By Lucas Barlow
The dream is finally over for the Hutchinson Community College men’s basketball team.
The daunting challenge of winning back-to- back national championships proved too difficult for
the Blue Dragons as they exited the NJCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship in the second round Wednesday night at the Sports Arena, falling to Florida SouthWestern State 80-65.
“They’re a good team,” Blue Dragons coach Steve Eck said. “We got their best shot tonight, and it showed.”
Many would say this is one of the more “rollercoaster-esque” seasons in recent years, as Hutchinson
experienced many highs and lows throughout the past six months. They also graduate one of
the most dynamic duos in sophomores J.J. Rhymes and Devonte Bandoo. However, the Blue
Dragons have nothing to be disappointed in, as they finish another great season with a, overall
29-7 record and fourth straight appearance at the national tournament.
The Sports Arena was the place to be Wednesday night, as the 11th-seeded Blue Dragons took on the sixth-seeded Buccaneers from Florida SouthWestern State in a highly-anticipated second-round game. Right from the beginning, it was apparent that the Buccaneers were hungry to knock off the defending national champions on their home court. The game was tight for a majority of the first half, with the Blue Dragons staying within 10 points, but after a
media timeout late in the half, things started to get ugly for Hutchinson.
Up 37-29 at the half, the Buccaneers did not slow their scoring in the second half, as they repeatedly knocked down
shots. Florida SouthWestern used its quick transition game and lethal scoring ability to put the
game to rest early.
After the first media timeout of the half, the Buccaneers were up almost by 20, and the Blue Dragons didn’t have enough firepower to get back in it. Hutchinson’s season was over 14 minutes later.
The Buccaneers shot an impressive 52.5 percent, while the Blue Dragons were held to 38.9 percent.
“Florida SouthWestern is well rounded, they run good offense, they play tough defense and it was tough to score out there,” Eck said.
Eck also stated that the height mismatch was difference maker and that the Buccaneers were no doubt the best team they’ve played all year.
The Blue Dragons graduate six sophomores this year- each of them playing vital parts on this year’s squad. However, Bandoo and Rhymes will go down as two of the best players in Hutchinson history. Rhymes finishes seventh in Blue Dragon leading scorers (1,295 points), while Bandoo finishes 15th (1,072 points). “I wouldn’t want to go out with any other group of guys,” Rhymes said in an emotional post-game interview. “We had our ups and downs, but their family that I wouldn’t want to trade for anything else, and I thank them for
“I also want to thank God for giving me this opportunity, and I can’t wait to see what he
has for me in the future.”
All of the sophomores leave will leave HutchCC with 64 total wins, a conference championship and of course, the 2017 national championship.