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No. 15 Blue Dragons Fall at No. 1 Barton

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GREAT BEND, Kan. (BlueDragonSports.com) – Led by Valentino Simon‘s 11th double-double of the season, the short-handed Hutchinson Community College men’s basketball team gave the No. 1-ranked team in the country a push, but fell short Saturday night at the Kirkman Activity Center.

BOX SCORE

No. 15 Hutchinson shot 50 percent and sank 11 3-pointers, but the Blue Dragons fell 91-78 to the top-ranked Cougars, who clinched the Jayhawk Conference championship with the victory.

The Blue Dragons are now 24-5 overall and are locked into the No. 3 seed for the upcoming Region VI Tournament. Hutchinson is now 19-4 in the KJCCC. The Dragons could still tie Cowley for second place. Hutchinson travels to Garden City on Wednesday to close out the regular season. Barton won its 18th game in a row and series-best fifth in a row against the Blue Dragons. Barton is now 28-1 and 22-1 in league play.

Playing without leading scorer Kamryn Thomas on Saturday, Simon led the Blue Dragons with his 30th career double-double of 20 points and 10 rebounds. Simon was 9 of 19 from the field with two 3-pointers.

Three other Blue Dragons scored in double figures against the Cougars.

Russell Branch scored a career-high 13 points – Branch’s first career game scoring in double figures – with a career-high three 3-point goals and going 4 of 4 from the free-throw line.

Kobe Smith had 13 points on 5 of 10 shooting. Landon Wagler hit a career-high three 3-pointers and finished with 11 points. Kernan Bundy scored eight points.

The Blue Dragons shot 29 of 58 (50.0 percent) for the game, hitting 11 of 26 shots from 3-point range and 9 of 12 from the free-throw line. The Blue Dragons were out-rebounded 42-38 and committed 20 turnovers.

Lajae Jones had 19 points and 14 rebounds to lead the Cougars. Six Barton players scored in double figures. Ring Malith had 15 points. Cooper Jackson and Brent Moss had 14 points each. Mozae Downing-Rivers and Myles Thompson had 21 points each.

Barton shot 45.7 percent for the game (32 of 70), going 9 of 21 from 3-point range and 18 of 30 from the foul line. Barton had only eight turnovers.

Trailing by three points early, the Blue Dragons scored nine unanswered points on a Bundy 3-pointer, two Simon field goals and a Dre Weathers bucket to built a 13-7 led with 14:15 to play in the opening half. Barton responded with a 14-0 run over the next 4:30 and built a 21-13 lead after a Jones basket with 10:31 remaining in the opening half.

J.P. Ricks hit a jumper to cap a 7-0 run and pull the Blue Dragons within one at 21-20. The Cougars then pulled out to a 30-25 lead, but two Branch free throws and a Branch 3-pointer with 2:25 to play tied the game at 30-all.

Barton outscored Hutchinson 7-3 to close the half for a 37-33 halftime lead.

The Cougar opened the second half with a 10-3 run to built a 47-36 lead after a Jones’ dunk with 17:06 to play in the second half. The Dragons never got the lead under 10 points for the remainder of the game.

GAME NOTES – Valentino Simon had his 11th double-double of the season. … The Blue Dragons are now 91-34 all-time against Barton. … Hutchinson is 3-4 against ranked opponents this season. … Now with 217 3-pointers for the season, the 2023-24 Blue Dragons are fifth most in Hutchinson season history. … The Blue Dragons had their seventh game of 10 or more 3-pointers. … Hutchinson is now 10-1 when shooting 50 percent or better this season. … The Dragons suffered their first true road loss of the season and are now 10-1. … The Blue Dragons played a No. 1-ranked team for the first time since November 10, 2006 (Midland College).