By Aubreigh Heck
SALINA – The No. 21 Hutchinson Community College men’s basketball team fell to No. 4 Dodge City Community College 98-96 in overtime in the finals of the Region 6 Tournament on Saturday night at Tony’s Pizza Events Center.
A win would have punched aticket to the national tournament for HutchCC, but now a new question is floating: can the Blue Dragons make the tournament as an at-large?
Sophomore guard Angelo Stuart and Blue Dragons coach Tommy DeSalme certainly think so.
“I think we played the hardest schedule in the country, we’re in the best conference in the country,” Stuart said. “We have four or five ranked teams throughout the season in our conference, and I think we’ve had some really good wins. We’re one of the best teams in the country and we proved it tonight, unfortunately, we just got bested.”
The Blue Dragons have a 25-8 record, and a conference record of 17-7. They finished second in the Jayhawk Conference, behind Dodge City.
“We’re going to (go to the tournament),” DeSalme said. “We’re one of the top 10 teams in the country. Best league in America and we finished second in it, and we lost by a total of eight points to the number one seed, so I think we’ll get an opportunity.”
The hectic championship game went back and forth all evening, and was decided in the last six seconds in overtime when the Blue Dragons nearly stole the ball, but the Conquistadors regained it and made the game-winning field goal.
“I saw a few guys on the ground, it was scramble mode. They were able to pick it up and make a play. That happens in basketball, we just have to accept it and move on from it,” Stuart said.
“We made the play,” DeSalme said. “That’s exactly what I asked them to do. We had the opportunity to make a play but there’s a thousand plays in a game we could have made, or didn’t make.”
Stuart had a team-high 34 points, while recording zero fouls and four rebounds.
The Conquistadors shot 49.1%, outshooting the 48.2 on the Blue Dragons’ side.
The NJCAA Division I selection show is Sunday evening at 5:30 p.m. on the NJCAA network. The Blue Dragons will find out then if they made the tournament.