By Rebecca Carney
The Hutchinson Community College women’s basketball team got back to its winning ways at the NJCAA Tournament in Lubbock, Texas, and snapped a long winning streak of Western Nebraska’s at the same time.
The No. 8-ranked ranked and No. 13-seeded Blue Dragons advance to the second round of the 2019 NJCAA Women’s National Tournament with a resounding 81-60 win over No. 21-ranked and 20th-seeded Western Nebraska in the opening round at the Rip Griffin Center.
This was the first victory for the Blue Dragons since the tournament was moved to Texas in 2017. The Blue Dragons also snapped a three-game losing streak at the tournament that dated back to the 2015 national championship game.
The Blue Dragons improved to 31-3 overall and will advance to play No. 4-seeded Angelina College at 2 p.m. on Wednesday in a second-round matchup.
Hutchinson also snapped Western Nebraska’s 17-game winning streak. The Cougars end their season at 29-4. The Blue Dragons held in check the nation’s top 3-point shooting team and No. 3 leading individual scorer in Merle Wiehl.
Hutchinson held the Cougars to 9 of 32 shooting from distance, with only five makes coming in the first three quarters. By that time, the Blue Dragons had a 61-44 lead and built a lead as large as 27 points. Hutchinson held the NJCAA’s fifth-highest scoring team 30 points under its season scoring average. Wiehl finished with 17 points, but on 7 of 19 overall shooting and just 3 of 13 from 3-point range.
Blue Dragon freshman guard Makayla Vannett knocked down a career-best six 3-point goals on 11 attempts and finished with a career-high 20 points. Now with 85 3-pointers this season, Vannett moved past Heather Robben (2008-10) into seventh place on Hutch’s single-season 3-point list.
Joining Vannett with a career-high performance was freshman Abby Ogle, who had a career-best 16 points on 6 of 8 shooting. Ogle added four steals, three assists and three rebounds. Her momentum-changing play at the end of the first quarter – a steal of the ball from Wiehl and layup in the final 5 seconds of the period – gave Hutch a 21-17 lead and sparked an 11-2 run that helped the Blue Dragon erase an early five-point deficit.
Sophomore Dejanae Roebuck was the third Blue Dragon to score in double figures with 12 points. She moved past Kim Gwinner (1986-88) into sixth place on the Blue Dragon career scoring list with 965 points.
Sophomore Jada Mickens also reached a milestone. She had eight points and a season-high 13 rebounds. Her final rebound made her the 11th Blue Dragon ever to reach 500 career rebounds.
Milan Schimmel and Tijuana Kimbro had six points each and Kelsey Brett added five, including a 3-pointer.
The Blue Dragons finished the game shooting 41.2 percent (28 of 68), hitting 7 of 20 from 3-point range and 18 of 20 from the free-throw line. The Dragons out-rebounded Western Nebraska 43-27 and had just nine turnovers, the first time since opening night to have less than 10 turnovers in a single game.