By Sammi Carpenter
Staff writer

For the third time this season, the No. 1-ranked Hutchinson Community College women’s basketball team took down the Butler Grizzlies, becoming the Region 6 champions. The Blue Dragons defeated Butler 54-52 in the championship game Saturday played at the Sports Arena.

Freshman guard Kiki Smith had the game-winning layup with 5 seconds remaining after Hutch took a timeout late.

“The plan was to put the basketball in Kiki’s hands. I felt if we could just get downhill that she could either finish a play or make the play for somebody else and she was strong enough to create contact and finish at the rim,” Blue Dragons John Onjtes said, “You know big players rise up on big occasions and she’s done it all year for us.”

Named the tournament MVP, Smith had 13 points to lead the Blue Dragons with 5 of 9 field goals made, including 3 of 6 3-pointers made.

“During that last timeout we called, coach was telling us what to do and I found my teammates looking at me telling me I know what to do and that I’ve got this,” Smith said. “I knew that that was my moment and that was my time to go get a bucket and that is exactly what I did. I relaxed and stayed calm and I listened to my coach.”

Butler dominated play in the third quarter, outscoring the Blue Dragons 15-9 to lead 38-36 after three quarters. The Blue Dragons had a tough time trying to get their offense going with Butler taking them out of the game.

Journey Armstead, a sophomore guard from Sand Springs, Okla., had to come out of the game due to an injury in the third quarter. The team had to come together to fill Armstead’s role, but Armstead came back into the game to help the Blue Dragons towards a victory.

Hailey Freshman, a forward from Tulsa, Okla., played a huge role in the fourth quarter for the Blue Dragons success. Jackson was able to make some huge plays around the rim and ended up getting 12 out of the team’s 18 points in the fourth.

“For me the first three quarters were very slow. Journey Armstead came up to me in the fourth saying ‘We need you this quarter, you have to do something for us,’ and I gave it all I got because my team needs me,” Jackson said.

In addition to earning MVP honors, Smith and Jackson were named to the 2024 Region 6 All-Tournament team.

The Blue Dragon women ended up getting the No. 1 overall seed in the 2024 NJCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Tournament that takes place in Casper, Wyoming. The first game for the Blue Dragons will be on March 27 against the winner of the Cochise/Chattanooga State game.

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