I guess the fourth time is the charm in the case of John Ontjes.

Ontjes is the women’s basketball coach at Hutchinson Community College, and the Blue Dragons are now NJCAA national champions. Hutchinson beat Northwest Florida State on Monday night in Casper, Wyo. in an overtime thriller 88-80.

For Ontjes it had to have been a relief. Going into Monday’s game he was 0-3 in national championship games. The Blue Dragons lost in 2012, 2014, and 2015. Now in 2024 Ontjes is a national championship coach.

John Ontjes

I do not think a lot of people saw this championship coming. HutchCC was coming off their worst season in the Ontjes era. Last season they were 23-8 overall and 17-7 in conference play. The season ended in a Region 6 quarterfinal exit.

One glooming problem on this year’s team was that they did not have a single player listed at 6-feet tall. They had three players listed at 5-11 and that was as tall as it got. Rebounding and size was seen as a problem for this team but as the season went on, rebounding was not a problem. Sophomore forward Monae Duffy was as dominant as it comes on the boards. She averaged 7.8 rebounds per game and had as many as 15 rebounds in a game this season. This came against Pratt on Dec. 2.

Ontjes stuck to a defensive focus this season. His defense this season put up numbers on par or better than any Ontjes team before. They gave up 53.8 points per game  and held opponents to only 33% shooting from the field. Sophomore guard and team leader Journey Armstead was a pest in the backcourt all season. She averaged 2.2 steals per game and was a tough finish at the basket on the offensive end.

There were some individual players that will find themselves in the record books. Freshman Kiki Smith tied former star Mya Williams for the highest points per game average in school history at 17.6 PPG. Smith is also now second in total points scored in a season at 652. Duffy’s 560 total career rebounding numbers are fifth all time in school history.

This 2023-2024 team will go down as the best in Blue Dragon history. Not only did they achieve a perfect season at 37-0, but they also achieved that illustrious national championship.

Sam Ojeda is a Lincoln, Neb. sophomore studying journalism. He is the Collegian’s Sports Editor.

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