Trailing by twenty-five points into the second half media timeout, the Barton Community College men's basketball team launched a furious rally Wednesday night at the Hutchinson Sports Arena to cut the deficit to two before falling 95-89 to the nation's No. 2 ranked Blue Dragons of Hutchinson Community College. Receiving votes in the latest NJCAA poll, Barton had their chances to tie or go ahead in the final two minutes but failed to convert as Hutchinson sank a perfect eight free throws in the final minute to win their fourth straight over the Cougars. The loss drops the Cougars to 16-6 in the Jayhawk and 20-6 overall while the victory clinches the conference championship for Hutchinson improving to 21-1 and 25-1 on the year. Barton's next action comes Saturday as the Cougars host Cloud County Community College in a 7:30 p.m. tip-off on Hall of Fame and Black Out Night at the Barton Gym.
Barton had a balanced attack on the night with five Cougars reaching double figures being led by Malik Rhodes' fifteen points coming off the bench. Scoring all of his points in second half action, Rhodes was a key contributor to the Cougars' comeback with nine straight points in a little over a minute beginning with burying a three-pointer and ending with a slash through the lane drawing Barton to within 87-85 with 1:21 to play. A missed opportunity of securing a defensive rebound on the ensuing Hutchinson trip down the court resulted in two free throws with fifty-eight seconds pushing the lead back to four.
An ensuing empty possession for Barton resulted in two more Hutchinson made tosses and following two Jahlil Rawley free throws, the Blue Dragons knocked down another pair pushing the lead back to six. Rawley scored the last of his twelve points with a layup with nineteen seconds remaining but Samajae Haynes-Jones finished off his twenty-four point night closing the door with a pair of charity throws with fourteen ticks on the clock.
Ezekiel Charles added thirteen while Anthony Smith joined Rawley with twelve points. Coming off consecutive twenty-plus games, Hutchinson native Noah Webster made his first collegiate start but struggled on the night finishing with ten points. Along with Rhodes, Keeshawn Palmer had a big second half scoring nine points while leading the Cougars with eight rebounds. Rawley dished out a game high nine assists to go along with his point production with Smith and Charles each coming up with three thefts as Barton won the category 13-1.
Joining Haynes-Jones in double-figures were four other Blue Dragons with J.J. Rhymes close behind with twenty-two. Shakur Juiston had a monster night scoring eighteen points, dished out six assists, and led a fifteen Hutchinson domination of the boards grabbing fifteen. Devonte Bandoo provided a spark off the bench with thirteen while James Conley added twelve while dishing out a team high eight assists.
Barton committed a season low six turnovers against the athletic Blue Dragons but shot just 27% from the field in first half action to finish with their third worst shooting percentage of the year at 39% putting up nineteen more shots than Hutchinson on the night. Hutchinson meanwhile connected on 50% of their shots in both halves outscoring Barton by seven at the stripe and having a four block edge as the teams combined for fourteen rejections.