by Alan Hoskins, KCKCC
Not only was it the best game of Brodi Byrd’s young career, she punctuated it with the biggest play of Kansas City Kansas Community College’s women’s basketball season.
Darting between three Fort Scott defenders, the 5-6 freshman guard from Truman High School grabbed a one bounce rebound and scored as time ran out to give the Lady Blue Devils a 75-73 win.
“Brodi had great energy all day and it really paid off for us on that play,” KCKCC coach Joe McKinstry said. “She’s been shooting the ball with confidence but I’ve been challenging her to make more toughness plays and she answered me this time for sure! Nija Collier gave us a great burst of energy as well and knocked down some very timely 3-pointers.”
The win not only tightened KCKCC’s hold on first place in the Jayhawk Conference but put the Blue Devils in position to clinch a tie for the conference championship should Johnson County defeat second place Labette at JCCC Monday.
With two games to go, the Blue Devils (7-1) have the lead over Labette (5-2), Highland (5-3) and JCCC (4-3). KCKCC (25-3) closes the season at Highland Wednesday and at home against JCCC Saturday afternoon.
Byrd led the Blue Devils with a career high 23 points, knocking down 8-of-14 shots including 5-of-10 from 3 point while Nija Collier had another double-double – 22 points and 12 rebounds. The 22 points came on 8-of-12 shots including three very timely 3-pointers.
Guard Caitlin Stewart was also in double figures with 11 points while Lillie Moore and Kisi Young were keys in a 38-35 rebounding edge. Moore had eight points and seven rebounds; Young six points and seven rebounds along with three assists each.
Trailing 38-37 at halftime, the two teams entered a wild fourth quarter deadlocked 55-55. Fort Scott led just once in the final period but the Greyhounds refused to let KCKCC get away. Six times the Blue Devils went ahead and each time Fort Scott got back even.
Collier twice gave KCKCC the lead with field goals and Young did the same with four straight free throws. The only time the Blue Devils’ lead got to more than two points came in the final 1½ minutes.
Collier wiped out Fort Scott’s only lead with a 3-pointer with 1:35 left and then added a layup and free throw for a 73-68 lead with 23:2 seconds left.
The Greyhounds’ Arikiarra Clark hit a quick 3-pointer out of a time out and after a KCKCC traveling violation, Clark tied it with a short jumper with 15.5 to go.
It was just enough time for Collier to miss a short jump shot that was rebounded by Stewart for a baseline jumper that hit the corner of the backboard and into the hands of Bryd, who came from outside the 3-point line for the rebound, winning basket and subsequent mobbing by teammates.
“On a day where we weren’t very good and Fort Scott playing harder than us on most possessions, our girls picked the right time to out-hustle the Greyhounds and make them pay for it,” McKinstry said.
Guilty of 20 turnovers in an 82-41 loss at KCKCC earlier, the Greyhounds (16-8) made just five and matched the Blue Devils point-for-point from start to finish led by Clark’s 24 points and 5-of-6 3-point shooting by Shelina Harper.
“I felt not being able to practice Friday was a big factor in our effort today,” McKinstry said. “We seemed a bit tired and lethargic after being stuck inside all day. I understand it; the weather was certainly rough yesterday. But we’ve got to hold ourselves to a high standard with our expectations in these situations. We have to know we’re going to get everyone’s best shot. Don’t get me wrong, a conference road win is always a good thing. Now we’ve got to lock in for these two final games of the regular season.”