By ALAN HOSKINS, KCKCC
KANSAS CITY, KAN. ----- Valerie Stambersky was rewarded with the first 20-win season of her career as women’s coach at Kansas City Kansas Community College Monday night while Kelley Newton came within an eyelash of his first Jayhawk Conference win as men’s coach.
The Blue Devil men committed just four turnovers in the final half but two came in the final minute as Hesston converted the miscues into four free throws to seal a 70-65 win after the Lady Blue Devils had exploded in the second half for a 71-49 win.
Ranked No. 16 in the nation in NJCAA Division, the Lady Blue Devils boosted their record to 20-4 to become the first team since 1997 to win 20 games. Already the winningest women’s coach in KCKCC history, Stambersky’s previous best season came in 2010-11 when the Blue Devils were 19-12.
The Blue Devils can add to that record Wednesday when both teams play at Fort Scott at 5:30 and 7:30 p.m.
The Blue Devil men couldn’t quite get over the hump despite a tremendous effort by Lucas Smith, who scored 23 points on 10 of 16 shooting. Clay Young and Stephen Leimbach each added 12 points and Anthony Ridley 10 and five assists.
KCKCC led 23-15 early only to have Hesston run off the next 10 points and it was nip-and-tuck the rest of the way in a game that had seven ties and seven lead changes.
KCKCC’s biggest lead in the second half was 48-42 with 14 minutes left. Both teams shot well the second half, Hesston hitting 53.5 percent and KCKCC 51.9 percent but the Blue Devils were outrebounded 35-17 by the lankier Larks. KCKCC forced Hesston into 17 turnovers while committing just 10. Unfortunately, two came in the final minute.
Balance was again the key for the KCKCC women. Rashaun Casey led the scoring with 21 points while Cassidy Harbert added 14 as both had three 3-pointers.
Janai Mitchell and Iland Shurn each had 10 rebounds as KCKCC dominated the boards 45-30 and both just missed double doubles, Mitchell with nine points and Shurn with eight while Harbert added a game high seven assists and eight rebounds to her 14 points.
Leading 30-23 at halftime, the Lady Blue Devils were 14 of 28 the second half to offset 13 second half turnovers.
“We still have a lot to work on but they responded well in the second half and did a lot of good things,” said Stambersky.