BLUE DRAGONS OVERCOME PLENTY TO ADVANCE TO REGION VI FINALSMarch 8, 2014
HCC Sports Information
WICHITA – The Hutchinson Community College men’s basketball team will have an opportunity to defend its Region VI championship, but the Blue Dragons had to go through some intense adversity to get there.
The Blue Dragons made their largest comeback of the season to advance to the Region VI Tournament championship game with a 92-81 semifinal victory over Northwest Kansas Technical College on Friday at Charles Koch Arena.
Hutchinson (28-5) advances to its 29th Region VI Tournament championship game to play the upstart Pratt Beavers at 7 p.m. on Saturday. Pratt knocked off Seward County 71-68 on a 40-foot buzzer-beater by Javis Flynn.
Just how much adversity did the Blue Dragons face against the Mavericks?
+ Hutchinson didn’t score until the 15:43 mark of the first half and trailed by as many as 13 points four times in the first half.
+ All-American Kadeem Allen picked up his fourth foul with 2:30 to play in the first half with HCC trailing 41-28. He didn’t return to the game until the 7:10 mark of the second half.
+ DeShawn Freeman, who posted his second double-double of the season to lead the HCC comeback, was lost for the final 2:21 of the game after being ejected following his second technical foul.
Through it all, Hutchinson managed to cut that 13-point first-half deficit to five by halftime. Led by Freeman, a huge second-half by sophomore Nathan Jackson and a key contribution from sophomore B.J. Watson, HCC shot 59.3 percent in the second half and outscored the Mavericks 56-40.
Freeman led Hutchinson with 24 points on 7 of 11 shooting and 10 of 14 from the foul line. He had a career-high 12 rebounds and tied a career high with blocked shots.
Jackson scored 12 of his 14 points in the second half. Watson knocked down a pair of 3-pointers and finished with 13 points and two assists. Strapped with foul trouble, Allen still reached double figures with 11 points to become jus the third Blue Dragon ever to reach the 1,400-point mark for a career.
Freshman Austin Budke hit two huge 3-pointers and finished with nine points. Sophomore Darrick Wood also finished with nine points.
The Blue Dragons shot right at 50 percent for the game (28 of 56), hitting 4 of 11 from 3-point range and 32 of 44 from the free-throw line. Tech out-rebounded HCC 41-38, but the Dragons had just 10 turnovers.
Northwest Tech was led by All-Region guard Gian Clavell, who had 27 points, but on 6 of 17 overall shooting. He did have five 3-pointers. Last season in Hutchinson’s Region VI opening-round victory over Northwest Tech, Clavell torched the Blue Dragons for 37 points and five 3-pointers.
James Sylvester had 10 points, while Lamar Britton and John Carballo had eight points each. The Mavericks (20-13) finished at 39.3 percent from the floor (24 of 61), hitting 7 of 22 from 3-point range and 26 of 40 from the foul line. The Mavericks had 13 turnovers.
The first seven minutes of the game were a complete nightmare for HCC. Northwest Tech scored the first five points of the game and led 10-2 with 14:21 to play in the opening half and had a 14-4 lead with 13:22 to play. HCC opened the game 2 of 10 with three turnovers to start the game.
Northwest Tech led 36-23 with 3:12 to play, but HCC cut its deficit to eight points after two Allen free throws at the 2:39 mark. Nine seconds later, Allen was whistled for his third personal foul and had a fourth tacked on with a technical foul. Tech made a five-point play out of hit to build a 41-28 lead with 2:30 remaining.
Budke started the Dragon comeback with a 3-pointer at the 1:32 mark. Freeman hit two free throws and then blocked a shot to get a stop with 30 seconds to play. Watson the converted a three-point play after being fouled on a drive to the hoop to close the half on an 8-0 to trail Tech 41-36 at halftime.
HCC continued that run to start the second half with an 8-0 run, getting a Freeman dunk to take the lead and a Jackson jumper to build a 44-41 lead with 17:20 remaining.
Sylvester finally ended the Northwest scoring drought at 6 minutes, 24 seconds with a jumper. The next four minutes, the game stayed at a one-possession game. Leading 54-51, back-to-back buckets by Jackson and Freeman boosted the margin to 58-51. Less than 1 minute later, Freshman Andre Sands got a key putback and was fouled. He converted the three-point play to lead 61-53 with 10:41 to go in the game.
Clavell’s fourth 3-pointer of the game pulled the Mavericks within 65-61 with 8:14 to play, HCC went on 6-0 run to push the lead back to 10 at 71-61 after a Darrick Wood bucket with 6:07 to go. Despite hitting just 1 of 18 from the free-throw line, the Blue Dragons pulled away, out-shooting Tech 59.3-39.4 percent in the second half.
GAME NOTES – HCC is now 2-0 all-time vs. Northwest Kansas Tech with both games coming in the Region VI Tournament in 2013 and 2014. … HCC is now 123-43 all-time in Region VI games. … The Blue Dragons are 19-8 in championship game appearances. … HCC posted all-time victory No. 1,654. … Head coach Steve Eck moved within two victories of Dave Farrar and fifth place on the conference coaching list with 135 wins. … Kadeem Allen jumped up to No. 5 on the single-season assists list with 188. … HCC had its largest overall comeback (13 points) and halftime comeback (five points) this season. … HCC is 11-0 when shooting 50 percent or better and are 9-5 when being out-rebounded.