Wife’s advice helps McKinstry, Blue Devils reach national tourney

No. 3-seeded KCKCC to face old rival Union County Tuesday at 8 a.m.

Advice from Carleigh McKinstry to husband Joe McKinstry helped KCKCC defeat Johnson County 67-59 in the Region VI championship game and gain a national tournament berth for the third time in six seasons. (KCKCC photo)

by Alan Hoskins, KCKCC sports information

Kansas City Kansas Community College will go into the NJCAA Division II national women’s basketball tournament as the No. 3 seed – thanks in no small part to Carleigh McKinstry.

“All the credit goes to my wife for our offensive game plan against Johnson County,” said KCKCC coach Joe McKinstry, whose Blue Devils will be seeking their third national championship in six years.

As the No. 3 seed, the Blue Devil women (20-2) will face an old rival in opening round play in the national tournament. Union County out of New Jersey, the team the Blue Devils defeated 84-59 in the 2019 championship game, will be the opening foe on Tuesday, April 20, on the campus of Catawba Valley Community College in Hickory, North Carolina, an hour northwest of Charlotte. Tipoff is at 8 a.m. (CDT) and the game will be streamed on the NJCAA network at a fee.

KCKCC returns to the national tournament for the third time thanks to a 67-59 win over No. 1 ranked and unbeaten Johnson County Saturday in Wichita. It was McKinstry’s 150th win against 40 losses in his six years at KCKCC – with an assist from wife Carleigh.

“It was after our game at State Fair and my wife was saying how impressed she was with Ilka Elam scoring 24 points and grabbing 12 rebounds,” McKinstry said. “I said that it was possible because State Fair played a zone defense and Ilka did not have to worry about plays, she just had to post up and be strong. My wife said that Johnson County plays a zone. I was sitting in a DQ in Sedalia and it hit me, she’s right. We ran a zone offense Johnson hadn’t seen and we killed it.”

Ironically, KCKCC and JCCC could meet for a fourth time – in the championship game April 24. For the first time, an at-large berth was made available for the tournament because of the withdrawal of one region because of the COVID-19 pandemic. As the No. 1 ranked team, JCCC was the obvious choice. Had KCKCC lost the title game, the No. 5 ranked Blue Devils would have been the most likely pick for the at-large berth because all the teams ranked ahead of them qualified for the national.

Union County will bring a four-game winning streak and 13-3 record into the national tourney. The Owls, who played just four conference games (3-1), are led by guards Samira Sargent (14.9 points a game) and Brianna Mills (11.8). Averaging 75.6 points a game, the Owls are sixth in the nation in both rebounds (47.5) and assists (19.1).

“They’re athletic with some size,” McKinstry said. “In the 2019 tournament, they were seeded No. 9 and they upset the No. 8 and No. 1 seeds so they’ve been in this position before.”

The Blue Devils are also led in scoring by a pair of guard, Tiaira Earnest (14.3) and Aliyah Myers (13.5), but will be without their second leading scorer, Hannah Valentine (13.6), who suffered a season-ending leg injury in the 15th game of the season.

However, they’ve added 6-1 freshman forward Jewell Hart, who scored 10 and 12 points in regional tournament wins over Labette and JCCC. Sidelined by an injury most of the season, the Truman High School grad has played just four games.

“I’m sure Jewell was a little motivated against JCCC,” McKinstry said. “She was recruited by Johnson County but because of injury, was not offered a scholarship.”

Balanced scoring, as usual, is the Blue Devil strength. Other scoring leaders are Faith Putz, 8.8 points; D.Q. Guillory, 8.3; Ikla Elam, 7.6; D.J. Guillory, 7.5; Mercer Roberts, 5.8; Lacy Whitcomb, 5.1; Trinity McDow, 4.2; and Aysia Arrowood, 2.6.

As a team, the Blue Devils are sixth in the nation in scoring (80.9), sixth in 3-point goals per game (8.0) and seventh in assists (14.9).

Roberts’ best helps KCKCC end 22-game Labette win streak

by Alan Hoskins, KCKCC sports information

Officially, it was Sophomore Night for Kansas City Kansas Community College’s No. 5 ranked women’s basketball team Saturday. In reality, it was Mercer Roberts Night.

The 5-11 sophomore from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, scored the first 12 Blue Devil points in the second half to help build a 19-point lead on the way to a 77-70 upset of previously unbeaten Labette.

The win, KCKCC’s biggest of the season, ended Labette’s 22-game winning streak dating back to last season, and put the Blue Devils (6-2) in position to clinch a first round bye in the Region VI playoffs beginning April 5. KCKCC (17-2) closes out regular season play at Fort Scott Wednesday.

Roberts, who had not scored more than 10 points in any game this season and was averaging 5.9 points and 4.3 rebounds, exceeded her all-time best in less than five minutes.

