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Johnson County falls 64-58 to Kirkwood in national title game

JCCC celebrates runner-up finish at national tournament
JCCC celebrates runner-up finish at national tournament

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. – The Johnson County Community College men's basketball team's run to the school's third national championship was ended by an impressive Kirkwood Community College team that lived up to its No. 1 seed in the NJCAA Division II Tournament. 

Kirkwood led 33 -26 at the break, and built a 15-point lead in the early stages of the second half and appeared they would run away with the title. However, the Cavaliers fought back and began to cut away at Kirkwood's lead, and eventually got as close as two points last in the contest. Despite that run, Kirkwood took control in the final minute and pulled away for a 64-58 victory, and their third title in team history. 

While Johnson County came up short of the grand prize, this team will still be remembered as one of the best in the program's history. The season saw the Cavaliers win conference and region titles, finish runner-up nationals and post 31 wins, the most in team history. 

Sophomore forward David Turner and sophomore guards Nick Larkin and General Williams were named to the 12-person All-Tournament Team. Additionally, Larkin was given the Jack Cistriano Best Small Man Award. He is the second Cavalier to earn this award. 

Turner had a tremendous showing at nationals, averaging 18.0 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. His 72 total points scored in the tournament set a new team record. In the championship game, Turner posted his third double-double of the tournament, finishing with 19 points and 11 rebounds. He also blocked two shots and had two steals. 

The Eagles were able to keep Larkin and Williams in check in the final game with four and six points respectively, the two were key in helping Johnson County get to the championship.  Larkin averaged 12.5 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists over the four tournament games, and Williams averaged 16.3 points highlighted by his career-high 30-point effort in the opening round win over Pitt. 

Freshman guard JaQuaylon Mays and sophomore guard A.J. Pleasant also finished in double figures against Kirkwood. Mays finished with 13 points and Pleasant added 10. Mays averaged 12.8 points over the tournament. 

Doug Wilson led the way for Kirkwood. He finished with a game high 30 points and added 15 rebounds. Devonte Thedford added 15 points for the Eagles who finished the season 31-4.