Newton eyes ‘worst to first’ KCKCC cage scenario for 2014-2015

by Alan Hoskins

From worst to first? “I don’t think that’s unrealistic depending on how recruiting finishes up,” said Kansas City Kansas Community College first year men’s basketball coach Kelley Newton.

“I think the future is bright. I love the foundation we’ve laid, the direction the program is going and see us just getting better and better and better,” Newton said.

While a 7-25 overall record and winless Jayhawk Division II season was not what Newton had envisioned when he was named head coach July 8, 2013, the record belies the improvement made by the Blue Devils by season’s end.

Although down to just seven healthy players the last 11 games due to injuries and suspensions for team policy violations, the Blue Devils took four of the last five regular season games right to the wire – losing two by one point and two by two points – before avenging two earlier losses with a 69-57 upset win at Johnson County in the first round of the Region VI playoffs.

The big finish came without a sophomore on the squad – or a player taller than 6-foot, 4 inches. Lucas Smith, a 6-3 forward from Omaha, led the regular season in both scoring (11.0) and rebounding (7.4) although 6-4 Marcus Allen, a Sumner Academy grad who joined the team at the semester break, had the best average of 12.4 points in 15 games along with 5.3 rebounds.

Clay Young, a 6-4 forward from Lansing, was second in scoring (10.0) and rebounding (5.6) while 5-8 point guard Anthony Ridley of Hogan Prep led in assists (4.4) while averaging 8.9 points and 2.9 rebounds.

Stephen Leimbach of St. James Academy led in 3-point goals with 70 while averaging 8.4 points; guard Nate Collins of Pembroke Hill was second in assists with 2.7 and averaged 3.8 points; and Collin Adney of Oklahoma City averaged 4.2 points.

“Throughout the course of the season, I think we grew up and when you grow up you get better,” Kelley said. “I think Clay Young really matured and became a better player and Anthony Ridley became a better basketball player just to name a couple.”

But the Blue Devils were without their one returning starter from a year ago, guard Antonio Winn who suffered a season-ending leg injury in the second game of the season, and lost a 21.8-point guard in Brandon Ward to academics at the semester break.

The Blue Devils also played a gargantuan road schedule with 12 of their first 15 games on the road against top notch opponents.

“We never make excuses,” Newton said. “I never allow a team to make excuses. You start making excuses, you’ve already lost or are looking for a way out. That’s a topic for someone else. As a team, they’re told that no matter what hand they are dealt, to never give up and through the course of the season they put us in position to win basketball games.”

The Blue Devils played six two-game classics, five on the road. That won’t happen this coming season as some former opponents return to the schedule.

Labette has joined Johnson County, Fort Scott, Highland, Hesston, Brown Mackie and KCKCC in a seven-team Division II conference while the Blue Devils will resume Jayhawk Conference play with Division I teams Cowley, Neosho County and Allen County at home and Independence and Coffeyville on the road.

“We played hard this year but we need to get better in a lot of different areas and we can through recruiting,” Newton said. “One of my goals is to get the school and community behind us and pack the Field House every night. I want this program to be known nationally, not just conference-wide.”

Sporting KC wins over Cruz Azul, 1-0

Fans cheered as Sporting KC won its home opener, 1-0, March 12 at Sporting Park, Kansas City, Kan. (Photo by William Crum)

by William Crum
With only 17 minutes into the game, Sporting Kansas City scored the first goal in CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals action Wednesday at Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan.

The goal was made by Kevin Ellis (No. 4), and at halftime the score was Sporting Kansas City 1, Cruz Azul 0.
This is truly a game that you would not believe, with a sellout crowd of 18,467.
After halftime the battle raged on to the bitter end, and the final score was 1-0.
The second of this two-leg match will be played March 19 in Mexico City, and the team with the most points at the end of the two games will advance to the semifinals.
This was the home opener this season for Sporting Kansas City. If this is how they play the home opener, one can only imagine how they will do the rest of the season.

Freshman pitches KCKCC to softball split at Coffeyville

Leslie Ford (KCKCC photo)

by Alan Hoskins
Kansas City Kansas Community College rode Leslie Ford’s strong pitching and hitting to a 3-2 win at Coffeyville Tuesday but had to settle for a split when Coffeyville rallied for a 4-3 win in the nightcap.

The split left the Lady Blue Devils 3-1 in the Jayhawk Conference and 5-1 overall heading into doubleheaders at Hesston Friday and Hutchinson Saturday.
A freshman from Garden City, Ford scattered six hits, struck out 12 and drove in the game-winning run in the 3-2 win. She was backed by an 11-hit attack that included two singles and a triple by leadoff hitter Lacey Santiago and a double and single each by Ford and Justice Scales.
Trailing 1-0 in the fifth, the Blue Devils took the lead on five straight singles by Ford, Megan Dike, Santiago, Scales and Mierra Morisette. Coffeyville tied it in the bottom of the inning before KCKCC scored the decisive go-ahead run on a one-out single by Ashley Henigton and Ford’s RBI double to center.
Coffeyville threatened in the bottom of the sixth with a leadoff double but Ford escaped with a pair of strikeouts and a popup and set down the Red Ravens in order in the seventh.
The Blue Devils took a 3-0 lead in the first inning of the nightcap. After a leadoff single by Santiago, Scales tripled and scored on Morisette’s single. A double by Hanna Barnhart and a single for Ford added the third run.
Santiago and Scales each had a pair of hits in the 9-hit attack but the Blue Devils managed on four more base-runners the rest of the way.
Elizabeth Seimear took the loss despite allowing only six hits and two earned runs. She struck out four and walked one.
After tying the game with two unearned runs in the second, Coffeyville won it on a two-out single in the fifth.
“Elisabeth Seimear threw well but they were able to score on a couple of bloop hits,” said KCKCC coach Kacy Tillery. “Leslie Ford pitched well in the first game and Megan Dike called a good game behind the plate with the 12 strikeouts. And the defense played well both games with just one error.”