By Greta Klein
Staff writer

The Hutchinson Community College Blue Dragons matched up against the No. 22 USC-Salkehatchie Indians in the NJCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship Monday at the Sports Arena. Hutch started slow, but by the middle of the first half, the Blue Dragons found their groove, taking the win 96-82. 

“I thought we started the game a little tight,” Blue Dragons coach Tommy DeSalme said. “They (USC Salkehatchie) came out and played well the first 8-9 minutes. They made a lot of tough shots, and once we got through a couple of media timeouts, we were able to settle down.”

For the 11th-seeded Blue Dragons, they fell behind to an 8-2 run early in the game. The Indians found easy offense from Grayson Kirk. For the Blue Dragons, the exhilarating atmosphere of the Hutchinson Sports Arena subsided. 

“Defensively I read tendencies on the player I am guarding today. It was (Kirk),” Blue Dragons sophomore guard Kernan Bundy said. “Kirk is the type of player that has no weaknesses and he will pull out all the stops on his defender. Going forward we are going to have to look at all the tendencies of players we face in this tournament.”

Even though the Blue Dragons lacked defense early in the first half, they were able to use points off turnovers against the Indians. During the first half, Hutch had 16 points off turnovers compared to Salkehatchie, which only had five points.

“That’s what we’re built on,” DeSalme said. “When we are good, we are forcing turnovers and scoring. We need easy points out of our defense, and I think that settles us down. When we are not guarding the ball, we are bad. There are streaks out there where we did not guard the ball well, and we just let the guy get something easy. But when we’re synced up on the court, we make everything hard on the other team and take a fundamental in their offense, and that’s when we’re at our best.”

The second half was more calm and collected for the Blue Dragon as they kept adding to the surplus of points made off turnovers. Once again the Blue Dragons outscored the Indians 33-14 in the category.

It was evident that Hutch meant business as Tino Simon made a three-point play that gave the Blue Dragons a 7-0 run to start the second half and lead 57-43.

“I thought our ball pressure and defensive intensity got better as the half went,” DeSalme said. “At times this year, we have struggled coming out of halftime and playing well. Today we made a couple of defensive stops, and we made it a 13-15 point advantage that gave us a little bit of freedom to play.”

Not only are the Blue Dragons celebrating their first win of the NJCAA Tournament, but more history was made with DeSalme and this year’s team. The 2023-2024 Blue Dragons move to third in school history with 252 3-pointers made in a single season.  In DeSalme’s first three seasons with HutchCC, the Blue Dragons now claim the top three best single-season performances from beyond the arch in NJCAA history.  

The Blue Dragons have a short turnaround and play against No. 6 Chipola at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday at the Sports Arena.

Visits: 314

Share this story:

Leave a Reply