Apr 01, 2024

🏀 WBB: It's been quite a journey for Blue Dragon guard Armstead

Posted Apr 01, 2024 1:38 PM
Journey Armstead has been the leader for the 2024 Blue Dragons on their run to the national championship game on Monday in Casper. Wyoming. (Steve Carpenter/Blue Dragon Sports Information)
Journey Armstead has been the leader for the 2024 Blue Dragons on their run to the national championship game on Monday in Casper. Wyoming. (Steve Carpenter/Blue Dragon Sports Information)

By Steve Carpenter
HutchCC Sports Information Director

CASPER, Wyoming – During her sophomore night ceremony in February at the Sports Arena, it was written into the script that Journey Armstead averaged 4 1/2 floor burns per game amongst her other statistics.

For fans who have watched the Hutchinson Community College sophomore point guard from Sand Springs, Oklahoma, over the past two seasons, that average probably isn't far from reality.

"If you aren't getting floor burns and getting bumps and bruises, they you aren't playing hard," Armstead said Sunday after the Blue Dragons' final practice before Monday's NJCAA Women's Tournament national championship game against Northwest Florida State. "Coach always tells us to give our all no matter what. That's just me playing hard."

After a freshman season that had more ups and downs than an amusement park roller coaster, this past summer Armstead dedicated herself to the notion that 2024 wouldn't end like 2023.

It wasn't that Armstead's freshman season was devoid of success – the Blue Dragon women finished 23-8 and earned a first-round bye for the Region VI Tournament with a fourth-place finish in the Jayhawk Conference. A lot of the consternation goes to a stunning quarterfinal loss and a premature end to a sometimes-challenging season.

When dissecting the 2023 season, it was determined a major element was missing – leadership. Armstead wasn't about to let that happed in her sophomore year.

"Last summer when were working out, I had a brand new team," Armstead recalled. "I came in with the mindset that I had to push them. So as a leader, if I do something right and work really hard, they would follow me. I've got to be better every day."

"Journey has really grown up and matured," said head coach John Ontjes, who was a point guard in his playing days at Nickerson High School, Hutchinson Community College and the University of Oklahoma. "She had accepted coaching. Her leadership for the ball club has been very consistent."

Armstead came to Hutchinson out of Charles Page High School as a "pass-first" point guard, meaning she is looking to set up teammates to score. This season, though, Armstead has become a scoring option as well. She said that aspect has been the most improved area of her overall game.

Armstead averaged 9.6 points per game as a freshman. While her season scoring average of 10.0 points as a sophomore isn't much higher, the quality of points and the variety of ways she is scoring has been greatly improved.

Her outside shooting is much better from both the mid-range and 3-point line. But she has become most known for her hard-driving takes to the hoop, many of which find her hitting the floor at the end of the drive.

"Last year I had a lot of scorers on the team and my mentality with that team was pass first and a defensive player," Armstead said. "This year I became better at scoring and passing. I've gotten better at seeing my teammates, but score when I can,"

When asked to compare Armstead with other past Blue Dragon point guards, Ontjes said 2013 point guard Christassia Walter comes to mind. Both Armstead and Walter have the same high-motor mentality and are able to deliver for their teams in very similar ways.

"The point guard had to be the hardest-working kid," Ontjes said. "They have to be very vocal. They have to understand and know time and score. They have to understand when it's time to push the ball and get easy baskets and when it's time to run offense.

"The strength of this team is being able to score in transition and Journey's a big reason why because of her vision."

A second-team All-Jayhawk Conference performer this season, Armstead enters Monday's championship game No. 2 in Blue Dragon career assists with 338. Her 189 assists this season rank No. 4 on the single-season list. Her 5.2 assists per game were second in the KJCCC this season.

Her career-high 11 assists this season against Seward County on February 24 in Liberal tied for the fourth most in Hutchinson single-game history. Armstead has four games or 10 or more assists and 11 career games of eight more assists, including eight this season.

Armstead said there had been thousands of hours of work on and off the court to put those numbers together.

"I go back and watch film a lot," she said. "I look at when I make a mistake, I work to correct myself. I look at how I get a teammate the ball and I have to throw it a certain way to certain players. Coach has helped me a lot with that."

Now the Blue Dragon point guard is looking to finish things off the right way Monday night.

"Coach told us that last year was the first year the team didn't get to put up any kind of banner," she said. "This year we decided to make sure people remember our sophomores. Me, Mo (Monae Duffy), Bree (Horyna) and Brynn (McCormick) took that personally and we went out to prove everybody wrong this year."