[ By STEVE CARPENTER ]
[ BLUE DRAGON SPORTS INFORMATION ]
PARK CITY, Kan. — The waiting game begins for the Hutchinson Community College Men’s Basketball Team.
Playing in their sixth-straight Region VI Tournament championship game, the No. 14 Blue Dragons had a one-point lead over No. 10 Coffeyville with 55 seconds remaining on Wednesday night at Hartman Arena. The Blue Dragons misfired twice in the final minute and Coffeyville repeated as Region VI champions with an 82-80 victory.
The Blue Dragons fall to 28-6 overall and now must wait until selection Monday to see if they receive one of the eight at-large bids available into the 24-team NJCAA National Tournament, which begins on Monday, March 19 at the Sports Arena.
Last year, Coffeyville defeated Hutchinson in overtime in the Region VI Tournament championship game. The Blue Dragons earned an at-large bid and went on to win the national championship.
Neither team had larger than an eight-point lead. There were 16 lead changes and 15 ties in the intense battle. Hutch’s largest lead came at 29-21 with 9:33 to play in the first half. Coffeyville’s largest lead was six early in the game.
With 2 1/2 minutes remaining in the game, Coffeyville took a 78-73 lead after two Keon Queen free throws. Bandoo nailed hit a big 3-pointer on Hutch’s next possession to pull within two. Then trailing 79-78 after a J.J. Rhymes layup with 1:23 to play, the Blue Dragons got a defensive stop. With 55 seconds to play, Rojas was fouled and he swished both free throws to give Hutch an 80-79 lead.
Tournament MVP T.J. Washington the struck for Coffeyville. Washington scored the final two of his team-high 19 points on a drive to the hoop for a go-ahead bucket and an 81-80 lead with 34.1 seconds to play.
After a Dragon timeout, disaster struck with a turnover with 14 seconds left to play. Bandoo was forced to foul – his fifth foul of the game – Coffeyville’s Casey Benton missed the first, but hit the second free throw with 8.9 seconds for an 82-80 lead. The Dragons missed on a long 3-pointer by Tiylar Cotton at the buzzer as the Blue Dragons dropped their third-consecutive Region VI Tournament title game.
Rojas has another strong game for the Blue Dragons off the bench with 21 points, hitting 6 of 12 from the field and 9 of 12 from the free-throw line. He added eight rebounds, three assists, three blocked shots and two steals.
Rob Whitfield finished with 17 points, hitting 4 of 7 from 3-point range and seven rebounds.
Bandoo had 16 points. Rhymes finished with 10 points and Cotton had nine.
The Blue Dragons shot 41.0 percent for the game (26 of 61), hitting 8 of 18 from the free-throw line and 22 of 31 from the free-throw line. The Dragons were edged in rebounding 38-37, but had one more offensive rebound, 13-12. The Dragons finished with 13 turnovers.
Coffeyville finished at 48.3 percent (28 of 58), hitting only 3 of 15 3-pointers and going 23 of 37 from the foul line. The Red Ravens had 11 turnovers.
Despite Coffeyville out-shooting Hutchinson 53.6 percent to 36.1 percent in the first half, the game was tied at 40 at halftime.