Kirkwood NJCAA feat is fourth in team history; Thomas-Johnson is tourney MVP
As Yogi Berra would have observed, it was “deja vu all over again.” The Kirkwood Community College Women’s Basketball team took a second consecutive NJCAA national championship. The Saturday evening contest in Peoria, Ill. ended with a defeat of Kankakee Community College 78-53.
It was more than familiar terrain for both teams, with the Eagles playing their third straight national championship match and facing Kankakee, their opponent last year in Phoenix, AZ. It was the fourth national championship for veteran Head Coach Kim Muhl.
“It’s a helluva feeling. You don’t do it very often, but for us to go back to back, it’s a very special group,” Muhl said following the game.
The championship contest was tight through part of the first half before the Eagles put on a 14-5 run to get a 37-28 lead. Tourney MVP Lauren Thomas-Johnson led the scoring with 21, followed by Rachele Monroe with 14. Breann Hill added 13, Allie Lindemann 12 and Jayne Strand knocked in 9 more. Another telling statistic was Kirkwood’s 53-32 rebound domination in the game.
Thomas-Johnson wraps up her Kirkwood career with Division II Tournament MVP honors. She also earned WBCA/State Farm All-American status just before national tournament play began. Thomas-Johnson averaged 13.1 points and 3.1 rebounds per game. She is bound for Marquette University in the fall.
Thomas-Johnson will have a familiar teammate in Milwaukee next season, as Breann Hill joins her as a transfer to D-I Marquette. Hill also was named to the Division II All-Tournament Team. She led the Eagles in points per game (14.2) and rebounds per game (8.0) for the season. She also had a solid 81.6 percent free-throw record for the season.
Allie Lindemann also earned All-Tournament Team status, picking up notable statistics for the season. She was an outside shooting powerhouse, hitting 94 of 218 3-pointers, a 43 percent average for the year. Lindemann was also lights-out at the free-throw line, hitting 88 percent for the season.
As impressive as these individual statistics appear, it is the team-wide performance of the Kirkwood Eagles that has astounded conference and national foes. For the season, Kirkwood outscored its opponents 53 to 36 percent on two-point goals and 36 to 28 percent at 3-point range. In total points per game, the Eagles outscored 82 to 51 for the year.
This season was a great run after starting 3-3,” Muhl observed. “We have a nice nucleus of freshman players coming back. ElSara Greer, McKenzie Long, Mykenya Johnson, Alicia Wright and Jayne Strand all are strong, so they know they need to get us back to the Nationals.”
Kirkwood’s women’s team ends this storied year at 31-6. Now Division II Coach of the Year Kim Muhl looks ahead to the next season, new recruits–and where in Johnson Hall to hang that new national championship banner.