By ALAN HOSKINS
KANSAS CITY, KAN. ---- As wins go, they don’t get any bigger than Kansas City Kansas Community College’s 73-64 win at unbeaten and No. 1 ranked Johnson County Saturday.
Not only was it KCKCC’s first win ever over a No. 1 ranked team, the win vaulted the Lady Blue Devils (21-2) into first place in both the Region VI Division II standings at 6-0 and Jayhawk Conference at 7-1. Not since 1997 has a Blue Devil women’s team been in first place this late in the season.
Certainly it ranks as the greatest come-from-behind win in history. Trailing by 11 points at the half, the Blue Devils were down 12 with 12 minutes to go and eight with seven minutes remaining.
Facing Mission Impossible, the Blue Devils in those final seven minutes held the Cavaliers scoreless six minutes and finished the game on a 21-4 run. Down 60-52 at the 7:01 mark, the Blue Devils ran off 14 straight points for a 66-60 lead before the Cavaliers managed two free throws and a rebound goal in the final minute.
“We played our game,” said an excited KCKCC Coach Valerie Stambersky, who had never won at JCCC. “The first half we let them dictate. At halftime I told them they had to go out and play the way they do every day.”
Reserves provided the impetus for the big comeback. Trailing 50-38, KCKCC got a pair of 3-pointers from Sierra Roberts and one from Rashaun Casey to cut the deficit to 50-47 with 11:55 to go before the Cavaliers managed to rebuild the lead to 60-52 on a half-dozen free throws.
That’s when the aggressive, hard-charging Blue Devils put the hammer down. Cierra Gaines scored on back-to-back plays, her only field goals of the game; Cheyenne North stole the ball for a layup; and Iland Shurn tied it on a pass from Gaines, then rebounded home a field goal to put KCKCC ahead to stay 62-60 with 4:50 left. Two Erin Anderson free throws and a Janai Mitchell basket widened the lead to 66-60 with a minute left and North protected the lead by sinking five of six free throws.
North led the way with 14 points, five rebounds, three blocks and three steals while Shurn was huge off the bench with 12 points and six rebounds. Anderson also had 12 points, Mitchell 10 and Cassidy Harbert, Gaines and Roberts six each.
“We started doing a good job of getting the ball inside to Mitchell, Shurn and Julia Garrard and then got those two big threes from Sierra Roberts and one from Rashaun” said Stambersky. “Erin Anderson hit a couple of big free throws and Cheyenne made 5-of-6 at the end.”
The Blue Devils’ defense and ball management was also critical in the win. JCCC took a 39-28 halftime lead mainly on the strength of 7-of-14 3-point goals, four by Alexia Brown.
“No. 4 (Brown) was our biggest concern and we said she wasn’t going to get another,” said Stambersky. She didn’t and neither did any of the other Cavaliers, who were 0-for-9 from 3-point in the second half and 7-of-31 overall (22.6 percent) the final 20 minutes.
Defensively, the Blue Devils also forced 17 JCCC turnovers but even more important, committed a season low seven turnovers against the Cavaliers’ much acclaimed defense.
KCKCC now goes back on the road for the third straight time, playing at Labette Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. before returning home Saturday afternoon against Fort Scott at 2 p.m. and Feb. 11 against Hesston. Still ahead are a road trip to No. 10 Highland Feb. 18 and then a home finale against Johnson County in the final regular season game Feb. 25.
PHOTO: Jubilant Lady Blue Devils couldn’t contain their excitement after a 73-64 win at No. 1 ranked Johnson County Saturday that vaulted KCKCC into first place in both the Jayhawk and Division II standings. (KCKCC Photo by Alan Hoskins)