Arrica Daye pumped her fist through the air in the third quarter Friday night.
The Kansas City Kansas Community College point guard had just made a layup while being fouled on a drive to the basket.
Daye’s intensity mirrored that of her entire team for 40 minutes as the Blue Devils dominated No. 1 seed — and previously undefeated —Monroe (N.Y.) 81-59 in the semifinals of the National Junior College Athletic Association Division II tournament at Johnson County Community College.
“That’s what coach (Joe) McKinstry emphasizes, is playing hard and playing smart,” Daye said. “As a point guard, I just want to keep my teammates in it. We know there are going to be highs and lows, I just want to encourage our team.”
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Kansas City Kansas (32-3), the No. 4 seed, led for nearly the entire game, putting on an impressive shooting display from behind the arc, hitting 13 of 24 three-pointers.
“We’re not a 54 percent 3-point shooting team, but I’m going to take it,” McKinstry said. “My philosophy is if you are open, shoot the ball. You can’t turn over a shot, so I’d rather take a shot and have second and third opportunities. But tonight they went in the first time.”
All five Blue Devils starters scored in double figures, led by Erin Anderson’s 19.
“We had to humble ourselves and not let up, and after halftime we did not let up at all,” said Anderson, who was a perfect 4-for-4 from behind the arc.
The Blue Devils overcame 34 points from Shaniece Johnson, the only Monroe player in double digits.
Kansas City Kansas hit eight of its 3-pointers in the first half, leading 37-27 at the break. It broke the game open with an 8-2 run coming out of halftime and never led by less than double digits the rest of the way.
The Blue Devils pushed their lead as high as 21 for the first time early in the fourth quarter.
“The scoreboard said we dominated, but I never got comfortable,” McKinstry said. “We had some girls step up big and we did what we needed to do to hold the lead.”
Sierra Roberts hit four 3-pointers on the way to 16 points and Brooklyn Wagler added 15 points for KCK.
The Blue Devils will face second-seeded Illinois Central in the championship game Saturday night at 7:30.
“It’s surreal — we’re playing in the final,” said Daye, who finished with 12 points. “I haven’t wrapped my head around it. Nobody believed we would be here.
“We’ve been doubted all year, so just to be here and have this moment and have a shot at the title within our reach is special.”