Torrid Link Year Prep shooting foils KCKCC men’s home opener

A spectacular dunk by Link Year Prep’s Gabe Hornsby also earned Hornsby a technical foul for hanging on the rim. The Lions posted an 89-69 win over KCKCC despite 22 points by Jalen Davis (11). (KCKCC photo by Alan Hoskins)
KCKCC sophomore Malcolm Tate found tall trouble from Link Year Prep’s 6-7 Lamar Wright, left, and 6-10 Kalein Bennett but drew a foul in the Blue Devils’ 89-69 loss. (KCKCC photo by Alan Hoskins)

by Alan Hoskins, KCKCC

Link Year Prep’s hot shooting foiled Kansas City Kansas Community College’s home basketball opener Friday with an 89-69 win in the opening round of the annual Keith Lindsey Classic.

The Blue Devils (1-2) will play North Central Missouri today in the final round of the Classic at 6 p.m. KCKCC’s women will also play North Central at 4 p.m.

A basketball academy for high school graduates to prepare promising young players for possible college scholarships, Link Year Prep took just 52 shots Friday, making 32 for a crisp 61.5 percent.

The Lions were particularly effective from long range, netting 8-of-16 from 3-point. The win boosted Link Year Prep’s record to 4-2 including a 40-point win over Neosho County and a 2-point loss to Butler County, both members of the Jayhawk Division I Conference.

The Lions needed the torrid shooting to hold off a late first half Blue Devil rally fired by Jalen Davis, a 6-2 freshman guard from Houston, who almost single handedly pulled KCKCC back in contention.

After three ties and three lead changes, the Lions surged to a 26-11 lead with 7:34 left in the half only to have Davis score the Blue Devils’ next 13 points to cut the halftime deficit to 38-30.

However, the Lions scored the first seven points of the second half for a 45-30 lead and KCKCC could never could close the gap to single digits as the Lions shot 60.7 percent the second half after 62.5 percent the first half.

Dominating the rebounding 38-25, Link Year Prep had three players score 17 or more points – 6-9 Austin Johnson with 20 on 7-of-9 shooting, 6-7 Tre Edwards 18 with 4-of-7 3-pointers and 6-10 Kalin Bennett, 17 on 6-of-7 shooting.

Davis finished with 22 points for KCKCC on 9-of-12 shooting while Andre Boykins and Arother Ratliff came off the bench to add eight points each. Boykins led rebounding with five; Taylor Turner in assists with five.

The Blue Devils shot 43.8 percent from the field thanks to 53.1 percent the second half. The Blue Devils had 14 turnovers while forcing 15 by Link Year Prep.

Sporting KC plays in Western Conference semifinal match Sunday in KCK

Children’s Mercy Park will hold its first postseason match in nearly five years when top-seeded Sporting Kansas City and No. 6 seed Real Salt Lake square off Sunday at 2 p.m. in the decisive second leg of the Western Conference Semifinals.

A limited number of tickets for the highly anticipated showdown-a rematch of the 2013 MLS Cup won by Sporting KC on home soil-remain available at SeatGeek.com.

Sunday’s contest will be televised nationally on ESPN and ESPN Deportes, while local radio broadcasts will air on ESPN 94.5 FM and ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM.

Viewers can catch a live stream via the WatchESPN app and receive additional in-game updates courtesy of Sporting KC Uphoria.

Sporting KC and Real Salt Lake enter the weekend tied 1-1 on aggregate after battling to a stalemate in last Sunday’s first leg at Rio Tinto Stadium.

RSL’s talismanic midfielder Albert Rusnak opened the scoring on 51 minutes with a superb side volley, but Sporting KC forward Diego Rubio bagged a 60th-minute equalizer just 38 seconds after entering the game for his MLS-leading fifth goal as a substitute in 2018.

The first-leg result leaves everything to play for Sunday as a pair of fierce rivals look to secure passage to the Western Conference Championship of the Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs.

Led by MLS Coach of the Year candidate Peter Vermes, Sporting KC can advance with a win or a scoreless draw. RSL, meanwhile, can progress with a victory or a draw involving four or more total goals (2-2, 3-3, etc.).

Another 1-1 tie would force two 15-minute periods of extra time in which the away goals tiebreaker no longer counts. If still deadlocked, a penalty shootout will decide which team advances to face the No. 5 seed Portland Timbers in the two-legged conference championship, scheduled for Nov. 25 and 29.

A capacity crowd is expected on Sunday at Children’s Mercy Park, the same site of the 2013 MLS Cup that saw Sporting KC oust Real Salt Lake in a 10-round penalty shootout following a 1-1 draw through extra time.

Vermes’ side was 10-2-5 at home this year and 18-8-8 overall, ascending to first place in the West while setting single-season club records for goals (65), goal difference (+25), assists (69) and shots (583).

Homegrown winger Daniel Salloi led the side with 11 league goals, while Scottish international Johnny Russell became the fourth player in team history to notch 10 goals and 10 assists in the same MLS season.

In addition to setting offensive records, Sporting KC has remained staunch defensively. Their 40 goals allowed were the third-fewest during the regular season as goalkeeper Tim Melia finished with 13 shutouts, second-most in MLS. Right back Graham Zusi was arguably the league’s most effective two-way player, playing every minute of all 34 MLS matches to go with two goals and seven assists.

