By Sammi Carpenter
Staff Writer

The 2022-2023 Hutchinson Community College women’s basketball team went 23-8, which was one of their worst seasons in coach John Ontjes’ 16-year reign. 

Eight sophomores graduated from that team. Now, the women’s 2023-2024 team is undefeated and No. 1 in the nation. 

Freshman guard Kiki Smith has a key role in the team’s success. 

This season, the women’s basketball team only has 11 players on the roster, which means the freshmen on the team had to step up. Having such a small team can affect a player, both physically and mentally.

“Mentally, you gotta be locked in and focused day in and day out whether that be in practice and/or film,” Smith said. “As far as physically, just taking care of my body, getting proper treatment, sleep, and eating right to keep myself in game shape.”

Smith was named the Jayhawk Conference Women’s Basketball Division I Player of the Week for a second straight week, which brings a total of four times she has earned the weekly honor. Smith was named KJCCC Player of the Week on Nov. 14, Dec. 12, February 13 and Feb. 20.

“It feels good knowing that my hard work is being noticed, but it also pushes me to keep going and working hard.” Smith said. 

Smith leads the team in scoring, she is also No. 3 in the Jayhawk. She is third in the league for 3-point shooting, second for field goal shooting and fifth for free throw shooting. 

Last week, Smith averaged 23 points per game. Smith shot 68.4 percent field goal shots, making 8 out of her attempted 10 3-pointers. Overall for shooting, Smith has made 165 out of 301 FG shots, 59 out of 144 3-pointer shots and 64 out of 80 free throws. She also has 82 total rebounds, 61 assists, and 61 steals. Smith has a total of 453 points. 

Not many people get to say that they played for the No. 1 team in the nation. The Blue Dragons women’s team became No. 1 in the NJCAA on Feb. 12 and it has not happened since the 2017-2018 season. 

“It’s a unique opportunity, not many people can say they have played one the number one team in the nation, so being able to be a part of something like this is very special,” Smith said. 

The next game is on Saturday at Seward County Community College. Two Blue Dragon wins wrap up the Jayhawk Conference title.

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