BLUE DRAGONS CAPTURE KEY JAYHAWK WEST WIN OVER CLOUD COUNTY
Just four days after a disastrous loss at Seward County, the Hutchinson Community College men's basketball team rebounded in a big way on Wednesday night moving into a three-way tie for first place in the Jayhawk West with a 102-82 victory over Cloud County at the Sports Arena.
Hutchinson's victory, combined with losses by Seward County and Pratt on Wednesday, forced a three-way tie atop the Jayhawk West involving those three teams, all with 3-1 records. Hutchinson travels to Pratt on Saturday.
Playing extremely short-handed on the front line with injuries to forwards Tafari Whittingham and Andre Sands, the Blue Dragons overcame a slow start, first-half foul trouble and a 28-20 Cloud County lead with 8:56 to play in the first half.
The lead was still seven points when HCC went to a four-guard line-up. That group of players authored a 10-0 Dragon run. The Blue Dragons regrouped from the slow start to shoot 45.7 percent in the half and take a 41-39 halftime lead. HCC then may have played their best single half of basketball in the final 20 minutes, outscoring Cloud County 61-43, shooting a sizzling 64.3 percent and turned the ball over only three times.
All-American Kadeem Allen led six Blue Dragons in double figures with 29 points, scoring 21 in the second half alone. Allen had a tremendous all-around game with a career-high eight steals, seven assists and six rebounds. Allen hit 10 of 15 shots attempts and 9 of 10 from the free-throw line. Allen jumped two spots to No. 7 on HCC's career scoring list with 1,141 points.
Making his first start since returning from an injury sustained in the first semester, freshman guard Darrick Wood tallied 18 points, with a pair of 3-pointers, seven rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocked shots.
Freshman DeShawn Freeman hit 7 of 11 from the field and finished with 16 points. Sophomore Coreantae DeBerry had 15 points and seven rebounds. Sophomore Nathan Jackson had 11 points on 5 of 7 shooting and five rebounds. Freshman Austin Budke had 10 points.
The Blue Dragons posted their first-best team field-goal percentage at 55.1 percent (28 of 69) against the Thunderbirds. HCC was 4 of 19 from 3-point range and 22 of 28 at the free-throw line. The Blue Dragons out-rebounded Cloud County 35-30 and had the second-fewest turnovers this season with 11.
Hutchinson's 102 points tied the series record for points scored with the Thunderbirds.
Cloud County's Shaun Stewart is the fifth opponent this season to score at least 30 points against Hutchinson this season with 33 points on Wednesday. He was 13 of 23 shooting, including 5 of 11 from 3-point range. Marvin Smith had 18 points and Lorenzo Dillard had 14.
The Thunderbirds broke the 50-percent barrier, shooting 50.9 percent overall (29 of 57), including 6 of 14 from 3-point range and 18 of 25 from the foul line. The Thunderbirds turned the ball over 21 points.
The Blue Dragons jumped out to quick 4-0 and 8-2 leads, but the T-Birds scored seven straight to start a stretch of five lead changes and three ties in the first 6 1/2 minutes. Hutchinson trailed just 21-20 with 11:45 to play when Cloud County scored seven-straight points to lead 28-20 after a Dillard layup. The T-Birds hit 10 of their first 17 shots.
HCC weathered that run and stayed within striking distance. Cloud maintained a five- to eight-point lead for the next couple of minutes. Trailing 36-28, DeBerry's putback sparked the Blue Dragons to a 12-2 run over the next three minutes. Darius Freeman's layup with 3:26 to play in the half gave Hutch a 38-37 lead, then a Wood transition dunk pushed the Dragon lead to 40-37.
Paced by DeShawn Freeman's 12 points, HCC led 41-39 at halftime.
After the teams traded baskets to start the second half, HCC scored nine straight highlighted by a Budke 3-pointer from the corner and back-to-back transition layups by Wood and Jackson to give Hutchinson a 52-41 lead with 17:01 to play.
This time, it was Hutchinson's turn to hold off Cloud County's runs. The Thunderbirds pulled within seven at 52-45. The Dragons opened some real space from the T-Birds with a 17-7 run that included a pair of putbacks by DeShawn Freeman, the second giving the Blue Dragons a 71-54 lead with 9:49 to play.
DeBerry's dunk with 6:21 to go pushed the lead to 20 points for the first time at 82-62. The lead grew to as many as 25 points at 98-73 late in the game. Hutchinson shot 22 of 34 (64.7) percent in the second half, outscoring the Thunderbirds 61-43. HCC sank 14 of 15 free throws in the final 20 minutes.
Saturday's tip in Pratt is scheduled for 8 p.m.
GAME NOTES - This was all-time victory No. 1,645. The Blue Dragons lead the all-time series with Cloud County 43-16, including 24-2 at the Sports Arena. HCC won its third in a row vs. the T-Birds. Kadeem Allen now has 190 free throws for the season, which is third most in team history for a season. He is just 15 free throws away from breaking William Davis' record. Allen upped his career free-throw record to 351. Allen moved up to No. 9 in career steals with 126. HCC is 6-0 when shooting 50 percent or better. This was the fifth time this season for HCC to score 100 points and it was the 171st time to reach the century mark. HCC is 10-3 when allowing 80 or more points. HCC's 13 steals were the second most this season. HCC outscored Cloud County 28-11 in points off turnovers, 16-4 in second-chance points and 19-6 in points off the bench. This was Kadeem Allen's 18th 20-point game. This was the second time this season to score 60 or more points in a half. HCC allowed a season-low 30 rebounds. Darrick Wood had a season-high two blocks.