Any of the three could have made the difference in Kansas City Kansas Community College’s last second heart-breaking 55-53 home court loss to Highland Saturday.

Leading 53-51 with 55 seconds left, the Blue Devils misfired on a free throw for a 3-point lead and turned the ball over in a 53-53 tie with 10 seconds left before Highland’s Kyle-Michael Rose tipped in a missed shot for a 55-53 lead with 4.4 seconds to go.

KCKCC got a last second shot off to tie but Ray Ridley’s short jumper that was dead on line came up an inch short.

Ahead by as many as seven points to start the second half, the Blue Devils gave up the lead midway through the half and trailed until Joe Lendway’s layup with 55 seconds left pushed them in front 53-51.

Sophomore C.J. Vallejo and freshman Austin Hall were the catalysts in the KCKCC rally. Each had a field goal and a 3-pointer in the comeback with Hall’s trey tying it 51-51 with 3:13 to go.

Both teams missed opportunities to tie over the next two minutes before Lendway put KCKCC in front.

Marquis Yates got the Scotties back even at 53-53 with two free throws with 27 seconds left but KCKCC’s attempt to wait for a last second shot was foiled by Rose’s mid-court steal and then subsequent game-winning tip-in of a Karon Phillips’ missed layup.

Vallejo led all scorers with 21 points including 15 coming on 5-of-9 three-point shots. Hall added nine points and five rebounds, Ridley seven points and five assists and Babjide Aina six points and seven rebounds.

The loss dropped KCKCC to 12-7 overall and 1-3 in the Division II standings heading into a Jayhawk Conference Division I contest at Independence Wednesday at 8 p.m. The Blue Devils return home Saturday afternoon to play host to Neosho County.

Alan Hoskins is the sports information director at KCKCC.

No. 8 KCKCC women deal No. 7 Highland first loss in 18 games

by Alan Hoskins
Kansas City Kansas Community College officially stamped itself among the elite in the nation’s most competitive NJCAA Division II women’s basketball conference Saturday.

One of three teams ranked in the top eight teams in Division II, the No. 8 Lady Blue Devils handed No. 7 ranked and two-time national tournament qualifier Highland its first loss of the season with a furious, hard-fought 63-60 home court win.

“Exciting – and intense,” said KCKCC coach Valerie Stambersky, whose Blue Devils had to overcome a rash of turnovers and sub-par free throwing before backup point guard Arrica Daye clinched the win by grabbing her own missed free throw and dribbling out the final seconds to set off a wild mid-court celebration.

Trailing 26-21 late in a first half that had two ties and eight lead changes, the Blue Devils ran off 10 straight points on the way to a 33-30 halftime lead and were never headed the rest of the way. With less than five minutes remaining, the lead had grown to 56-46 on three-point field goals by Cheyenne North, the first of her career, and Cierra Gaines.

But just when it looked like the Blue Devils were in command, Highland turned up the defensive pressure, forcing six KCKCC turnovers in the final 4½ minutes. The Blue Devils further contributed to the Scotties’ rally by missing 8 of 10 free throws in the final 2:34.

After Highland had closed to 61-59, Erin Anderson made one of two free throws with 1:26 left and Cassidy Harbert added another with 24 seconds to go to keep the margin at three.

“The three-pointers by Cheyenne and Cierra were big and so was Erin Anderson’s free throw that gave us a 3-point lead,” Stambersky said. “With Cassidy Harbert in early foul trouble, Arrica Daye stepped in and gave us a different look. Defensively, I thought we were a lot more focused the second half.”

Highland drained four three-point goals the first half but managed only 2-of-15 the second half (13.3 percent) on the way to 37.9 percent shooting for the game.

The Blue Devils, meanwhile were 15-of-29 the first half (.517) and finished with 24-of-50 for the game to offset an uncharacteristic 26 turnovers and just 12-of-27 free throws.

Gaines led the scoring with 16 points while North had a huge double double, 13 points, 12 rebounds and four blocked shots. Daye and Anderson each added seven points, Janai Mitchell six and Harbert and Rashaun Casey five each. Harbert and Mitchell also had seven rebounds apiece while Daye led in assists with three.

The win boosted the Blue Devils’ Division II record to 3-0, just a half-game back of No. 1 Johnson County (4-0), and their overall record to 17-2 heading into a Division I Jayhawk Conference clash at Independence Wednesday night.

For Highland, the Region VI champion and national tournament qualifier in each of the last two seasons, the loss was its first to any Division II team other than No. 1 JCCC under coach B.J. Smith.

Alan Hoskins is the sports information director for KCKCC.

Saunders looks to future as retirement begins

by Kelly Rogge

Toni Saunders spent more than 21 years at Kansas City Kansas Community College, so the decision to retire was not an easy one. However, it was her husband that helped her take that final leap.

“My husband has been retired for eight years,” she said. “I need to be home to make him complete his projects.”

Saunders has served as either a secretary or an administrative assistant during her time at KCKCC, most recently in the business and continuing education department. Prior to coming to the community college, she worked for the Lawrence Traffic Bureau in the KC Stockyards. She said what she will miss most about leaving KCKCC is most certainly the people.

“I will miss the people I work with on a daily basis,” she said. “I will also miss all of the other friends I have made here.”

During her time at KCKCC, Saunders was named the Staff Employee of the Year in 2012, one of her most memorable accomplishments. She said she also remembers winning several gold medals for volleyball when the college participated in the Corporate Challenge.

“I think what I have enjoyed the most is being able to work with division personnel that really care about the students and the division itself,” she said. “That applies to the BITAC staff, the Business and Technology group and my current group – Business and Continuing Education.”

As for what she plans to do with her retirement, Saunders has made no specific plans. However, a visit to obedience school might be in the future for one of her new rescue dogs.”

“I am thinking about taking our girl Nellie for obedience lessons. She is quite sassy,” she said. “I hope KCKCC continues to provide a quality education that is affordable for our students and to continue to be a great resource for the community.”

Kelly Rogge is the public information supervisor for Kansas City Kansas Community College.