KANSAS CITY — For the second time this season, the No. 7 Labette Cardinals have knocked off the defending national champions as they beat the No. 10 Kansas City Kansas Blue Devils 66-62 on Saturday.
The win improved Labette’s record to 19-4 overall and 5-1 in KJCCC play. No. 3 Highland also lost to No. 8 Johnson County 90-75 on Saturday — Highland’s first loss of the season — which allowed Labette to tie Highland atop the conference standings with four games left.
“It’s great for seeding purposes,” Labette head coach Mitch Rolls said. “But anybody can win three games in our conference tournament and go to nationals. In the grand scheme of things, we’ve still got to win games and capitalize come playoff time.”
Against Kansas City Kansas, both the Cardinals and Blue Devils shot under 40% for the game as offense came at a premium.
Denijsha Wilson led the Cardinals in scoring with 20 points off the bench — half of the sophomore guard’s scoring came on a 10-of-12 shooting day at the free throw line.
“She’s always got that scoring punch for us off the bench,” Rolls said. “Bringing her off the bench keeps us balanced. No matter if we sub or not, it’s great to have that balance.”
Jayla Smith, a freshman swing, added 13 points and a team-high seven rebounds for Labette.
“Jayla rebounds, blocks shots and does it all,” Rolls said. “When she gets her chance to score, she’s more than capable of doing it. She’s not getting the respect she deserves. She’s the best freshman in the conference.”
Kansas City Kansas was paced scoring by Aliyah Myers, who had 19 points. Kamryn Estell, one of the nation’s premier post players, added 17 points and seven boards.
Labette earned its bread on the offensive glass against the Blue Devils, pulling down 23 offensive rebounds while only allowing 12 on the other end.
“That’s the game right there,” Rolls said. “We weren’t making shots in somebody else’s gym. But all six of our bigs were relentless on the glass. In the second half, the putbacks were the determining factor in the game.”
Labette will hit the road again to face Highland on Wednesday — the Cardinals lost the first matchup on Jan. 25 80-75 — with sole possession of first place on the line in a conference where 4-out-of-6 teams are ranked in the top 10.
“The way we started against Highland last time lost the game for us,” Rolls said. “We went down 22-5. We have to have a better start. We can’t leave the game up to the referees at the end, so we’ve got to take care of business early and handle them for 40 minutes.”
No. 7 Labette 66, No. 10 Kansas City Kansas 62
Labette: 16 18 17 15 — 66
Kansas City Kansas: 16 11 24 11 — 62
Labette: Kymora Westerfield 2, Jayla Smith 13, Diamond Jones 2, Jordan Chiles 2, Angel Williams 5, Jessica Martino 9, Gift Sampson 4, Shanice Uwase 3, Nicole Ajayi 3, Denijsha Wilson 20, Ariah Powell 3
Kansas City Kansas: Brodi Byrd 6, Aliyah Myers 19, Adoreya Williams 7, Kamryn Estell 17, Tiaira Earnest 5, Jada Mayberry 4, Destiny Zamudio 2, Caroline Hoppock 2