By Sam Ojeda
Sports Editor

It was March Mayhem on Tuesday night at Hutchinson Sports Arena. The No. 11 seed Hutchinson Blue Dragons took on the No. 6 seed Chipola Indians. In this second-round matchup at the NJCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball Championship, everyone saw an upset, as Hutchinson defeated Chipola 78-71.

Hutchinson had a dream start. They Blue Dragons were up 22-3 at the first media timeout and were raining shots from the 3-point line. J.P. Ricks was feeling it early with his 11 first-half points. 

Coach Tommy DeSalme loved the hot start from his team.

“When you make shots early it really frees up your team,” DeSalme said. “All the sudden you’re looking up at the scoreboard in the second half saying “c’mon clock.’” 

Chipola was one of the best defenses in the country, running a stifling 3-2 zone defense. The Blue Dragons had no problem handling that zone.

“Anytime you can make Chipola leave their zone, that is a good day.” DeSalme said.

Sophomore forward Kamryn Thomas was confident they were prepared for this game, despite having the short turnaround from Monday’s win.

“All we had to do was move the ball and play for each other,” Thomas said. “We had to be aggressive. We couldn’t just stand there.” 

\Landon Wagler, who is a sophomore forward, knew the Chipola defense was beatable.

“We watched tons of film and talked about how there are major gaps in the zone,” Wagler said.

Hutchinson found those gaps and knocked down some shots. The Blue Dragons shot 47.1% from the 3-point line with 16 three-pointers made. Those 16 makes are tied for the third most all-time in school history. 

Wagler was the star of the show. Wagler had a career-high 20 points and shot 4 of 6 from three-point range. 

Wagler’s roots run deep in Hutchinson. His relatives have played for Hutchinson and coached for them. His cousin Deron McCue is currently the assistant coach for the Blue Dragon baseball team. Playing in front of the local fans meant a lot to Wagler, 

“It felt great to get that feeling that all my relatives got while they played here and with Hutch across my chest,” Wagler said.

DeSalme saw the earlier explosion by guard J.P. Ricks as an opportunity for Wagler to find some open space.

“When you get on a little heater like how we started out, it extended their zone and helped find more space for our guys,” DeSalme said. “I should have had Wagler in the lineup a whole lot sooner.”

After Tuesday’s upset, Hutchinson takes on Connors State, who came off an upset of their own defeating No. 3 seed Salt Lake. They will matchup on Wednesday at 7:15 p.m. at the Hutchinson Sports Arena.

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