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Dragons Grind Way to National Title Game Berth


Hutchinson CC Sports Information

CASPER, Wyo. ( – Powered by a combined 23 second-half points from Kiki Smith and Hailey Jackson, the No. 1-seed Hutchinson Community College women’s basketball team is headed back to the NJCAA Division I Women’s National Tournament championship game.


With two of the top defensive teams in the NJCAA battling in the first national semifinal on Saturday at the Ford Wyoming Center, the top-seeded Blue Dragons’ defense held Eastern Arizona to 29.6 percent shooting and forced 18 turnovers in a 61-46 victory over the 20th-seeded Gila Monsters.

The Blue Dragons (36-0) will play in their fourth national championship game and first since 2015 at 7 p.m. CDT (6 p.m. MDT) against No. 3-seed Northwest Florida State. The game will be televised on ESPNU and broadcast live on KHMY-FM (93.1).

The 2023-24 Blue Dragons tied team records for most wins in a season at 36, best start to a season at 36-0 and longest winning streak of 36 games. All three of those record are shared with the 2011-12 Blue Dragons.

Eastern Arizona (30-5) had an eight-point lead in the first quarter and the Blue Dragons rallied to tie the game at 13-all at the end of the period. The Gila Monsters had an early second-quarter seven-point lead and the Dragons again game back to knot the score at 24-24 at halftime.

Trailing 27-24 early in the third quarter, the Dragons used an 11-2 run to open a 35-29 lead. The Dragons held the Gila Monsters to 4 of 13 shooting and forced five turnovers as Hutchinson outscored Eastern Arizona 19-9 in the period to build a 43-33 lead heading to the fourth quarter.

Smith led the Blue Dragons with 18 points on 7 of 15 shooting with a pair of 3-pointers. She scored on the final possession of the first half to give the Dragons their 10-point margin.

Guards Akaysha Muggeridge and Journey Armstead scored 10 points each. Muggeridge was 4 of 9 shooting and added three rebounds and two assists. Armstead hit a 3-pointer and was 3 of 5 from the floor. Armstead added two assists.

Hailey Jackson, who played only 4 minutes in the first half before leaving the game with two fouls, scored all nine of her points in the second half. Jackson added six rebounds.

The Blue Dragons shot 41.5 percent (22 of 53), going 4 of 20 from 3-point range and 13 of 22 from the foul line. The Dragons were out-rebounded 32-29, but had only 12 turnovers to Eastern’s 18.

Elva Chavez had 13 points to lead Eastern Arizona. Vitoria Santana and Laini Dahlin had 11 points each. The Gila Monsters were 16 of 54 shooting, going 7 of 27 from 3-point range and 7 of 8 from the foul line.

The Blue Dragons had to endure a slow offensive start where they missed their first eight shot attempts of the game. The Dragons’ first field goal was an Armstead 3-pointer at the 4:01 mark of the quarter. Ashlynn Chliarson scored at the 2:55 mark of the opening quarter to give Eastern a 13-5 lead. The Dragons closed the quarter with an 8-0 run, getting a Smith 3-pointer, Bree Horyna 3-pointer and Madi Denison bucket in the paint to knot the score at 13-13 at the end of the period.

Eastern Arizona started the second quarter with a 9-2 run, taking a 22-15 lead with 7:16 to play in the quarter. The Blue Dragons outscored Eastern Arizona 9-2 over the remainder of the half, tying the score at 24-all. Trailing 24-18, Kahlen Norris hit two free throws at the 3:29 mark to pull within four. A Muggeridge layup and a Smith jumper closed the half with the score tied.

Laini hit a 3-pointer to open the third quarter for Eastern Arizona, but the Dragons didn’t’ fall into a hole like the opening two quarters. After pulling within one with two Monae Duffy free throws, the Blue Dragons took the lead for good with a Muggeridge jumper with 6:23 remaining gave the Dragons a 28-27 lead. The Dragons completed an 11-2 run to take a 35-29 lead after a Jackson free throw with 4:04 to play in the third quarter. The Dragons closed the quarter on an 8-2 run with Smith scoring on the final two possessions of the period to build a 43-33 lead after three quarters.

Smith had a layup and two more free throws to help the Dragon open a 14-point lead early in the final quarter. The lead grew to a game-high 15 on a Smith 3-pointer with 2:57 to play that gave the Blue Dragons a 52-37 lead.

GAME NOTES: The Blue Dragons are now 4-3 all-time in the NJCAA Tournament national semifinals. … The Dragons are now 23-12 all-time in the NJCAA Tournament. … The Blue Dragons are 3-1 all-time against Region 1 teams, 2-1 in national semifinal games. … Head coach John Ontjes is now 54-24 all-time against nationally ranked opponents in his 17 seasons on the Blue Dragon bench. … Journey Armstead moved into fourth place on the single-season assist list with 189. … Kiki Smith moved into third place on the Blue Dragon single-season scoring list with 629 points. … Smith’s two 3-pointers moved her past Joell Meyer (1994) into fifth on the single-season 3-point list. … Hailey Jackson moved into 12th freshman scoring list with 453 points. … Smith tied a career high with three blocked shots.