by Alan Hoskins, KCKCC sports information
So much for opening a basketball season against a series of inferior teams.
Playing the third quality opponent (and arguably the best) in six days, Kansas City Kansas Community College dropped a 70-68 decision to Link Year Prep in a fierce battle that went right down to the final shot Monday night.
The loss came on the heels of a 118-115 double overtime loss at No. 6 ranked North Central Missouri last Wednesday and a 74-66 win at Central Nebraska in a game in which the Blue Devils rallied by scoring the final 11 points of the game.
“We’re two possessions away from being 3-0,” said KCKCC coach Brandon Burgette, never one to shy away from tough games. “We played well in moments but we’ve got to close out games and do a better job on the glass, especially against a team like Link Prep that is very talented.”
Extremely talented. A post-graduate academy in Branson, Missouri, geared to get high school graduates prepared for basketball at the highest level, the Lions’ roster included five players who have already committed to NCAA Division I schools and a quartet of players 6-7 or better who show-cased their athleticism with five jarring dunks.
For 40 minutes, the two teams traded punches like a heavyweight bout – six ties and six lead changes in the final 16 minutes. KCKCC led by nine points early (18-9); Link Prep’s biggest lead was five to start the second half (36-31).
The Blue Devils twice built 4-point leads in the final four minutes on 3-point goals by Jermaine Yarbough and Deron McDaniel but the Lions twice scored off offensive rebounds to forge a 66-66 tie and then went ahead 69-66 on Quaran McPherson’s second 3-pointer of the game with 1:44 left.
After Yarbough got KCKCC back to 69-68 with 36 seconds to go, McPherson missed one of two free throws to open the door for the Blue Devils to win or tie only to have McDaniel’s heavily contested 3-pointer come up short.
Caleb Jones led KCKCC with 16 points and a game high 11 rebounds but had to sit out crucial fourth quarter minutes with four fouls. Freshman Shayon Janloo added 14 points, Yarbough and McDaniel 9 each and Trey Bates 8. McPherson had 22 points for Link Prep.
Because of the Lions’ size, the Blue Devils had to go to the perimeter for much of their scoring and they did it well – six players knocking down 10-of-21 3-pointers. McDaniel had three of the treys, Trey Bates and Janloo two each. KCKCC was 28-for-57 for 49.1 percent overall to .421 for Link Prep and turnovers were even 15-15.
But the Lions’ size was the difference, a 37-29 rebound advantage including 13 off the offensive boards.
“We have to do better,” Burgette said. “We did not do a good job rebounding and defending the glass nor did we give ourselves a chance to get second shots (7 offensive rebounds).”
The Blue Devils are back in action Thursday when they play host to Park University junior varsity in a women’s-men’s doubleheader starting at 5:30 p.m. Both games will be streamed on the KCKCC Blue Devil website. Both Blue Devil teams are also at William Penn Friday at 5:30 p.m.