by Alan Hoskins, KCKCC
All losses hurt but some are more painful than others as Kansas City Kansas Community College’s young Lady Blue Devils found out against arch-rival Johnson County Saturday.
The Blue Devils roared to a 50-33 halftime lead against the No. 7 ranked Cavaliers but managed only 23 points in the final two quarters in a 79-73 setback that went right down to the final 30 seconds.
The loss kept Johnson County (5-1) a game back of unbeaten Highland (6-0) in the Region VI Division II standings while KCKCC (2-4) fell into a fourth place tie with Fort Scott.
The Blue Devils go back on the road at Hesston Wednesday and then return home Saturday for their final regular season games against Fort Scott at 2 and 4 p.m.
Led by Piper freshman Miya Ford, the Lady Blue Devils (18-8) turned in their best half since the 2016 national championship season.
Hitting 11-of-15 shots from the field including 6-of-8 3-pointers for 73.3 percent, KCKCC surged to a 29-17 first quarter lead and then expanded it to 50-33 at halftime by shooting 70.4 percent for the half (19-of-27). Ford, who was 7-of-9 from the field including a blistering 5-of-7 3-pointers, was the catalyst with a career high 19 points.
However, a much-needed knockout blow never came. It took the Cavaliers (21-5) just five minutes to knock all but three points off the Blue Devil lead by starting the second half with an 18-4 comeback.
Their lead whittled to 54-51, the Blue Devils withstood that rally thanks to a pair of 3-pointers by Alix Wilson to re-open a 63-54 three-quarter lead.
But they couldn’t hold off a second JCCC comeback. The Cavaliers went ahead to stay 69-68 on a Kylee Williams’ 3-pointer with 3:16 left that triggered a run of eight straight points and a 74-68 lead before KCKCC made a final run.
A trey by Niji Collier and a layup by Kisi Young closed the gap to 76-73 with 1:36 left. Twice the Cavaliers misfired but each time they grabbed offensive rebounds and Cerena Reeves converted the second into a layup and a subsequent free throw with 26 seconds go to clinch the win.
Ultimately, the game was decided by rebounding and turnovers.
For the first 25 games of the season, the Blue Devils had outrebounded foes by an average of 13 a game but while JCCC’s final edge on the boards was only 41-35, a whopping 22 came off the offensive boards that led to 22 second-chance points. In addition, the Blue Devils committed 17 turnovers, most of which were unforced, to just five for JCCC.
Ford, who was held to just one shot in the second half, led all scorers with 19 points while Lillie Moore had a double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds, Young 15 points and Collier 10 points and six rebounds. Tristen McFeders had 16 points and Reeves and Williams 15 each for JCCC.
In other Region VI action Saturday, Highland defeated Labette 96-74 to set up a battle for first place with JCCC in Overland Park Wednesday while Fort Scott defeated Hesston 73-46.