By Mike Pilosof
Wichita, KS-Over the past decade, the Hutchinson women have been the most consistent program in the Jayhawk Conference. Five times they claimed the Region VI crown and twice they came within one game of hoisting the national championship trophy.
So it was no surprise that the Broncbusters came in as heavy underdogs against the Blue Dragons in their Region-VI quarterfinal showdown despite Garden City's 12-point win in Hutchinson just a month earlier.
And in typical Hutchinson fashion, the Blue Dragons slowly forced Garden City into submission, imposing their will in a dominating second half.
Dejanae Roebuck recorded her 13th double-double of the season with 11 points and 11 rebounds, Alicia Brown chipped in 10, and No. 9 Hutchinson pulled away for a 55-37 victory over Garden City at Hartman Arena, advancing to the Region VI semifinals for the 10th consecutive season. The Blue Dragons outscored the Broncbusters 30-16 over the final 20 minutes.
"Hutch is a really good team," Broncbusters Head Coach Charinee Mitchell said. "But this was the same story as it's been all season long: we just couldn't hit shots."
After hitting five of their first 10 from the field, Garden City went ice cold the rest of the way, misfiring on 25 of their final 35 attempts. In the end, the Broncbusters finished the afternoon 15-of-55 from the field (27 percent).
"We have to find shooters' that's on me," Mitchell said. "That will be our focus in recruiting."
While shooting was a big contributor to the loss, lack of execution at the end of quarters coupled with a couple of careless turnovers put Garden City's upset bid to bed.
Leading by one with 10 seconds remaining in the first, Garden City (20-12, 16-10) was slow on a defensive rotation, which left Kayla Barber unattended at the top of the arc. The sophomore drilled a 3-pointer at the buzzer, and Hutchinson (27-5, 21-5) had a 15-13 edge. It was one of five lead changes in the opening period, but this time the Blue Dragons never relinquished it.
"I thought our attention to detail was pretty good for about three quarters," Mitchell said "But again, if you can't make shots, you're not going to win."
The Blue Dragons built their lead to five when Roebuck hit a driving layup to make it 21-16 with 6:24 to go in the half. Garden City though, showed their resiliency, getting a free throw from Shakendra Tilley and back-to-back baskets by Kala Jones that tied the score. But end-of-quarter execution burned Mitchell's squad again.
Brown hit a jumper to put Hutchinson on top 23-21; then Vivian Chigbu stole the ball from Washington before throwing up a right-handed scoop shot that banked in off the glass at the horn, giving the Blue Dragons a four-point halftime lead.
"It's easy to see where we lost this game," Mitchell said. "Poor shooting and untimely turnovers certainly didn't help us."
Nor did a seven-minute scoring drought that lasted from the end of the second quarter to the midway portion of the third. During that same span, Hutchinson scored nine straight points to build a nine-point advantage.
"When you get to this point of the season, teams separate themselves," Mitchell said. "And I felt like we got rid of that slug bug that had really hampered us the last couple of games."
Garden City made one final push to work their way back in the game. Washington hit a tough finger roll in the paint, and Tilley stole the ball from Barber at half court before drilling a midrange jumper to slice the deficit to five, 30-25 with 5:20 to play in the third. But that's the closest the Broncbusters got the rest of the way as they managed just four points over the final 4:29 of the period. They were down nine going to the fourth.
"We kind of lost our way in the fourth quarter," Mitchell said. "Up until that point, we gave ourselves a chance."
The Blue Dragons punished the Broncbusters in the final stanza, building their lead to as many as 21 with 1:00 to go. They outscored Garden City 17-8 in the period.
"I'm proud of this team," Mitchell said. "We really turned it on when we came back from the Christmas break. And I thought we had a lot of great moments this year."
Washington led the Broncbusters with 14 points in 37 minutes, and Green chipped in nine. But the freshman was just 1-of-10 shooting.
Barber tallied 10 for Hutchinson, who is in position to win their sixth region title in the last seasons.