By Aubreigh Heck
While the No. 12 Hutchinson Community College Blue Dragons technically play on a neutral court in the NJCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament, every Blue Dragon play was met with an eruption of a crowd the players have never seen before.
The No. 12 Blue Dragons are moving on to the second round of the tournament after defeating the No. 21 Cowboys 101-98 in overtime Monday night at the Sports Arena, the Blue Dragons’ home court.
“The crowd was super energetic. Obviously, we’re playing at Hutch and that’s our home crowd and that energy helps as well,” sophomore guard Angelo Stuart said.
Sophomore forward Cecil Lee agreed.
“I’m a third-year juco student, but I’ve never seen a crowd like that,” Lee said.
Stuart racked up 30 points and went 4 for 10 for 3-pointers, and played the entire game without fouling.
Even though the Blue Dragons nabbed the victory, they played most of the game coming from behind.
The Cowboys led HutchCC for 30 minutes, 10 seconds, while the Blue Dragons only had the lead for 10:15. The game was tied for 04:15.
At a point in the second half, the Blue Dragons faced a 14-point deficit.
“The turning point of the game was definitely when we brought in the defense,” freshman guard Jayden Garrison said, “We got some steals and some good looks in transition. From there we just took control of the game there at the end and obviously (Stuart) down the stretch knocking down the free throws to seal the deal was an amazing job by him.”
Stuart said the defense improved from the first half to the second half.
“I think the difference between the first and second half was our defense,” Stuart said. “We started off a little stagnant, and our defense allows us to play offense well. Once we get energetic on defense and we’re moving around and laying it on the line, that’s when we’re able to make plays offensively.”
Blue Dragons coach Tommy DeSalme agreed with Stuart.
“There was a time-out where Connors State was up and it was a little bit of a come-to-Jesus moment,” DeSalme said. “It’s a big moment right there. Like (the Blue Dragons) done all year they find ways to rally it up.”
HutchCC will take on No. 5 Chipola College at 2 p.m. Wednesday in a second-round game.