Anchored by center back pairing Matt Besler and Ike Opara, the Sporting KC defense is likely to be bolstered Sunday by the return of left back Seth Sinovic, who missed the first leg in Utah due to a red card suspension.

Led by second-year head coach Mike Petke, Real Salt Lake will be without Rusnak on Sunday after the Slovakian international picked up his second yellow card of the postseason last weekend against Sporting KC.

The playmaker has amassed 11 goals and seven assists in 2018, but RSL have posted an impressive 4-0-1 MLS record without Rusnak in the lineup this season. Much like Sporting KC, Petke’s squad wields balance and depth in attack: RSL had five players with at least seven league goals in 2018.

Crowned MLS Cup champions in 2009, RSL went just 3-11-3 on the road this year but claimed a momentous 3-2 away win over LAFC in the single-elimination Knockout Round on Nov. 1. Damir Kreilach scored twice in that match and leads the side with 14 MLS goals, having joined RSL from German outfit Union Berlin in February.

Sunday will mark the fifth time Sporting KC and Real Salt Lake have locked horns this season.

Vermes’ men prevailed 2-0 in the U.S. Open Cup Fourth Round on June 6 at Rio Tinto Stadium before suffering a 4-2 regular-season defeat at the same venue four weeks later.

The sides then scrapped to a 1-1 stalemate on Sept. 30 at Children’s Mercy Park, with MLS Rookie of the Year Corey Baird giving RSL an early lead before Opara nodded Sporting KC level in the 52nd minute.

In last weekend’s first-leg draw, Sporting KC were held to a season-low 33.4-percent possession but outshot RSL 12-10 and put six shots on target to RSL’s three. Sporting KC now return to the friendly confines of Children’s Mercy Park, where they have lost just four of their last 50 home games in all competitions (31-4-15) dating back to June of 2016.

Furthermore, Kansas City boasts a 14-2-4 home record in the postseason, with their lone defeats coming in 1997 and 2011.

– Story from Sporting KC

Depth pays off as No. 9 Lady Blue Devils outdistance St. Louis

KCKCC sophomore Nija Collier soared over St. Louis’ Simone Rodney (10) and Charm Stone (21) for two of her game high 25 points in the Lady Blue Devils 81-65 win Friday. (KCKCC photo by Alan Hoskins)
KCKCC freshman guard Lenaejha Evans drew an offensive foul after colliding with St. Louis’ Kimyra McGhee while Nija Collier (14) looked on, in the Blue Devils 81-65 win. (KCKCC photo by Alan Hoskins)

by Alan Hoskins, KCKCC

If a basketball team is only as strong as its bench, then Kansas City Kansas Community College is most deserving of its national ranking.

The No. 9 ranked Blue Devils took on their toughest test of the early season Friday and passed with an 81-65 win over St. Louis Community College in a game that was much more contested than the final score would indicate.

St. Louis was as close as three points late in the third quarter before the Blue Devil depth asserted itself, outscoring the Lady Archers 26-17 in the final quarter.

“We were tested, that’s for sure,” KCKCC coach Joe McKinstry said. “St. Louis played exceptionally hard and always wins a lot of game so to be in the conversation with the top teams you need wins like this.”

KCKCC (4-0) is right back in action Saturday, facing North Central Missouri at 4 p.m. in the final day of the Keith Lindsey Classic. The KCKCC men will also play North Central at 6 p.m.

With four players including last year’s three top scorers and rebounders in early foul trouble, a quartet of four reserves led by Nija Collier stepped in and combined for 36 points.

Nearly perfect at the foul line with 16 of 18 free throws, Collier led the way with 25 points and 13 rebounds in 24 minutes while Kisi Young also had a double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds.

Brodi Byrd added 12 points including three of her four 3-pointers in the decisive fourth quarter; Lillie Moore scored 11 points in just nine minutes; and Lexy Watts had eight points, a game high six assists and five rebounds.

The Blue Devils played the entire second quarter without Moore and Collier and the Archers took advantage of it, outrebounding KCKCC 14-9 as they closed a 24-14 first quarter deficit to 34-28 at the half.

And it might have been closer were it not for sophomores Watts and Young. Watts had two field goals and two free throws in the period and set up another basket with of one of two back-to-back midcourt steals while Young hauled down seven of her eight first half rebounds in the period.

After playing just four minutes the first half, Moore scored the first five points of the third quarter only to pick up foul No. 3 three minutes into the period and Collier took it from there, scoring 10 points to keep KCKCC in front 55-48 and the Blue Devils pulled away with 72.7 percent shooting (8-of-11) the final quarter.

For the game, the Blue Devils shot 44.2 percent but only 30.4 percent (7-of-23) from 3-point. The Archers, meanwhile, managed just 30.4 percent from the field and were finally outrebounded 46-38.

The Blue Devils were assessed 26 fouls, St. Louis 24. “Quite honestly, we earned the foul trouble,” McKinstry said. “We have to be smarter in what we do. This is only the fourth game but we had nine preseason scrimmages with referees so we should know what’s allowed defensively. We also had 19 turnovers, too many of which were self-inflicted.

“But we also held them to 2-of-12 3-point shots which was real important given it was a tight game for a long period of time and we were down seven in rebounding at the half (28-21) and outrebounded them 25-10 in the second half which was huge. Nija Collier getting to the free throw 18 times and making 16 was phenomenal and Lillie Moore played well with 11 points in just nine minutes.”