Listen to the complete game in our archives section
Garden City, KS (westernkansasnews.com)-Back in October, all the coaches in the Jayhawk fully expected Hutchinson to take the conference by storm.
On Monday night at the Perryman Athletic Complex, the Blue Dragons fulfilled that season-long prophecy.
Bashir Ahmed scored 18 of his game-high 26 points in the second half, Akbar Hoffman poured in 18 and Hutchinson claimed their 35th conference title in program history with a 92-84 victory over Garden City.
The win earned the Blue Dragons a first-round bye, while the Broncbusters dropped to the No. 8 seed in the region tournament and will host Seward in the opening round on Thursday.
“When you continuously foul the other team, you’re not going to win many games,” Garden City Coach Brady Trenkle said afterwards. “They shot 20 more free throws than we did. But again, we lost the game in the final two minutes of the first half and the first few minutes of the second half.”
Garden City (17-13, 9-10) dug themselves into an early 10-point hole before a 12-0 run fueled by back-to-back 3-pointers by Zach Beard and Diontae Jones gave the Broncbusters a 27-23 advantage with 8:34 to play in the half. But Hutchinson (27-3, 16-3) stormed back with nine straight points to take a five-point edge.
“Hutch is the best team in our league for a reason,” Trenkle said. “Give them all the credit in the world. There is no better team in this region.”
Despite the Blue Dragons hot start, the Broncbusters surged in front once more. J.T. Bennett, James McNeal and Diontae Jones scored on consecutive possessions to give Garden City their final lead of the night 35-34 with 2:30 to go in the opening period.
Hutchinson took it from there.
The Blue Dragons scored eight of the final 10 points in the half, including Larry Dennis’s tap back at the buzzer that gave Hutchinson a 42-37 advantage at the break.
That run continued in the second half. Keanu Pinder converted on two easy layups, Moataz Aly sent down a vicious left-handed slam and Ahmed completed a three-point play, capping off a 20-2 run to give the Blue Dragons their largest lead of the night 56-39 with 16:05 to play in the second half.
“I’ll say it again: we foul way too much,” Trenkle said. “Our energy was great all day, and then my guys got to the gym and there was nothing. I don’t know what zapped their energy.”
Left for dead, Garden City mounted another comeback. Jabar Ray and Aaron Ray hit back-to-back treys, finishing off a 12-1 run, and cutting the Blue Dragons lead to six with 11:58 to play. But that’s as close as the brown and gold would get.
The Blue Dragons drained 27 free throws over the final 15 minutes including 13 in the final 4:56 as Hutchinson won their 11th straight game. It was their fifth consecutive victory over Garden City.
But the Broncbusters might have lost a whole lot more than just the regular-season finale.
McNeal was ejected in the final seconds after picking up a flagrant foul. His status for Thursday’s tournament opener is now in doubt.
“We don’t know what will happen,” Trenkle said. “Hopefully that’s a lesson learned on our part. I can’t believe it happened but it did.”
Shakur Juiston scored 10 points for Hutchinson, who won their second conference title in the last three years. Samajae Haynes-Jones tallied nine points. He hit the only 3-pointer of the night for Hutch. The Blue Dragons finished 1-for-12 from long range.
(Diontae) Jones paced the Broncbusters with 19 points. McNeal and (Brandon) Jones had 13, and (Jabar) Ray put in 10.
Tip ins: Garden City finished in a tie with Butler County for the No. 7 seed, but due to head-to-head tie breakers (the Grizzlies beat the Broncbusters back in December) put Garden City at No. 8…Ahmed shot 18 free throws by himself; as a team Garden City shot 27 (Dragons hoisted 37 freebies in the second half)
Next up: Garden City vs. Seward County-Region VI opening round-8 p.m. tip on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr; mobile app: KWKR and tuneinradio app: KWKR
Listen to the complete game in our archives section
Garden City, KS (westernkansasnews.com)-Call this one a missed opportunity.
Not even Nick Salazar’s most impressive ensemble of the season (black vest and slacks, with a slick pink shirt) could have changed the course of history; a precedent set way before the third-year coach ever arrived in Garden City.
Kirea Rogers notched her team-best eighth double-double of the season with 19 points and 12 rebounds, Inja Butina scored 17 and dished out five assists, and Hutchinson beat Garden City for the seventh straight time 62-52 Monday night at the Perryman Athletic Complex, winning the outright conference title for the fourth time in five years (last year’s was vacated because of violations).
“Our margin for error is so razor thin,” Salazar explained afterwards. “There was a stretch when we had the lead and could never extend it. That was our biggest problem. We didn’t seize the moment.”
Hutchinson (26-3) sure did. But it wasn’t their prettiest performance of the year; in fact statistically it was their worst.
Despite shooting a season-worst 31 percent from the field (16-for-52), the Blue Dragons made enough plays down the stretch, seizing control of the contest when Shayla DeGarmo drilled a 3-pointer in transition to give Hutchinson the lead 35-31 with 1:27 remaining in the third quarter. It capped off a 5-0 run that turned a one-point deficit into a four-point edge. They never trailed again.
Butina scored 10 of her 17 points in the final period, hitting all three of her shots from the field and going 4-for-4 at the line. The Croatian point guard also had four thefts on the night, two of them in the fourth.
“They (Hutchinson) did what they had to do to win this game,” Salazar said. “We kept preaching to our team: if you make one mistake, they will make you pay. And they did tonight.”
More than anything, Garden City’s (20-10, 14-5) inability to score in crunch time, came back to haunt them again.
Trailing by three midway through the fourth, Kyla Williams was called for a technical foul for intentionally grabbing DeRae Lewis after a missed shot. Shala Dobbins hit both free throws, and Garden City trailed 42-41 with 5:10 to play. They wouldn’t score again for nearly four minutes.
The Blue Dragons put the game on ice by scoring their final 19 points from the free throw line. In fact, Hutchinson closed the night by hitting 14 straight freebies.
“We have to regroup to make a run,” Salazar said. “Hutch is one of the most efficient teams in the country. You have to be nearly perfect to beat them. We were far from it and still had a chance. But we didn’t get it done.”
The Broncbusters lost a third straight game for the first time since November. But they did receive some help from Cowley, who lost at Butler, locking up the No. 2 seed for Garden City. They will host Colby on Thursday.
Missed opportunities was the repeated them throughout the game. Hutchinson misfired nine of their first 10 shots from the field, yet Garden City could only muster a three-point lead.
Then Butina made them pay at the end of the period, connecting on a 3-pointer at the top of the key to give the Blue Dragons a 10-8 lead after one. It was one of eight lead changes in first half.
End-of-quarter execution burned the Broncbusters again in the second when Rogers weaved her way to the right block and banked in a three-footer. The basket gave Hutchinson a four-point edge at the half.
Lakin Preisner and Taylor Stahly added eight points apiece for the Blue Dragons, who clinched a first-round bye with the win.
Dobbins netted 22 for the Broncbusters. Lewis was the only other Garden City player in double figures with 11.
Tip ins: Donasja Scott scored just two points on 1-of-4 shooting before fouling out in the fourth; Kavita Akula fouled out with three points and three rebounds
Next up: Garden City vs. Colby-Thursday, February 25-5:45 p.m. pregame; 6 p.m. tip on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr; mobile app: KWKR and tuneinradio app: KWKR