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No. 15 Dragons down Thunderbirds to reach 20-win mark

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By Hutchinson CC Sports Information

The Hutchinson Community College men’s basketball team turned in another defensive gem on Saturday at the Sports Arena to earn its 20th victory of the season.

BOX SCORE

The Blue Dragons held Cloud County to 22 first-half points and 27.8 percent overall shooting as 15th-ranked Hutchinson tied a season’s best with its sixth-consecutive win after a 75-56 Jayhawk Conference victory over the Thunderbirds at the Sports Arena.

Now 20-3 overall and 15-2 in the KJCCC, the Blue Dragons reach the 20-win mark for the 56th time in program history. The Dragons have had 56 20-win seasons in the last 68 seasons. The Blue Dragons travel to No. 10 Cowley at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday. Cloud County is now 16-8 and 11-7 in the league.

Working against the No. 1 defensive team in the Jayhawk Conference, the Blue Dragons shot 57.7 percent in the first half and opened a 42-22 lead. The Dragons hit seven first-half 3-pointers as Kamryn Thomas and Valentino Simon had 12 and 11 points, respectively in the opening half.

The Dragons saw their lead dwindle to 11 points at 52-43 after a 16-2 Cloud County run, but the Blue Dragons countered with a 13-1 run to build a 73-49 lead with 3:10 remaining in the game.

Dallas Whitney came off the bench to score a game-high 19 points on 6 of 7 shooting. The Jayhawk Conference leader in steals had four against the Thunderbirds.

Thomas hit three 3-pointers and 6 of 10 shots overall to close with 15 points and six rebounds.

Simon had six seventh double-double of the season with 14 points and a season-high 16 rebounds. Kobe Smith scored 11 points.

The Blue Dragons were 24 of 49 shooting, going 7 of 17 from the 3-point line and 20 of 23 from the free-thrown line. Rebounding was even at 36 each. Turnovers were even at 18 each.

Ja’Ron Briggs Jr. had 15 points to lead Cloud County. Cheikh had 12 points and Abdoulaye Fall finished with 11 points.

Cloud County hit 16 of 58 shots (27.6 percent), going 5 of 21 from 3-point range and 19 of 29 from the foul line.

The Blue Dragons never trailed on Saturday, building an early 11-3 lead after a Simon 3-pointer with 16:42 remaining in the first half. Leading by seven, the Dragons scored seven unanswered points to take a 21-7 lead after a Smith free throw with 12:03 to play.

A Whitney transition hoop, Thomas 3-pointer and Simon jumper gave the Blue Dragons a 32-15 lead with 7:09 to play in the opening half. Smith’s transition layup bumped the Dragon lead to 36-17 with 5:07 to play. Two Smith free throws bumped the lead past 20 for the first time at 40-19. The Dragons led 42-22 at halftime.

A Simon three-point play gave the Blue Dragons a 50-27 lead with 17:00 to play. Cloud County then went on a 16-2 run over the next 5:33 and pulled within 52-43 after a Briggs 3-pointer with 11:17 remaining. Whitney nailed a 3-pointer from the left corner to stop that T-Bird surge.

Leading 60-48 with 8:32 to play, Whitney hit a pull-up jumper started a 7-0 Blue Dragon run. Two Russell Branch free throws with 5:22 to play gave the Dragons a 67-48 lead. Hitting their free throws, the Dragons extended that run to 13-1 to take a 72-49 lead with two Branch free throws with 3:10 to play.

GAME NOTESDallas Whitney had his seventh game of four or more steals this season. … Valentino Simon had his eight season and 27th career double-double. … Kobe Smith scored in double figures in his fourth-straight game. … The Blue Dragons are now 58-21 all-time against Cloud County, including 34-3 at the Sports Arena. … This was all-time Blue Dragon win No. 1,914. … The Blue Dragons are 12-2 at the Sports Arena this season. This was the second game the Blue Dragons held an opponent to less than 30-percen shooting. … This was the fifth time this season, Hutchinson has held an opponent to less than 60 points.

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