Monday, March 3, 2014

KCKCC women advance in playoffs with 24th win of season

KANSAS CITY, KAN. ----- The winningest Kansas City Kansas Community College women’s basketball team in the last 17 years survived a first half meltdown Saturday and moved ahead in the Region VI Division playoffs.

Deadlocked 31-31 at halftime, the Lady Blue Devils pulled away in the second half for a 68-54 win over Fort Scott and into the semifinals of the playoffs at No. 4 ranked Highland Tuesday at 7 p.m. KCKCC’s first playoff win since 1997, the win boosted the No. 20 ranked Blue Devils’ record to 24-7, the best since the 35-2 all-time best mark set in 1996-97 and the fourth best in history.

Playing a team they had beaten by just four points four days earlier, the Blue Devils built a 21-11 lead midway through the first half and seemingly were in complete control only to all but self-destruct by committing 10 turnovers in the final nine minutes of the half. Four came in a span of two minutes as the Lady Greyhounds trimmed their 21-11 deficit to 21-20 and then went ahead 26-25 with 4:31 left.

“Seventy-five percent of their first half points came off turnovers,” said KCKCC Coach Valerie Stambersky.

In addition to 14 first half turnovers, the Blue Devils were just 9 of 28 from the field for 32.1 percent in a 31-31 half that had two ties and 11 lead changes.

Reducing their second half turnovers to six, KCKCC never trailed in the second half and led by as many as seven points on a couple of occasions only to have Fort Scott close to 46-44 with eight minutes left.

But the comeback was blunted by freshman guard Cassidy Harbert, who broke away for a layup and then drained a 3-pointer for a 51-44 lead.

Rashaun Casey added two free throws and Imani White a field goal to expand the lead to 55-44 with 5:46 to go and the Blue Devils protected the lead with deadly free throwing. Casey made 4 of 5 and Harbert 6 of 8 down the stretch to seal the decision.

“Making 80 percent of our second half free throws (16 of 20) was big,” said Stambersky. “Also, we hadn’t used a 2-3 zone defense since early in the year and I thought that really helped.”

Indeed it did. The Greyhounds were limited to just five field goals in the second half (5 of 24 for 20.8 percent) and were only able to stay in contention from the foul line, making 26 of 34 free throws in a foul-marred contest. Each team was whistled for 28 fouls.

Casey led the scoring with 18 points including 9 of 11 free throws while Harbert added 17 points and Janai Mitchell 12. Iland Shurn led all rebounders with 10 and added eight points, Julia Garrard had seven rebounds and six points and Imani White five rebounds and five points.

PHOTO: The first playoff win in 17 years brought smiles all around for KCKCC team members (front row, from left) Cassidy Harbert, Alyson Weber, Jamisha Crawford, Julia Garrard, Samantha Hurst and Imani White: (second row) assistant coach Shaun Burki, redshirts Erin Anderson and Cierra Gaines, Bailey West, Rashaun Casey, Eirenei Alesana, Janai Mitchell, head coach Valerie Stambersky, Iland Shurn and assistant coach Alicia Roth. (KCKCC Photo by Alan Hoskins)