Photo by Nathan Addis/HutchCC Sports Information: D.J. Mitchell dribbling the ball in the game against Barton at the Sports Arena

By Bailey Pennycuff / Co-Sports Editor

Battling through adversity is something every team must go through. However, the Hutchinson Community College men’s basketball team is not only battling adversity but succeeding through it.

With an overall record of 16-6, the Blue Dragons faced Seward County last Saturday in Liberal. Hutch earned the victory, 68-67. The game ended up coming down to the last second of the game.

“It was good to beat Seward. They’re a lot better now than they were at the beginning of the year. They have 13 freshmen, so they’re getting better,” Blue Dragon coach Steve Eck said.

Although not all of their close games have been dependent on the last fraction of a second, the Blue Dragons have still encountered some recent impending contests nevertheless. They’ve lost five games since 2020 began by single digits, and two in overtime.

“I think it’s just us losing focus, us not being able to close a game, that’s all,” sophomore guard D.J. Mitchell said of their close games.

On the other hand, Eck credits their losses to other reasons.

“Two of the close games, we shot 50 percent from the free-throw line – there’s two losses. And then the Barton game, that’s on me. That’s most of our real close losses,” Eck said.

In addition to the hardships they have faced, more have arisen.

“We’re not very healthy. DJ has real bad shin splints, [sophomore guard Saquan Singleton] has a real bad hip pointer, [freshman guard Josh Baker] has a pretty bad knee. Baker and DJ probably shouldn’t have played Saturday night but they did,” Eck said. “I give the credit to the players. The players are doing a good job and fighting through it.”

On a brighter note, Saturday’s win was a definite morale boost for the Blue Dragons.

“After the win on Saturday, we knew it was really time to get back on track. It’s only up from here,” Mitchell said. “We’re done taking two steps back, we are taking two steps forward now.”

Not only was the win a conference win, but the game may have meant more to some of the older players.

“We owed them a couple – they got us last year a couple times. For some of us sophomores, it was kind of a personal game. We all knew we had to buckle down and come together as a team and come get that win,” Mitchell said.

Despite the feelings, the Blue Dragon players may have felt going into the game, they all knew to keep their focus on the big picture.

“I wouldn’t even say we were overwhelmed, it’s still just another win in the book and we gotta keep going forward from it,” Mitchell said.

With only six scheduled games left in the season, the Blue Dragons will face Garden City on Saturday in the Sports Arena. Hutch has already defeated the Broncbusters this season, 91-72.

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