She started the second half with back-to-back 3-pointers and then scored three straight layups for a 49-30 lead. She finished with a team high 19 points (7-10), seven rebounds and two assists.

As it turned out, the 19-point lead was barely enough. The Cardinals made repeated runs at catching up. Aliyah Myers’ 3-pointer stemmed one charge; Roberts’ layup stemmed another but it took four clutch free throws by D.J. Guillory and key rebounds by Ikla Elam, Guillory and Roberts to hold on.

Labette closed to 70-66 before Guillory made two free throws with 29 seconds left and then added two more after the Cardinals had closed to 73-70 with 18 seconds remaining.

Three Blue Devils joined Roberts in double figures. Guillory had 14 points and seven rebounds, Tiaira Earnest 13 points and three assists; and Elam 11 points and seven rebounds against a lanky Labette roster of seven 6-footers.

However, it was the smaller Blue Devils who won the rebound battle 46-43. Paramount to the win was also the play of Aliyah Myers, who had eight assists and six steals in her final regular season game.

“Mercer Roberts played best game of her life,” KCKCC coach Joe McKinstry said. “We’ve known she’s not just capable of making threes but that she can impact the game in other ways and today we saw that. Ikia Elam gave us a huge lift as the equalizer we needed around the basket against a team as big as Labette. She was aggressive, battled for rebounds and did a great job with what we needed from her defensively.

“With Hannah Valentine out for the season, we really needed D.J. Guillory to pick up Hannah’s minutes and today she was fantastic. She made plays around the rim, was very active rebounding on both ends and was great defensively as well. If I’m being honest though, everyone who got in contributed for us and had a huge role in this win. Sometimes you just need to prove to yourself of what is possible and I know they are capable of whatever they dedicate themselves to”

No. 1 Johnson County outraces No. 4 KCKCC in battle of ranked powers

De’Jaria Guillory went up for two of her team-high 11 points in KCKCCs 75-55 loss to Johnson County Wednesday night. Teammates Aliyah Myers (3) and Mercer Roberts (4) trailed the play. (KCKCC photo by Alan Hoskins)

by Alan Hoskins, KCKCC sports information

Johnson County and Kansas City Kansas Community College squared off in a battle of two of the top four teams in NJCAA Division II women’s basketball Wednesday.

It was the sixth time the two long-time archrivals had gone head-to-head with JCCC as the No. 1 ranked team in the nation and the Cavaliers lived up to their lofty perch, pulling away in the fourth quarter for a 75-55 win over the No. 4 Blue Devils.

It was the 16th meeting between the two teams when ranked nationally, with JCCC holding an 11-5 edge and 4-2 when ranked No. 1.

The win kept JCCC unbeaten (14-0) and all but wrapped up the Jayhawk Conference championship with a 5-0 record while the Blue Devils fell to 13-2 overall and 3-2 in the conference with four games to go, three on the road.

At Hesston Saturday and Highland next Wednesday, the Blue Devils are home against Labette March 27 before finishing at Fort Scott March 31.

Shooting proved to be the difference Wednesday. The Cavaliers just did a better job, knocking down 28-of-68 shots for 41.2 percent. Meanwhile, the Blue Devils had nine field goals the first quarter (9-21) for 42.9 percent, then made only 11 field goals the final three quarters in finishing at .294.

Even then, the Blue Devils were within striking range at 56-49 with 8:30 remaining only to have pint-sized guard D’Asya Collier-Williams deliver daggers, two back-to-back jump shots with the shot clock running down on both for a 61-49 lead. By the time KCKCC scored again, it was 67-49 with 6:40 remaining.

Rebounding was also a big factor in the second half. The Blue Devils were almost dead even in rebounds the first half (23-22) but were dominated the second half 30-16.

Freshman De’Jaria Guillory was the lone Blue Devil in double figures with 11 points while Aliyah Myers added nine, Faith Putz and Trinity McDow eight each and Tiaria Earnest seven. Earnest led rebounding with eight, Guillory had seven.

The Blue Devils committed just nine turnovers to 11 for JCCC but just couldn’t overcome the frigid shooting for the last three periods – .235 in the second, .214 in the third and .250 in the fourth. Also, the Blue Devils were just 5-of-33 from 3-point (.152).

LaJahda Boyland had 16 points and 12 rebounds, Jaylen Townsend 14 points and Collier-Williams and Kierra Prim 10 each for JCCC, which also got 10 rebounds from Gabby Fuller.

KCKCC was without head coach Joe McKinstry, who was sidelined by illness, and third leading scorer Hannah Valentine, out with a leg injury. Athletic Directory Tony Tompkins and assistant Timeka O’Neal took the coaching reins.