BY ALAN HOSKINS
KANSAS CITY, KAN. ----- It was a case of being close but no cigar for Kansas City Kansas Community College basketball teams against Johnson County Wednesday night.
Seeking their first Jayhawk Conference win, the Blue Devil men had a last second shot go astray as JCCC held off a late rally for a 63-61 win the No. 4 ranked Lady Cavaliers used a 63-second three-point burst for a 68-53 win over the upset-minded No. 9 ranked KCKCC women.
Ranked No. 9 in the latest NJCAA Division II poll, the Lady Blue Devils (21-5) take on another national power, hosting No. 2 Highland (25-1) Saturday at 2 p.m. in the opener of a women-men’s doubleheader in the KCKCC Field House.
Down by as many as 12 points midway through the second half, the Blue Devil men still trailed 61-56 when Lucas Smith converted a three-point play with 32 seconds left to trim the lead to 61-59.
JCCC’s Pat Jones, who led all scorers with 24 points including 10 of 14 free throws, rebuilt the lead to four with two foul shots but Smith made two free throws with 15 seconds left and the Blue Devils got the ball back on a turnover with 11 seconds left only to have Anthony Ridley’s game-tying shot knocked away.
Smith, who had 15 points and 11 rebounds, led four players in double figures for the Blue Devils. Stephen Leimbach added 14 points on four 3-pointers; Willis Garner 10 on a trio of treys and Ridley 10 points and five assists. Leading 27-24 at halftime, JCCC shot 58.8 percent the second half but was still outscored 37-36.
Defenses reigned in a furiously fought first half in the women’s collision of ranked teams. JCCC (25-1), which had scored 49 first half points on the way to a 99-67 win over KCKCC a couple of weeks ago, eked out a 27-24 halftime lead as both teams shot 33 percent from the field.
Tied 33-33, the game turned in the 63 seconds at the 11:27 mark of the second half. Just 2 of 16 from 3-point in the first half, JCCC got two 3-pointers from Juanita Robinson and one from Timeka O’Neal to go ahead 42-34 with 10:24 left. KCKCC got back to 50-45 with 4:21 left only to have Robinson hit back-to-back 3-pointers for a 56-45 lead and the Cavaliers pulled away at the free throw line in the closing minutes.
Cassidy Harbert had 15 points, seven assists and five rebounds and Rashaun Casey 12 points for KCKCC but it wasn’t enough to offset 27.3 percent shooting and the Cavaliers’ 53-32 domination of the rebounding. Robinson had 19 points and Nieka Wheeler 18 points and 10 rebounds to lead JCCC.