by Alan Hoskins, KCKCC
Except for turnovers, Kansas City Kansas Community College’s Blue Devils had a whale of a home debut in their 2019 men’s basketball home opener in the Keith Lindsey Classic Friday night.
Taking on one of the NJCAA Division I perennial powers, the Blue Devils matched Cowley College shot-for-shot for 37 minutes before the Tigers escaped 114-105, a final score that was not any way indicative of the way game played out.
Seven times the two teams were tied and they swapped leads eight times during the first 35 minutes in a furiously fought, fast-paced collision that was no game for the weak at heart.
It was a fitting end to a night that had already had a triple overtime clash and a last second win for the KCKCC women.
Cowley broke the last tie at 82-82, taking advantage of five KCKCC turnovers in six possessions to open a 92-82 lead only to have the Blue Devils’ Jalen Davis and Deron McDaniel lead a big closing rally.
The Blue Devils got to 94-92 with 3:36 left and 104-100 with 1:31 remaining but were turned away by a pair of clutch layups by Mike’l Henderson. Davis had eight points and McDaniel seven down the stretch,
Ultimately, it was the turnovers that were the difference. Boasting a lightning quick array of defenders and pressing full court, Cowley forced 34 turnovers, 25 coming off steals, and accounted for at least 36 points.
The Tigers (5-1), who had seven players score in double figures, also committed 36 fouls, sending the Blue Devils to the free throw line 41 times (27 made).
“Cowley plays a funky style of play and we did not execute what we were supposed to do in our scouting report,” KCKCC coach Brandon Burgette said. “We also missed 14 free throws. That’s a huge deciding factor in the game.”
KCKCC got a game and career-high of 29 points on 10-of-14 shooting from Jalen Davis and one of the biggest double-doubles in history from 6-8 sophomore Sevon Witt, who had 22 points and 21 rebounds and was not far off a triple-double with seven assists. The 21 rebounds tied Witt for fourth on the all-time list.
Three other Blue Devils were in double figures – McDaniel with 12 points, Jermaine Yarbough with 11 and Ezekiel Lopes with 10. McDaniel also had five assists and DeAngelo Bell and Robert Rhodes four each. Led by Witt, KCKCC had a 57-55 edge in rebounding. The Blue Devils also had 13 steals that contributed to 22 Tiger turnovers.
KCKCC had the edge statistically in shooting but not in the number of shots. The Blue Devils were 36-of-75 for 47.4 percent including 22-of-41 (.537) in the second half. But the turnovers gave Cowley a big edge in launching 31 more shots, 106 of which 46 were made for 43.4 percent
“All our losses (1-4) have been under double figures so we just have to learn how to take care of the ball late in the game,” Burgette said. “Turnovers were the deciding factor late in the game when we had the lead. Our guys played hard and could have folded but they kept competing. We just can’t hang our heads, we have to get to play again Saturday.”
KCKCC faces North Central Missouri at 6 p.m. Saturday. North Central won the longest game in Lindsey Classic history Friday, 111-109 over Labette in a game that saw seven Labette players foul out, leaving only three players on the floor the closing seconds.
That game was followed by an 80-79 KCKCC women’s win on Adoreya William’s layup with 6.9 seconds left.