HUTCHINSON — In a historic week for the National Junior College Athletic Association Division-I basketball ranks, Barton Community College tried to pull a comeback for the ages on Wednesday night at the Hutchinson Sports Arena.
With the Hutchinson Blue Dragons making history, having achieved the status of being the first men’s and women’s programs from a single school to be ranked No. 1 at the same time, the 13th-ranked Barton men made a furious run down the stretch before Hutch survived in a 79-77 nail-biting cliffhanger.
“We’ve got a hurt locker room right now, and we were hurt a week ago from Garden City,” said Barton head coach Craig Fletchall, whose team dropped only its third game in 19 games this season, falling to 3-2 in the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference Western Division. “Our guys need to remember this feeling.
“It wasn’t the Super Bowl, but it was a fun game to be a part of. Yet, a month from now, they have to come to our house and our guys have to remember that.”
Trailing 77-71 in the game’s final minute, freshman guard Kevin Kuteyi and Co. tried to pull the Cougars from the brink. Kuteyi’s pair of free throws with 41.9 seconds remaining closed the gap to 77-73.
After Barton guard Al Key fouled Hutch’s A.J. Spencer with 21.1 seconds remaining, the Dragons’ sophomore guard made 1 of 2 at the foul line for a 78-73 edge. Hutch’s Rozell Nunn then fouled Key, sending Key to the line with 20.2 ticks to go.
Key made the first of two free throws, trimming the margin to 78-74, and Barton post player Rapheal Stephens grabbed a crucial offensive rebound. After a quick timeout, Kuteyi drained an NBA-range 3-pointer from the left wing with 12.7 seconds left, slashing the margin to 78-77 and setting up a frantic finish.
After Hutch all-star guard Kadeem Allen missed a pair of free throws with 10 seconds left, Stephens grabbed the rebound and the Cougars had a chance to take the lead, but Kuteyi’s outlet pass sailed out of bounds with 0:05 left on the clock.
Barton guard Turon Parker fouled Allen on the inbounds play, and he made the first shot but missed the second.
That gave the Cougars one final shot, but Kuteyi’s desperation 3 from in front of the half-court line fell short and the Dragons were able to survive.
“It didn’t come down to the turnover and the missed shot at the end,” Fletchall said. “We shot ourselves in the foot with some missed shots and missed free throws.
“I really appreciate our crowd that came. Our crowd, our bench, I really thought we believed we had a chance and that’s good at the end. We tried to get a quick foul and that is all you can do.”
Despite shooting only 37.5 percent from the field in the opening half, Barton was able to hang tough, trailing 38-31 at halftime.
The game not even five minutes old, Hutch led 12-7 before the Cougars finally got some rhythm.
Barton’s Dominique Wilson made 1 of 2 free throws, the start of a 9-2 surge to put it ahead 16-14 with 12:04 left in the half. Key added a jumper and then Kuteyi and Andell Cumberbatch hit back-to-back 3s for the two-point lead.
Leading 21-19 midway through the first half, the Dragons scored eight unanswered points for a 29-19 edge at the 8:21 mark.
But the Cougars, struggling to get any consistency, still wouldn’t let Hutch stretch out its lead as the two teams traded baskets the remainder of the half.
“We took some possessions off during the game,” Fletchall said. “In the first half, our three starting guards (Key, Parker and Cumberbatch) were 4-for-17. To be down five, I was pleased.
“In the second half, Turon looked like an assassin and Algie started getting going. All of a sudden, they had to help off and their bigs got some tip-ins."
Parker was on fire in the second half, where he scored 17 of his 21 points, including a trio of 3s, to help the Cougars stay in contention.
“I give all the credit to Hutch,” Fletchall said. “They’re ranked No. 1 for a reason and I like their team. They have all of the pieces to the puzzle that they need.
“It’s going to be a dogfight for anybody that thinks they can catch them.”
Kansas Jayhawk Community
Hutchinson Sports Arena
No. 1 Hutchinson 79,
No. 13 Barton 77
BARTON (16-3, 3-2)
Turon Parker 9-16 0-0 21, Kevin Kuteyi 4-9 5-6 16, Dominique Wilson 5-7 2-4 12, Andell Cumberbatch 3-10 3-4 10, Raheem Johnson 3-5 0-2 6, Algie Key 2-10 1-5 6, Trey Unrau 1-1 0-0 3, Rapheal Stephens 1-4 1-3 3, John Goodson 0-0 0-0 0, Shaka Thomas 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 28-62 12-24 77.
HUTCHINSON (18-0, 4-0)
Kadeem Allen 7-18 6-10 22, Alex Davis 4-9 9-16 17, Tafari Whittingham 5-13 3-5 13, A.J. Spencer 4-9 2-3 10, Rozell Nunn 3-6 2-2 8, Dre Henley 3-4 0-0 6, Jack Pyle 1-2 0-0 3, Nathan Jackson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 27-61 22-36 79.
Halftime — Hutchinson 38, Barton 33. Three-point goals — Barton 9-17 (Parker 3-5, Kuteyi 3-5, Cumberbatch 1-4, Key 1-2, Unrau 1-1); Hutchinson 3-10 (Allen 2-6, Pyle 1-1, Spencer 0-1, Nunn 0-2). Rebounds — Barton 47 (Stephens 11); Hutchinson 36 (Nunn 6, Whittingham 6). Assists — Barton 12 (Key 6); Hutchinson 10 (Allen 5). Turnovers — Barton 13, Hutchinson 8. Steals — Hutchinson 6 (Allen 3); Barton 2 (Cumberbatch, Stephens). Blocked shots — Hutchinson 6 (Davis 3); Barton 4 (Johnson 2). Total fouls — Barton 25, Hutchinson 18. Fouled out — Barton (Johnson); Hutchinson (None).