Hutchinson solid from start to finish in 81-60 victory over Western Nebraska
LUBBOCK, Texas – Makayla Vannett drained six 3-pointers as par of her game-high 20 points, and No. 13 Hutchinson Community College slowly and methodically pulled away from No. 20 Western Nebraska Community College for an 81-60 victory in the opening round of the NJCAA Division I Women’s Basketball National Championship on Monday at the Rip Griffin Center.
Abby Ogle added 16 points and Dejanae Roebuck chipped in 12 for the Blue Dragons (31-3), who also dominated at the free-throw line (18 of 20) and committed just nine turnovers.
“My teammates attacking the basket kind of opened up me shooting because they would all collapse on my teammates, and it would create opens shots for me,” Vannett said. “We’ve got to attack. We knew they had shooters and that they weren’t really good guarding the ball, so we attacked them and made them foul, which opened up the game more.”
Western Nebraska came into the game as one of top 3-point shooting teams in the country, ranking first in treys made per game at 11.8. But the Lady Cougars, who saw their 17-game winning streak come to an end, struggled from beyond the arc against the Blue Dragons, hitting just 28.1 percent (9 of 32).
That lack of consistent scoring allowed Hutchinson to slowly and methodically pull away.
The Blue Dragons led by just six at halftime after Tishara Morehouse hit a 3-pointer with four seconds left for the Lady Cougars. But Hutchinson did not allow Western Nebraska to hang onto that momentum after halftime, opening the third quarter on an 11-5 run to take its first double-digit lead of the game at 48-36 with just over six minutes left in the third.
From there, the Blue Dragons continued to build the lead, outscoring Western Nebraska 24-13 in the third quarter to lead by 15 going into the fourth, then put the game away with a 10-0 run to begin the fourth.
“We beat a very good Western Nebraska team,” Hutchinson head coach John Ontjes said. “Tonight, I thought we defended the 3-point line probably as best we could. We knew they were going to miss some threes for us to be successful and I think the difference in the game was our ability to attack and go to the free-throw line 20 times, and take care of the basketball. We guarded and rebounded like we have all year long.”
Merle Wiehl led Western Nebraska with 17 points while Morehouse finished with 13, but they were a combined 5-for-19 from 3-point range.
Even with Vannett hitting her 3-pointers, the Blue Dragons were dominant inside, outscoring Western Nebraska 38-18 on points in the paint and outrebounding the Lady Cougars 43-27.
“We were just trying to be as solid as we could,” Ontjes said. “In the first half our transition defense wasn’t very good. We were trying to knock off some of the rust, and in the second half our transition defense was better. They have so many great shooters, and we were trying to keep them in front of us, trying to contest every three that we could and trying to get luck with them missing a few.”
Hutchinson led at the intermission thanks to a strong shooting first quarter. The Blue Dragons he 63.6 percent from the field (7 of 11) in the first 10 minutes to lead 21-17 at the end of the period.
Western Nebraska didn’t shoot poorly, hitting 40 percent (8 of 20) in the period. But the Lady Cougars were undone by a 1-for-7 struggle at the 3-point line that grew to just 2 of 9 from beyond the arc for the first half.
The Blue Dragons also did a good job taking care of the ball, coming just three first-half turnovers.
Hutchinson led by just six at the half, 37-31, then slowly began to expand its lead while Western Nebraska struggled to get any consistent scoring. The Blue Dragons opened the third period with an 11-5 run to take their largest lead of the game at 48-36 with 6:08 left in the period, and never let the Lady Cougars get into a groove offensively.