By STEVE CARPENTER - Hutchinson CC Sports Information
Hutchinson Community College men's basketball head coach Steve Eck's 400th game with the Blue Dragons turned out to be a postseason milestone for the NJCAA's all-time winningest program.
Powered by a dominant first half, the Region VI Tournament top-seeded Blue Dragons defeated the Independence Pirates 93-74 in the Region VI Tournament quarterfinals at the Sports Arena to post the program's 200th all-time postseason victory.
The Blue Dragons are now 200-80 all-time in postseason play, including 139-49 all-time in the Region VI Tournament. Over his first 400 games on the Blue Dragon bench, Eck is now 325-75.
Hutchinson (17-5) advances to its 44th Region VI Tournament semifinal where the Blue Dragons will play fourth-seeded Coffeyville at 2 p.m. on Friday at Friends University in Wichita.
The Blue Dragons used a 16-4 run midway through the first half to turn a three-point lead into a 27-12 cushion with 9:24 to play in the period.
Sophomore forward Matt Mayers broke out of a mini scoring slump with 20 first-half points on 9 of 11 shooting to power the Blue Dragons to a 45-27 halftime lead. The Dragons shot 48.6 percent in the first half and held the Pirates to 25.7 percent from the floor, including 2 of 8 from 3-point range in the first half. Independence hit 16 3-pointers in a 79-77 regular-season Blue Dragon win over the Pirates in February in Independence.
A Majok Kuath dunk to open the second half gave the Blue Dragons their first 20-point lead of the game. Independence never drew closer than 18 points at any point in the final 20 minutes.
Mayers posted his sixth 20-point game of the season with 26 points on 11 of 13 shooting to lead the Blue Dragons in the quarterfinals. Mayers also had eight rebounds, three assists and a blocked shot.
Josh Baker moved into 11th place on the career 3-point shooting list with 106 after hitting 3 of 4 from distance to finish with nine points and five assists. Isaiah Bujdoso also had nine points. Stephan Gabriel had eight points.
The Blue Dragons shot 51.4 percent for the game (37 of 72), hitting 4 of 9 from 3-point range and 15 of 16 from the free-throw line. Hutchinson out-rebounded Independence 52-33, but suffered 19 turnovers.
Madison Monroe became the second Blue Dragon opponent with 30 or more points in a game with 33 points. Monroe was 10 of 20 shooting overall, including 5 of 7 from 3-point range and 8 of 8 from the foul line. Tim Dalger had 11 points and Keeving Etienne had 10 points.
The Pirates shot 32.0 percent for the game (24 of 75), hitting 10 of 27 3-pointers and 16 of 19 from the free-throw line.
Independence closes its season at 13-10.
GAME NOTES: The Blue Dragons are 44-11 in the Region VI Tournament quarterfinal round. … The Blue Dragons are now 15-7 all-time against Independence in 22 postseason meetings. The Dragons have won 15 consecutive games over Independence and now lead the overall series 51-23. … The Blue Dragons had four players with seven or more rebounds. Mayers and Okon had eight boards, while Selebangue and Gabriel had seven rebounds each.