KANSAS CITY, KS - As Julius Caesar once famously said and The Beatles later immortalized, “They came…they saw…they conquered.”
And boy did they conquer! With a national tournament berth on the line, the Kansas City Kansas Community College Lady Blue Devils took control early and never looked back in an 84-71 thrashing of No. 6 Highland to win the NJCAA DII Region VI Championship at Hartman Arena in Park City last week.
With their first Jayhawk Conference title safely tucked away, the sweep of the region championship is the first ever and sends the Blue Devils (29-4) to the NJCAA National Tournament in Harrison on March 19-23. Sixteen teams will compete in the double elimination tournament.
Last week’s regional title game was never in doubt after the Lady Blue Devils bolted to a 35-26 lead in the waning minutes of the first half and then built leads of 19 and 20 points in the final half. It was 79-61 when KCKCC Coach Joe McKinstry emptied his bench with 2:11 remaining.
So dominant were the Blue Devils that they won convincingly despite giving up a whopping 25 turnovers. Of Highland’s 71 points, 33 came off turnovers, mostly the result of 13 Scottie steals. Another 24 Highland points came off eight 3-pointers (six in the final quarters).
“Our girls did a fantastic job of making things difficult for Highland all night long,” said McKinstry. “I can’t remember very many times in the half court where Highland got an easy opportunity at the basket. We put in some new things Monday and tried hard to identify the strengths of each of their players and to do our best at making those things challenging for them.”
Sophomore Lillie Moore led the way offensively with one of her best performances of the season – 25 points and a game high 14 rebounds.
“Lillie was phenomenal,” said McKinstry. This is the two-year plan we started a year ago with this sophomore group. This conference is so tough and now we have to go and represent it well and hopefully win some games in Arkansas.”
Neither Nija Collier nor Kisi Young played half the game and combined for just 10 shots because of foul trouble but Collier still scored 10 points and Young seven.
Headed by Player of the Year Niji Collier and Coach of the Year Joe McKinstry, five members of KCKCC team earned Region VI Division II post-season honors.
Collier was joined on the All-Region first team by Kisi Young while Lillie Moore was named to the second team
A 5-9 sophomore from Magnolia, Young led the Region VI in field goal percentage at 63.8 percent for the second year in a row and was third in rebounding with 8.4 a game.
She also averaged 10.2 points and 2.1 assists a game. As a freshman, Young led the KCKCC in scoring (14.4) and was second in rebounds (8.1).
Also from Magnolia, the 6-1 Moore ranked fourth in the conference in scoring (15.2) and rebounding (8.2) and fifth in field goal percentage (.544).
Second in team steals (42) and blocked shots (40), also earned All-Region VI and All-Jayhawk Conference as a freshman.
NJCAA Division II
• Venue - North Arkansas Community College Pioneer Pavilion in Harrison.
• Tickets, $10 for adults and $7 for students, can be purchased at the door. Weekly passes are $40.
• Dates - March 19-23.
• Games - Six on Tuesday starting at 9 a.m.; five on Wednesday starting at 11 a.m.; six on Thursday starting at 9 a.m.; five on Friday starting at 11 a.m.; and four on Saturday, starting at noon. (Double-elimination tournament).