Blue Devils come from 14 back for first men’s conference championship since 1969
by Alan Hoskins, KCKCC
Not only will 2020 go down as the year the Kansas City Chiefs ended 50 years without a Super Bowl, it is the year Kansas City Kansas Community College’s men’s basketball team ended 50 years without a conference championship.
Trailing by 14 points with seven minutes remaining, the Blue Devils surged from behind for a dramatic 71-67 win over Highland Wednesday that wrapped up the first Jayhawk Conference championship in the 51-year history of the conference and KCKCC’s first conference championship since the 1968-1969 season, the last year of the old Interstate Conference.
The win, the Blue Devils’ ninth in a row, improved their record to 8-1 and maintained a 2-game lead over second place Johnson County (6-3) heading into the season’s finale between the two arch-rivals in Overland Park Saturday at 4 p.m. The win also assured KCKCC (16-12) of playing host to a Region VI semifinal playoff game Tuesday, March 3, at 7 p.m.
The biggest goal of Calvin Slaughter’s two-year career at KCKCC provided the dramatics and had an enthusiastic crowd of Blue Devil softball and women’s soccer players on its feet.
In a 66-66 deadlock and time running out on the shot clock, Slaughter momentarily lost control of his dribble only to square up and drill a 3-pointer for a 69-66 lead with 51.7 seconds left.
“Desperation shot,” admitted Slaughter, “I knew it was good when it left my hand.”
“It’s almost March; a one shining moment type of shot,” said KCKCC coach Brandon Burgette of Slaughter’s game-winner. It also made Burgette a championship winner in his first year as head Blue Devil coach.
Highland cut the lead to 69-67 on a free throw but Slaughter and Deron McDaniel sealed the win with free throws after grabbing crucial defensive rebounds and set off a wild mid-court celebration and cutting down of the nets.
The Scotties had built their biggest lead at 62-48 with 7½ minutes left when Slaughter and McDaniel fueled one of the biggest comebacks in KCKCC history, outscoring Highland 18-4 to pull into the 66-66 tie.
Two free throws from Robert Rhodes and a McDaniel layup ignited the rally and Slaughter lit it up with back-to-back 3-pointers to cut the deficit 58-52 and McDaniel took it from there, converting six of seven free throws for a 64-64 deadlock. Rhodes’ follow shot with seconds left kept the Blue Devils even and set up Slaughter for his game-winner.
“We showed ourselves how to win,” Burgette said. “Being down 14, we didn’t mope or quit or give up. We stayed with it and figured out how to win. We got stops and steals that led to layups and free throws. We shot the ball well from the free throw line, obviously Deron was amazing. And Calvin stepped up and made big shots, two to get us going and then the one that put us ahead. That’s what you need is your upperclassmen to step up.”
Slaughter finished with a game-high 22 points, 16 in the second half including four of his five 3-pointers when he was 4-of-5 from the perimeter. McDaniel added 20 points including a clutch 11-of-13 free throws.
“A little nervous,” McDaniel admitted. “I knew we needed them and we’d keep fighting.”
DeAngelo Bell and Rhodes were the only other Blue Devils with more than one field goal, Bell scoring 10 points and Rhodes eight. Rhodes also had eight rebounds as did Jermaine Yarbough in just 16 minutes of playing time.
Three-pointers and free throws were crucial. KCKCC outscored the Scotties by 21 points from 3-point, knocking down 10-of-32 for 31.3 percent to just 3-of-13 for Highland (.231).
The Blue Devils also converted 19-of-27 free throws to 6-of-9 for the Scotties, who shot better from the field (.474-.389) and had more rebounds (36-34) but committed 20 turnovers to 11 for KCKCC.