by Alan Hoskins, KCKCC
Over the years, Kansas City Kansas and Metropolitan Community Colleges have staged some of the wildest and most memorable finishes ever and Wednesday’s clash at Penn Valley was no different.
Despite playing the final 34 minutes without their biggest offensive weapon, the Blue Devils took the Wolves right down to the final second before dropping a 77-75 heartbreaker.
Trailing by as many as 10 points in the second half, the Blue Devils tied the game for the fifth time 66-66 with 5:19 left – but never could get the lead down the stretch. Two Kelechi Asuzu field goals put Metropolitan in front 70-66 but a Robert Rhodes rebound goal and a 3-pointer by Deron McDaniel kept KCKCC close at 72-71.
The Wolves twice rebuilt leads of 76-71 and 77-73 but a field goal by McDaniel and two Jermaine Yarbough free throws cut the KCKCC deficit to 77-75 with 23.5 seconds remaining. Given a chance for a win or tie when Metropolitan’s Alex Herndon missed a free throw with 18.6 seconds left, a pass deflection kept the Blue Devils from getting off a final shot.
“We set up to get a play in the post but couldn’t get the pass in,” KCKCC coach Brandon Burgette said.
The big comeback came with leading scorer and rebounder Sevon Witt on the bench with a leg injury suffered when he crashed hard on the floor and slid 20 feet to a back wall in attempting to block a breakaway shot with 14:19 left in the first half. Witt came into the game averaging a double-double with 22.2 points and 11.6 rebounds a game. He had started the game with two field goals including a thunderous dunk and a blocked shot.
“A big factor,” Burgette said. “Losing 22 points and 11 rebounds was a real big factor.”
Yarbough, Rhodes and McDaniel picked up much of the KCKCC offense after the injury. Yarbough had a near double-double with 15 points and 9 rebounds; Rhodes was 8-of-12 with four rebounds and a career high 16 points; and McDaniel scored 14 points including four (4-of-9) of KCKCC’s seven 3-pointers. Jalen Daniels added eight points, Ezekiel Lopes six and Calvin Slaughter five.
KCKCC had an edge in both shooting and rebounding. The Blue Devils were 31-of-65 for 47.7 percent from the field to .423 (30-of-71) for Metropolitan, and had a 37-32 edge on the boards.
“Overall, I think we played better,” Burgette said. “We just have to improve defensively. We’re not stopping people from scoring. And they got a lot of offensive rebounds which they converted into 13 second chance points.”
The Blue Devils (1-6) are right back on the road Friday when they play at Southwestern in Creston, Iowa. KCKCC also will compete in the Mineral Area Classic in Park Hills, Missouri, during Thanksgiving Week, facing Highland (Illinois) on Friday and Mineral Area on Saturday.
“We have a lot of basketball left; we just have to keep playing,” Burgette said.