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Metro Sports Report

Usher helps Kirkwood reach national finals

HARRISON, Ark. - Kirkwood's quest for the national title and a perfect season is one step away.

Olivia Usher and Deleyah Harris popped in 17 points apiece Friday night as the top-ranked Eagles punished fourth-ranked Kankakee, 76-49, in the semifinals of the NJCAA Division II national tournament at Pioneer Pavilion.

Kirkwood (36-0) will face third-ranked Johnson County (33-2) in the championship game Saturday night at 7:30.

The Eagles survived a big scare in the quarterfinals Thursday against Cincinnati State, needing a late rally to escape with a 65-63 victory, but there was little suspense Friday.

Usher, a freshman from Cedar Rapids Prairie who averages 6.3 points, scored 12 points in the first half to help Kirkwood grab a commanding 40-21 lead at intermission and the Eagles took it home from there.

It took Usher only five seconds to score her first basket after Kirkwood controlled the opening tip. She finished with three 3-pointers in the game and had three assists.

The Eagles were sitting on a slim 19-17 lead early in the second quarter when they took control with a 16-0 run for a 35-17 bulge. Niaja Taylor got the spurt started with a follow shot, then Usher tallied inside and hit a 3-pointer to make it 26-17.

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Axcell saves No. 1 Eagles at national tourney

HARRISON, Ark. - Megan Axcell hit the biggest 3-pointer of her life Thursday night to rescue the Kirkwood Eagles at the NJCAA Division II national tournament.

Axcell swished a 3-pointer from the corner with 34 seconds left to erase a 63-62 deficit and help the top-ranked Eagles nip Cincinnati State, 65-63, in the quarterfinals at Pioneer Pavilion.

Kirkwood trailed by eight points, 61-53, with less than four minutes left before mounting a furious comeback to keep their hopes alive of winning the national title.

Kirkwood (35-0) will face fourth-ranked Kankakee (30-2) in the semifinals Friday at 8 p.m. Johnson County will meet Monroe Community College in the first semifinal at 6 p.m., with the championship game slated for Saturday night.

The Eagles committed a whopping 26 turnovers and missed 11 free throws Thursday, putting their season in serious jeopardy, but they pulled  things together by outscoring Cincinnati 12-2 down the stretch.

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No. 1 Eagles stroll at national tourney

HARRISON, Ark. - The top-ranked Kirkwood Eagles scored the first 25 points of the second half Tuesday night and dumped Dakota College, 78-43, in the opening round of the NJCAA Division II national tournament.

Kirkwood (34-0) will face Cincinnati State (27-6) in the quarterfinals Thursday at 6 p.m. at Pioneer Pavilion in Harrison, Ark.

Kirkwood led 37-22 at halftime, but the Eagles did not play at a high level in the first half. That changed in the third quarter.

The Eagles poured in basket after basket in the third period, forcing turnovers and dominating the backboards. Olivia Usher made it a 30-point game at 52-22 with a three-point play and a 3-pointer, then Tay Tay Wilson and Simone Goods popped in 3-pointers to make it 58-22.

The bulge reached 40 points at 62-22 as Kirkwood took complete control of the game with the incredible 25-0 run.

Goods finished with 18 points, 12 rebounds, three blocks and two steals. Wilson led the Eagles in scoring with four 3-pointers and 19 points.

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Spencer, Kaste, Thornley join softball league

Jaclyn Spencer from the University of Northern Iowa, Miranda Kaste from Kirkwood and Chelsea Thornley from Webster University in St.  Louis are the latest college athletes to join the new Iowa Women's  Softball League for this summer.

There are now 38 players in the league, which has been formed by the Metro Sports Report as the only summer collegiate fast-pitch softball league in Iowa. The goal is to have four teams with 12 or 13 players apiece, so we're getting close.

Spencer, currently a freshman at UNI, enjoyed a remarkable high school career at Waterloo West. She was a three-time all-state selection and  a four-time all-conference pick at Waterloo West, where she starred as both a pitcher and a hitter.

(CLICK HERE TO REGISTER)

Spencer had a career batting average of .489 with 39 home runs and 180 RBIs. She compiled a 49-34 record as a pitcher with 691 strikeouts in 560 innings in five years on the varsity.

Spencer has continued to be a dual threat at Northern Iowa. She's  currently hitting .278 with two home runs and eight RBIs, and has a  5-4 record and 2.27 ERA in the circle with 60 strikeouts in 52.1  innings.

Kaste, who played at Muscatine High School, has been at Kirkwood for two years but has not been able to take the field in a varsity game while recovering from a broken leg. She is a talented middle infielder and was ticketed to become Kirkwood's starting shortstop before getting hurt.

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Muhl named 2017 National Coach of Year

Kirkwood Community College women's basketball coach Kim Muhl is the 2017 United States Marine Corps/WBCA National Junior/Community College Coach of the Year, the Women's Basketball Coaches Association announced Wednesday.

Muhl will be presented with the Pat Summitt Trophy, named for the late legendary University of Tennessee coach and awarded annually to the United States Marine Corps/WBCA National Coach of the Year in each of the WBCA's six membership divisions. The award will be presented during the 2017 WBCA Convention, which will be held in conjunction with the NCAA Women's Final Four in Dallas.

"The WBCA is proud to name Kim Muhl as the 2017 United States Marine Corps/WBCA Junior/Community College National Coach of the Year," said Danielle Donehew, executive director of the WBCA. "Kim was selected as the winner by his peers after leading his team to an exceptional season. The WBCA recognizes and applauds his leadership example that can be seen in his student-athletes, institution and community."

In 28 years as head coach of the Eagles, Muhl has recorded 22 consecutive 20-win seasons. He has also tallied 24 regional finals appearances, 17 national tournament berths and six national titles.

This season Muhl led the squad to an Iowa Community College Athletic Conference regular-season title after finishing undefeated. His squad's record now stands at 33-0 after being crowned Regional Champions following a dominating performance in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Region XI tournament.

Muhl is a 14-time NJCAA Region XI Coach of the Year and also received the WBCA Russell Athletic Junior/Community College Coach of the Year award in 2007. In 2011, he was inducted into the NJCAA Women's Basketball Hall of Fame.

The junior/community college national coach of the year is selected by a committee of coaches. This year's finalists were: Kevin Lynum, Northwest Kansas Technical College; Kim Muhl, Kirkwood Community College; Cayla Petree, South Plains College; and Betsy Specketer, Salt Lake Community College.

   

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