Late rally falls short for cold-shooting Blue Devils, 58-56

by Alan Hoskins, KCKCC sports information

Kansas City Kansas Community College picked the worst possible time for its worst offensive performance of the 2021 season.

And yet the Blue Devils were seconds away from a miraculous come-from-behind win only to have Highland’s Marquise Milton rip it away with a go-ahead field goal in a 58-56 win. The loss ended the Blue Devils’ season at 10-8 while Highland (10-4) advances into the NJCAA Division II Region VI playoff semifinals at Labette Wednesday night.

For nearly 39 minutes, KCKCC and Highland slugged it out on even terms with 11 lead changes and several ties. Neither team led by more than four points in the second half until Highland’s Zyon Smith nailed his fourth 3-pointer for a 55-49 lead with 1:26 remaining.

Just 52 seconds were left when the Blue Devils made what had the makings of a game-winning rally. With little luck shooting from the field, they did it from the foul line.

Sophomore Deron McDaniel, who missed only two free throws all season, started the comeback with three straight and Robert Rhodes quickly followed with a steal, was fouled and made two free throws, cutting the deficit to 55-54 with 48 seconds left.

Forcing a second Scotties’ turnover, the Blue Devils went ahead 56-55 when Trey Bates fed Caleb Jones perfectly for a layup with 21 seconds to go. Unfortunately, too much time remained.

Highland took a time out and Milton maneuvered down the left lane for a go-ahead layup with 3.3 seconds left. Fouled on the play, he made the free throw and KCKCC could not get off a tying or go-ahead field goal.

The game would never have come down to a last-second shot had the Blue Devils been anywhere close to their season’s offensive averages.

Shooting 45.4 percent for the year, the Blue Devils were 18-of-59 from the field for 30.5 percent. Three-pointers were even worse, 5-of-25 for 19.2 percent. Worst of all, the 56 points were the fewest of the season by a team that averaged 82.6 points their first 19 games.

“It felt like there was a lid on the rim,” KCKCC coach Brandon Burgette said. “We struggled to get in a rhythm; we struggled to score; and they did a good job of slowing down on our leading scorer.”

On the plus side, the Blue Devils were near perfect from the foul line – 15-of-16 (.938), one of the best performances in KCKCC history.

McDaniel and Rhodes led the Blue Devils in scoring with 11 points each while Bates added nine, Jones eight and DeAngelo Bell and Jermaine Yarbough six each.

Rhodes led all rebounders with eight and Jones and Yarbough five each but the Scotties dominated the boards 48-34 including a whopping 15 off the offensive end. Bates led in assists with four while Highland had four more turnovers (17-13).

The game was only KCKCC’s third after a 17-day layoff because of COVID quarantine.

“We had enough time to prepare but you can’t gain the momentum from the time we were off the floor (March 6),” Burgette said. “We had our chances to win at the end but tonight Highland wanted it more. Hats off to them. I’m proud of our sophomores. They gave it their all the last two years but it’s hard to swallow because you never want it to end.”

KCKCC men lose to Fort Scott; in playoffs Monday

by Alan Hoskins, KCKCC sports information

Two statistics tell the story of Kansas City Kansas Community College’s 110-90 loss at Fort Scott Wednesday night. The Blue Devils were guilty of 35 turnovers; the Greyhounds knocked down 17 three-point field goals.

The loss was pivotal for the Blue Devils. Not only did it knock them out of first place in the Jayhawk Conference, it dropped them to fourth place and a first-round home playoff game against Highland Monday night. A win would send KCKCC to Labette in semifinal play Wednesday.

Monday’s tipoff is set for 6 p.m. with the game to be streamed on the KCKCC Blue Devil Athletic website.

The win vaulted Fort Scott into a three-way tie for the Jayhawk championship with Johnson County and Labette, all at 5-3.

Highland and KCKCC tied for fourth at 3-2 with Hesston last at 0-8. Fort Scott will play host to Hesston in Monday’s other first-round game with the winner to play at JCCC Wednesday.

Fort Scott took advantage of the 35 Blue Devil turnovers to build a 55-45 halftime lead and stretched it to 80-59 with 12 minutes left.

KCKCC never got closer than eight points in the second half. The Greyhounds were 39-for-76 for 51.3 percent from the field including 17-of-37 treys (.459).

The Blue Devils actually shot slightly better, 37-of-71 for 52.1 percent but could not overcome being outscored 51-27 from three-point. KCKCC was 9-of-25 from three (.360).

Both teams had five players score in double figures. KCKCC’s Deron McDaniel led all scorers with 26 points including 7-of-14 three-pointers while Robert Rhodes led all rebounders with 14.

Caleb Jones had a near double-double with 19 points and nine rebounds; DeAngelo Bell scored 14 points, Bryce Johnson 13 and Rhodes 11.

Zach Nelson led in assists with six and steals with five. Kelyn Bolton had 22 points and Gavin Coone 20, both off the bench for Fort Scott.

In other final regular season games, Labette upset JCCC 72-66 and Highland routed Hesston 88-42.

Overtime win vaults KCKCC men into Jayhawk lead

by Alan Hoskins, KCKCC sports information

Idled by the pandemic the last three weeks, it seemed only fitting Kansas City Kansas Community College’s men’s basketball team should go overtime in its first game back.

Getting a do-or-die free throw from Caleb Jones with two-tenths of a second remaining to get into overtime, the Blue Devils rode 3-pointers by DeAngelo Bell and Shayon Janloo to a down-to-the-wire 73-70 win Saturday.

The win vaulted the Blue Devils (3-1) into first place in the Jayhawk Conference ahead of Johnson County (5-2), Fort Scott (4-3) and Labette (4-3) with one regular season game remaining. KCKCC finishes at Fort Scott Wednesday while JCCC is at Labette and Highland (2-2) at Hesston (0-7).

The Blue Devils (10-6) were a free throw away from a win – or a loss in the final second of regulation play Saturday. Caleb Jones, who had made two free throws to give KCKCC a 65-64 lead with 14 seconds to play, was fouled with :02 left and the Blue Devils trailing 66-65. His first free throw came up short, the second center cut and overtime.

Labette took a quick 68-66 lead in overtime before Bell and Janloo delivered game-deciding 3-pointers. Bell’s came with 3:15 left for a 69-68 lead and Janloo followed with the haymaker with 39 seconds remaining and a 72-68 lead.

Labette’s Jermond Mosley’s layup made it 72-70 and the Cardinals sent Jones to the foul line with 14 seconds to go. He made the first but Bryson Dennis’ desperation 3-pointer to tie bounced off the back rim.

A 6-7 sophomore from Raytown South playing his final regular season home game, Jones led all scorers with a career high 26 points on 10-of-13 from the field. He also led the Blue Devils in rebounding with 10 with Robert Rhodes adding seven.

Bell totaled 15 points including 3-of-5 treys, Jonloo 11 points and Trey Bates a career high 11 assists and three steals.

The Blue Devils came out blazing, converting 16 of 30 shots for 53.3 percent and a 39-27 halftime only to have the Cardinals drain 5-of-10 3-pointers in out-scoring KCKCC 39-27 the second half.

Taking advantage of a sizeable size advantage, the Cardinals dominated rebounding 42-32 but committed 22 turnovers to 18 for KCKCC.