By Colin Shields
On September 20, 1973, Billie Jean King played Bobby Riggs in what would be dubbed “The Battle of the Sexes”, a tennis match that King won.
These days, the Hutchinson Community College women’s basketball team continues the tradition. The Blue Dragons regularly scrimmage a group of former athletes, all of which are male, for multiple hours a week in preparation for their upcoming games.
The team thinks highly of the four guys who will come out and scrimmage them.
“The guys have been very important to us, because when we have them we don’t have to play against each other, and they usually simulate the other team,” said Blue Dragon sophomore guard Tor’e Alford. “We play against them, subbing in and out as we would in a game, so it’s less on our bodies.”
Two of the practice players come from nearby Haven High School, located southeast of Hutchinson.
Blue Dragons assistant coach Phil Anderson reached out to both Wyatt Carmichael and Skylar Shingleton to see if they would be interested in coming on to help them out.
“Coach Anderson, he reached out to me and made me feel like part of the team,” Carmichael said. “I wanted to come and compete every day, as I love the sport of basketball and got to play for a year for the (Blue Dragon) men’s team.”
On the other hand, it has been a learning experience for Shingleton.
“I have learned many new unique offenses and defenses,” he said. “From running them, I now know why some offenses are really hard to defend.”
The Blue Dragons have been on a hot streak, winning 10 in a row and have avenged three of their four losses early in the year before Wednesday’s loss to Seward County. That win streak has enabled them to climb into a first-place tie with Independence in the Jayhawk Conference.
The Blue Dragons believe the guys have been essential to their success.
“They help prepare us by playing like the other team, running their sets and offense so we can get a better idea of how it all works,” Alford said.
Carmichael has learned throughout the year from the women’s team that “You definitely don’t have to be the biggest or meanest to win, you just have to have the fight in you that’s needed to win games.”
The Blue Dragons will travel to Garden City Community College next Wednesday to take on the Garden City Broncbusters at 5:30 p.m. to wrap up their regular season before moving on to bracket play of the Region 6 Women’s Basketball Tournament located at Tony’s Pizza Events Center in Salina.