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Barton tops Hutchinson men to win Region 6; Blue Dragons now wait


By Brad Hallier

If you ask Hutchinson Community College men’s basketball coach Tommy DeSalme, Sunday shouldn’t be suspenseful.

Alas, the only team in Kansas that can definitively prepare for the NJCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball Championship as of Saturday evening is Barton.

The top-ranked Cougars jumped to a big halftime lead, increased it to 29 points in the second half, and then held off a Hutchinson rally to win the Region 6 championship 74-57 at the Sports Arena.

Barton nabs the automatic bid from the Plains District. Hutchinson, the tournament’s No. 3 seed, will have to wait to see if it gets one of the eight at-large bids.

DeSalme said he thinks the Blue Dragons have a strong resume. DeSalme went further, saying even Jayhawk Conference runner-up Cowley – which Hutch beat in Friday’s semifinals – deserved to make it.

“I think we have three teams in the league that deserve to be in the national tournament,” said DeSalme, who is in his third season at Hutch and hopes to take the Blue Dragons to the national tournament for a second time. “I said if we beat Cowley, we should be eight (seed).”

Hutchinson’s resume is strong. Now 27-6, three of the Blue Dragons’ losses have come to Barton. They also lost to a Cowley team that has a strong at-large case, and a Butler team that finished fourth in the Jayhawk Conference.

Barton showed its power in the first half, shooting 54.5% as the Cougars built a 40-23 lead.

“Maybe to pray better,” DeSalme said about what the Blue Dragons could have done differently in the first half. “Or just find a bunch of lucky pennies. They’re that good. The shots they made in the first half were not bad defense. It was excellent shot making.”

The exclamation point for Barton came at the end of the first half, when Hutchinson native Myles Thompson hit a difficult 17-foot fadeaway jumper, as part of Thompson’s 24-point night.

The lead swelled to 29 points on two occasions in the second half. Then, Hutchinson started to chip away at the lead. It started with a six-point possession, as Dallas Whitney scored on a layup. Before Barton could inbound the ball, the Cougars were called for a technical foul, which led to a pair of Kam Thomas free throws. Whitney scored on the ensuing possession again, and the rally started.

A Kobe Smith jump shot with 3 minutes, 42 seconds left cut Barton’s lead to 65-55.

“If we make a couple free throws, maybe we make them feel some game pressure,” DeSalme said.

The NJCAA Selection Show will start at 6 p.m. Sunday.