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March 11, 2013BLUE DRAGONS END 16-YEAR DROUGHT, WIN REGION VI CHAMPIONSHIP
PARK CITY - The Chicago Cubs haven't won a World Series in more than 100 years. The Kansas City Chiefs' last and only Super Bowl title came in 1969. There were 49 years between Stanley Cup championships before the Chicago Blackhawks won the Cup in 2010.
The Hutchinson Community College men's basketball team hadn't won a Region VI championship in 16 years. After Saturday night, the 2013 Blue Dragons won't have to worry about getting any closer to the dubious streaks of years between championships of the aforementioned teams.
The ninth-ranked Blue Dragons jumped out to a 16-point lead over the archrival Barton Cougars just 7 1/2 minutes into Saturday night's Region VI men's championship game. Hutchinson never looked back and snapped that 16-year drought with a 74-57 victory over the 24th-ranked Cougars.
Hutchinson (31-3) won its 19th Region VI championship and earned its 17th berth in the NJCAA Men's National Tournament, the fifth most in NJCAA history. The 2013 NJCAA Tournament will be March 18-23 at the Hutchinson Sports Arena. Official pairings and seedings will be announced on Monday.
The HCC men's championship capped off a Dragon Double on Saturday. Earlier in the evening the HCC women won its second-straight regional crown. Hutchinson becomes in the second school in Region VI history to have its men's and women's teams win regional titles in the same season. Cloud County did it in 1980.
The Blue Dragons are now 19-6 in Region VI championship games, the Blue Dragons were making their first Region VI finals appearance since 1997, the last time the Blue Dragons won it all.
Ironically on that night in 1997, Blue Dragon head coach Steve Eck - then at Butler County - was on the losing end of that championship game against Hutchinson, coached then by current athletic director Randy Stange. Eck, himself, ended a personal four-game losing streak in Region VI championship games - losing two at Butler and two at Cowley - before leading the Blue Dragons back to nationals in his fourth season at Hutchinson.
This will be Eck's second appearance in the Division I national tournament - he led Redlands to a national runner-up finish in 2003. He guided Redlands to the Division II national championship in 2002. Eck is the ninth head coach in HCC history to lead the Blue Dragons to the national tournament.
Blue Dragon sophomore Alex Davis was named the Region VI Tournament's Most Valuable Player. He was joined by teammates Kadeem Allen, A.J. Spencer and Rozell Nunn on the All-Tournament Team.
Hutchinson shot 50 percent for the fourth-straight Region VI Tournament game, shooting 30 of 60 against the Cougars on Saturday night, including 51.8 percent (16 of 31) in the second half. HCC hit 5 of 14 from 3-point range and 9 of 16 from the free-throw line. HCC out-rebounded Barton 42-35 and had 14 turnovers.
Five players scored in double figures for Hutchinson led by Allen's 15 points, seven rebounds, two steals and two assists.
Spencer finished with 14 points. Nunn posted his second career double-double with 12 points - he was 2 of 2 from the 3-point line - with 10 rebounds and three assists. D'Von Campbell had 12 points, including a couple of 3-pointers, and four assists. Davis finished with 11 points, six rebounds, four assists and two blocked shots. Freshman Tafari Whittingham had seven points and nine rebounds.
The Blue Dragons were tough defensively, holding the Cougars (28-6) to 37.1 percent shooting (23 of 62). Barton was 3 of 18 from 3-point range and 8 of 15 from the free throw line. The Cougars had 13 turnovers.
Andell Cumberbatch had a double-double to lead Barton with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Algie Key was the Cougars' top scorer with 15 points. Kevin Kuteyi had 10.
Just like in its big semifinal victory over No. 2 Coffeyville on Friday, Hutchinson's start to Saturday's game was equally impressive and set the tone for the entire game. Spencer scored on HCC's opening possession and the Blue Dragons never relinquished the lead.
Leading 6-4, Campbell dropped a 3-pointer which sparked a 16-2 Blue Dragon run. HCC scored 11 unanswered during that stretch to built a 22-6 lead after a Whittingham free throw with 12:34 to play.
Barton had a couple of runs in it in the first half. The first was an 8-0 run to pull within 22-14 with 7:48 to play. The Blue Dragons answered with a Campbell field goal, Whittingham layup and a Campbell 3-pointer to rebuild a 15-point lead at 29-14 with 6:14 to play.
Kuteyi's 3-pointer with 2:46 left capped another 7-0 Barton run that pulled the Cougars within 29-21. Again, the Blue Dragons answered the challenge with a Allen alley-oop dunk and Nunn 3-pointer to outscore the Cougars 7-3 in the latter stages of the first half and HCC led 36-24 at halftime.
Campbell and Spencer scored the first two field goals of the second half and Barton had no answer. Leading 42-26, the Blue Dragons went on a game-clinching 7-1 run to build a 20-point lead at 49-29 with 14:57 to play.
The Blue Dragons continued to build on their lead - Barton never had back-to-back baskets in the second half until 3 ? minutes left to play in the game. Sophomore Jack Pyle scored on an offensive putback to build the lead to 27 points at 71-44 with 4:46 to play in the game.
GAME NOTES - The Blue Dragons are 19-6 in Region VI championship games. They are 3-0 against Barton all-time in regional final games. The others came in 1972 and 1973. The Blue Dragons are 120-43 all-time in Region VI Tournament play. This was all-time victory No. 1,628 for HCC. It was all-time postseason win No. 160. HCC head coach Steve Eck is now 9-3 in the Region VI Tournament at Hutchinson and is now 10-4 vs. nationally ranked teams on the Blue Dragon bench. HCC is 79-22 vs. Barton all-time and 9-3 in Region VI meetings. Alex Davis ups his career blocked shots record to 156 and single-season record to 95 with two blocks vs. the Cougars. Davis became the 22nd Blue Dragon to reach 800 career points. He is 21st with 804 points. Kadeem Allen moved up to a tie for ninth in freshman assists with 126. HCC is now 17-0 when shooting 50 percent for the game. This was the 15th time to hold an opponent to less than 40 percent shooting.