KANSAS CITY, KAN. ----- Thanks to Babajidge Aina’s tip-in at the horn, the Blue Devils of Kansas City Community College continue to be “Road Warriors” in the Jayhawk Conference.
Aina’s buzzer-beating tip-in off his own missed step back jumper rewarded the Blue Devils (15-9) with a 55-53 win over Labette Wednesday and added the Cardinals to a list of Coffeyville, Independence and Johnson County teams beaten on the road this season.
It also avenged an 81-78 loss to Labette at home early in the season.
“It was good G (Aina) stayed with it,” said KCKCC Coach Kelley Newton. “We take wins in February anyway we can get them.”
CJ Vallejo led the Blue Devil scoring with four treys and 18 points while Joe Lendway turned in a big double, double with 11 points and a game high 13 rebounds.
Dehven Talley added 10 points, Brett Hamilton seven points, six rebounds and three assists; and Ray Ridley three assists and six rebounds.
The Blue Devils had to dig their way out of a huge first half hole as the Cardinals drained six 3-points on their way to a 25-9 lead midway through the first half.
However, the Blue Devils rallied with their own scoring runs of 7-0 and 14-3 to trim that 16-point deficit to 35-32 at the half and then scored the first eight points of the second half to go ahead 40-35.
Labette’s biggest lead in the second half was 49-45 but Vallejo’s fourth three-pointer of the game put KCKCC back in front 53-51 with 2:10 left.
After tying the game on a layup with a minute left, Labette set up a potential game-winning corner shot that misfired with 17.7 seconds remaining, just in time for the Blue Devils to draw up the game-winner capped by Aina’s tip-in.
Defense was key to the win. Tester Foster, who was averaging 22 points, was limited to three field goals and 13 points as the Cardinals as a team was limited to 22.2 percent the second half and 29.8 for the game.
Turnovers were the chink in KCKCC armor, 23 as opposed to Labette’s 16 although the Blue Devils had a 43-38 edge in rebounding.
After three games on the road, the Blue Devils are back home Saturday against Fort Scott at 4 p.m. and again next Wednesday against Hesston at 7 p.m.