The third time wasn’t a charm for Kansas City Kansas Community College in final men’s Region VI Division II playoff play Saturday at Hartman Arena, Lake City.
A 77-64 and 91-68 winner in two earlier meetings, Brown Mackie (26-5) made it three in a row over the Blue Devils 74-53 to earn a berth in the Division II national tournament in Danville, Ill.
“After finishing the regular season so well, the height of the moment kind of caught up with us,” said KCKCC coach Jon Oler, who’s Blue Devils fell behind 23-7 in the first nine minutes and could never recover. “The problem with playing Brown Mackie is they’re very athletic and take away so much inside they force our guards to make a lot of plays.”
Limited to just six field goals in the first 14 minutes, the Blue Devils trailed 30-13 before making one big push – outscoring the Larks 12-2 on two field goals each by Antonio Winn and Josh Rupperecht and a 3-pointer by Jordan Banks to close to 32-25 only to have Brown Mackie score the final three field goals of the half for a 38-25 lead.
Led by 18 points from Rico Spikes, Brown Mackie had four players score in double figures as the Larks shot 45.5 percent from the field and dominated the rebounding 46-35. The Blue Devils, meanwhile, were just 17-of-52 from the field for an uncharacteristic 32.7 percent and just 3-of-18 from 3-point for 16.7 percent.
“We were kind of back on our heels,” Oler said. “We knew they were going to press and we had to attack but didn’t do a good job of it. But the biggest thing was we didn’t guard very well and we didn’t rebound well.”
Winn led the Blue Devils with 13 points and four assists; Dominique Washington added 11 points and seven rebounds; and Rupperecht finished his KCKCC career with a double double, 10 points and 10 rebounds including 4-of-4 from the field. After a 3-10 start, the Blue Devils won 12 of their final 18 games to finish the season 16-16.
Brown Mackie will be seeking its third national championship in its 10th national tournament appearance under veteran coach Francis Flax. A business college located in Salina, Brown Mackie is one of six two-year colleges in Kansas competing in Division II but is not a member of the Jayhawk Conference and thus is not subject to conference recruiting rules which limits the number of out-of-state players to six. In contrast to Blue Devils, who have only one player from high schools more than 25 miles from the KCKCC campus, Brown Mackie’s roster is made up of players from New York, Michigan, Indiana, Georgia, Texas and Oklahoma and only two from Kansas, neither of whom played until the final two minutes.
No. 10 ranked Highland (27-5) will make its first appearance in the Division II women’s national after a stunning last-second 76-75 upset of No. 1 Johnson County (30-2). The only team to defeat JCCC this season, Highland led by 10 points with two minutes to go only to have the Lady Cavaliers rally to tie and then go ahead on a free throw with less than four seconds to go. A second free throw was intentionally missed but the rebound bounced out of bounds, giving Highland a chance to set up the game-winning shot at the horn.