by Alan Hoskins, KCKCC
With the end of the regular season coming to an end, games get bigger and bigger but none bigger than Kansas City Kansas Community College’s home contest with arch-rival Johnson County Wednesday night.
Knocked out of undisputed possession of the NJCAA Division II Region VI lead by a 69-52 loss at Labette Saturday, the Blue Devils will be the host of the Cavaliers at 7:30 p.m. in a showdown that has all kinds of playoff ramifications.
A Blue Devil win will assure KCKCC of no worse than a tie for the Region VI championship and a first-round playoff bye. Even better, a win and a Highland loss at Labette Wednesday would give KCKCC its first outright championship ever.
However, a loss would drop the Blue Devils (8-3) into a second place tie with JCCC (7-4) and possibly out of a first-round playoff bye, a seeding that will hinge on strengths of schedules of the two teams. The Blue Devils took a 76-75 decision in their first meeting with JCCC while one of Highland’s three losses came at home to Labette 76-74.
Athletes earning 3.0 grade point averages or better will be honored at Academic Success Night during Wednesday’s game, which will also be the last regular season finale for five KCKCC sophomores – Kellen Turner, Jon Murray, Mike Lee Jr., Donald Metoyer and Garrick McCuller II.
KCKCC never led against the Cardinals, who were spurred on by a Homecoming crowd. Limited to just seven field goals in 25 attempts (28.0 percent), the Blue Devils trailed 29-18 at halftime and were never close in the second half.
“We did not show up and play well and I am very disappointed,” KCKCC coach Kelley Newton said. “I will take full responsibility and make sure it doesn’t happen on Wednesday.”
Turner was the only Blue Devil in double figures, scoring 14 points, while Murray took another big step in wrapping up Region VI rebounding honors with a game high 14 rebounds. Murray also added nine points, Lee eight and Metoyer and Daniel Kingcannon six each.
Termed by the Parsons Sun “undoubtedly the marquee victory” for Jarrod Stanford in his second year as Labette head coach, the win avenged an earlier 64-57 loss to the Blue Devils and vaulted Labette (6-5) into fourth place in the region and a probable home playoff game.
“This win proves to our guys that when they put 40 minutes together and defend the way we ask them to, we can beat anybody,” Stanford said.
KCKCC’s biggest problem was 6-2 freshman guard Frank Royles. Playing for the first time in front of his mother who came in from Cincinnati, Royles scored 26 points on 11-of-18 shooting. The Cardinals shot at a 48.1 percent clip to .321 for KCKCC, led in rebounding 31-24 and had 12 turnovers to KCKCC’s 16.