No defeat comes easy but Kansas City Kansas Community College’s 58-56 men’s loss to Highland Saturday was as hard to swallow as they come.
Trailing 56-54, Highland used a steal, layup and two free throws on an ensuing technical foul with 14 seconds left to deprive the Blue Devils of their first win in the Jayhawk Division II Conference. The heartbreaking loss came after the No. 2 nationally ranked Highland women used a devastating full court pressing defense for a 79-58 win in the opener.
Both Blue Devil teams go back on the road this week, playing at Brown Mackie Wednesday at 5 and 7 p.m. and Hesston Saturday at 6 and 8 p.m. before returning home to close out the regular season against Fort Scott Wednesday, Feb. 26.
Trailing 30-25 at halftime, the Blue Devil men gave up only one field goal the first 10 minutes of the second half and led by 10 points with five minutes to go. Highland was able to pull to within one possession of the lead four times in the final three minutes but each time the Blue Devils responded on baskets by Anthony Ridley, Clay Young, Lucas Smith and a pair of Ridley free throws that kept the KCKCC lead at 56-52 with 1:14 to go.
After Highland got back to 56-54 on a Torre Somerville basket with a minute left, KCKCC twice missed close range shots but got a break when Highland’s Dominique Davis missed two free throws in the final 20 seconds. Lucas Smith came down with the rebound for KCKCC only to have the ball knocked away. Somerville retrieved the loose ball and scored on a layup and Smith was given a controversial technical foul for protesting. “There was no swearing,” emphasized KCKCC Coach Kelley Newton.
Two Somerville free throws put Highland in front and the Scotties held on when Stephen Leimbach’s desperation 3-point attempt sailed long and the Blue Devils couldn’t get off a shot with a half-second to go. Smith led KCKCC with 20 points and 13 rebounds before fouling out while Clay Young also turned in a double double with 14 points and 10 rebounds.
Turnovers proved the Lady Blue Devils’ undoing – 21 in the first half and 33 for the game although KCKCC forced the Scotties into 18 mistakes. However, Highland was able to get off 30 more shots, hitting 30 of 72 for 41.7 percent to 13 of 42 for KCKCC for 31.percent despite the fact KCKCC had a 46-40 rebounding advantage.
The Lady Blue Devils stayed close for the first 15 minutes, trailing just 26-22 only to have Highland finish the half with a 15-7 run to open a 41-29 halftime lead and stay comfortably ahead in the second half.
The win boosted the Scotties’ record to 26-1 and kept them a game ahead of Johnson County (26-1) in the Jayhawk Division race while the No. 9 ranked Blue Devils fell to 21-6.