November 1, 2014

KCC women's update

By Brent Baker
Special to the Independent
Posted

MIO – The host Kirtland Community College women’s' basketball team used a late second-half surge to top a short-handed Macomb Community College squad, 76-56, at the McGregor Athletic Complex on Saturday, Jan. 24.

Macomb dressed just six players, but it was an advantage the Firebirds were unable to exploit for much of the game. Kirtland held just a two-point edge, 36-34, at the break and the Monarchs took a 46-45 lead with 13:35 left to play in the second half.

And Kirtland was still fighting to fend off Macomb with 9 minutes left on the game clock, hanging on to a 53-52 advantage. But, the Firebirds turned up their defensive intensity, forcing mistakes and then turning those miscues into easy baskets as they tried to pull away from the Monarchs.

“Our defense was not as aggressive the first 30 minutes of the game,” said Kirtland head coach Tom Ritter. “We played tentative. (But) we realized we could win this game and stepped it up.”

A little more than six minutes later, Kirtland had forged its first double-digit lead, 66-55, and was its way to a 20-point victory over a Michigan Community College Athletic Association Eastern Division rival.

Ritter said it helped that none of his players were in any serious foul trouble, allowing the Firebirds to take risks defensively.

“We decided to go for it,” Ritter added. “It was a matter of having the right mindset and playing the type of defense we know we can play. It all comes off our defense.

“We got some breakaway layups,” he said. “We smothered them.”

Freshman point guard Kassi McConnell (Clare) posted a double-double that included a game-high 17 points, 10 assists, 3 steals and 1 blocked shot to help pilot Kirtland to the conference win. Sophomore guard Kaylon Leslie (Whittemore-Prescott) had a double double of her own with 15 points, team-high 11 rebounds, 4 assists and 1 steal.

And sophomore guard Natasha Dewald scored 9 of her 13 points in the second half, including several layups during a key stretch that helped turn the tide in the Firebirds’ favor. Dewald also tallied 3 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals in the victory.

Other contributors for Kirtland included: Brooke Robinson (Standish-Sterling Central) with 11 points, 8 rebounds, a team-best 6 steals and 3 assists; Whitney Bonham (Evart) with 9 points, 10 rebounds and 1 assist; Jo’ell Cruse (Inland Lakes/Indian River) with 9 points, 1 board and 1 assist; Katie Shea (Clare) with 2 points and 2 rebounds; Joyana Englehart (Atlanta) with 2 rebounds and 1 assist; and Indigo Szubelak (Fairview) with 2 boards.

Sophomore center Cassie Patrick (Fraser) had 14 points and grabbed 16 rebounds to pace the losing Monarchs (10-8 overall, 4-6 conference).

Ritter said Saturday’s victory was a much-needed one for the Firebirds, as they battle for a spot in the MCCAA’s postseason tournament. Kirtland (12-7 overall, 6-4 conference) is currently in fifth place in the Eastern Division standings, with only the top four teams set to advance.

“This was an important win for us,” he said. “It was badly needed to stay alive.”

For more information on Kirtland athletics, visit online at firebirds.kirtland.edu or call 989-275-5000, extension 385.

KCC 86, Alpena CC 54

MIO – The Kirtland Community College women’s basketball team earned a much-needed conference win on Wednesday, Jan. 21, dominating the visiting Alpena Community College Lumberjacks, 86-54, at the McGregor Athletic Complex in Mio.

Kirtland entered action Wednesday tied with Macomb Community College for fifth place in the Michigan Community College Athletic Association Eastern Division standings. Only the top four teams from each division qualify to advance to the MCCAA’s postseason tournament.

“This was a good one for us,” said Kirtland head coach Tom Ritter. “We needed it.”

The visiting Lumberjacks (3-15 overall, 0-9 conference) forged a 14-11 advantage in the first 10 minutes of play. But the Firebirds (11-7 overall, 5-4 conference) rallied to take a 35-26 lead at the break and then outgunned Alpena, 51-28, in the second half to secure the victory.

“It was probably one of the strongest offensive games we’ve had this year,” Ritter said. “Everyone was involved.

“Defense, again, is what put us in that mode,” he added.

Kirtland was also able to take advantage of getting to the foul line often after the intermission. After shooting just 2-of-4 from the line in the first half, the Firebirds connected on 22-of-26 attempts in the second half.

Eight of the nine Firebirds scored in the victory and Kirtland had five in double figures, with sophomore guard Kaylon Leslie (Whittemore-Prescott) leading the charge with 21 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals. Sophomore guard-forward Jo’ell Cruse (Inland Lakes/Indian River) tallied 14 points, 5 boards, 3 steals and 2 assists.

Sophomore forward Brooke Robinson (Standish-Sterling Central) and freshman guard Kassi McConnell (Clare) each scored 12 points for the Firebirds. Robinson also chipped in 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals, while McConnell handed out a team-high 6 assists to go with 4 rebounds and 2 steals.

Other contributors for Kirtland included: Whitney Bonham (Evart) with 10 points, 7 rebounds, 2 steals and 1 assist; Katie Shea (Clare) with 8 points, 2 boards and 1 steal; Natasha Dewald (AuGres-Sims) with 6 points, 3 assists, 2 rebounds and 2 steals; Joyana Englehart (Atlanta) with 3 points, 3 rebounds and 1 assist; and Indigo Szubelak (Fairview) with 1 steal.

Ritter said he was pleased to see contributions from all his players.

“I just thought we did an excellent job,” he said.

Freshman guards Megan Jenkins (Gaylord) and Kimmi Breaugh (Mio) each scored 13 points for the Lumberjacks.

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