Diamonds and Ice


Kirkwood women’s hoops win 3rd straight national title

EAST PEORIA, Ill. – Kim Muhl wants nothing to do with NJCAA Division I.

The Kirkwood women’s basketball coach is concerned about the extra travel that would be involved and the extra money it would require to give room and board to every player.

Then there’s this reason.

“Why ruin something that’s working?” Muhl said.

Yeah, there’s no need for a change when you’re dominating where you’re at. It’s no stretch to say Muhl has crafted NJCAA Division II’s best program.

Kirkwood became the first school to win three national championships in a row when it blasted Schoolcraft College of suburban Detroit, 62-38, in last night’s title game at Illinois Central Community College.

“I don’t want to say that,” Muhl said, when asked if Kirkwood has the preeminent women’s D-II JUCO program in the country. “We’re pretty damn good. But there’s a lot of good programs out there.”

Forgive the coach’s modesty. Let’s hear what his players think.

“Are you kidding? Yeah,” said sophomore center El Sara Greer, a former Waterloo East prep and the tournament MVP. “Everything (here) is great.”

“I believe we do,” said sophomore forward MyKenya Johnson, who led her team with 16 points. “We’ve got a great coach. The best coach ‘ve ever had.”

Kirkwood has won five championships in Muhl’s unbelievable 20-year tenure. The coach has a career record of 587-111, including 101-8 the past three seasons.

This year’s team finished 36-1, winning its final 30 games. Its only loss was to Division I Rend Lake (Ill.) by a single point.

The common bond between all of Muhl’s good teams is an unselfish offense, deep bench and stifling defense. This team obviously had those.

Eleven players scored last night, though Johnson was the only double-figure player. Only sophomore point guard McKensey Long (10.6) and sophomore forward Alicia Wright (10.1) averaged double figures during the season.
Yet 11 players averaged at least 4.6 points per game. And then there’s that defense.

The long-armed, 6-foot-2 Greer was an absolute beast on the interior defensively, pulling down 15 rebounds and blocking five shots. She also added eight points. She’s going to help out some NCAA Division I team next season.

“She’s unbelievable,” Muhl said.

Kirkwood limited opponents to 43 points per game coming into the tournament and held them to 41 points in three games here. Schoolcraft (32-3), an athletic team with only nine players, was stumped by Kirkwood’s 2-3 zone, shooting just 30 percent from the field, 25 percent in the second half.

“The game is 40 minutes and we hoped fatigue would set in on them,” Muhl said. “And I think it did.”

“Defense is the main part of what we do,” Johnson said. “It’s defense first, offense second.”

Kirkwood went on runs of 10-0 and 21-3 in the first half and took a 31-20 halftime lead. Schoolcraft went without a point for seven and a half minutes had only a 3-pointer from super-quick 5-foot point guard Brittany Collins in a span of nearly 13 minutes in the half.

Long hit a 3-pointer to start the second half, as did Wright. The Eagles lead continued to stretch from there.

“This team bought into what we wanted to do,” Muhl said. “This is an unbelievable feeling. They stuck together through a lot of injuries and did a hell of a job.”

Long and Johnson joined Greer on the all-tournament team. Muhl was named the coach of the year.

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