HUTCHINSON — The novelist Thomas Wolfe wrote “You can never go home again.”
That was not true for Hutchinson native and Barton Community College sophomore Noah Webster, who scored 18 points in an 86-63 win over Tyler Junior College Monday morning in the opening game of the National Junior College Athletic Association Division I tournament at the Hutchinson Sports Arena.
The Buhler High School grad hit six of 10 from the field, including three of seven 3-pointers to lead the 28-6 Cougars into the second round.
“It just felt great, but seeing the crowd we had, that helped us in big ways,” Webster said. “Having crowd behind us and to be able to show them something, show them what we’ve been working for. Coming in here, people were doubting us, second thoughts and all this. We just knew if we would come out and play hard, it’s going to the team that wants it more. I don’t know if it’s an advantage, but it feels better to play a couple of games here. It comes down to being a game on the basketball court. There’s another level of confidence here, being from Hutch. All my friends and family are here.”
“We just played really hard,” Barton coach Craig Fletchall said. “A 10 a.m. game is not routine for anybody. They have a lot of talent. They jumped out to a 10-4 lead. That’s been our MO all year unfortunately. We finished the half strong, which is not common for us. We usually trail. It’s tough with a double-digit lead. You want to take that next step. We got a little loose with the ball and missed some open shots. We just talked about playing hard and enjoying the moment and represent Region VI.”
Like Webster, Fletchell has ties to Hutchinson. A native to the town, he is a former Hutchinson Trinity coach, winning a state title with the Celtics in 1987.
Barton finished second in the Jayhawk Conference Division I standings and lost to Hutchinson in the Region VI semifinals, gaining an at-large berth to the tournament. Fletchell said there were some doubters.
“It’s a lot like the NCAA,” Fletchell said. “We read a lot on social media. I’m not a social media guy, but it’s like Selection Sunday. When it comes down to the 6-7-8 teams, there are about eight or 10 teams deserving. It’s pretty much that got in because we are close and we bring fans. It was a nice crowd. I tell a lot of people it’s like K-State football. They get into good bowl because they travel well. There’s a lot to go with that. As much as I want it for these guys, I want it for our region too. We as coaches thought we were crazy when we took on that 26-game (conference) schedule. The disadvantage is we would just beat each other up, knock each other out. No one would have a glossy enough record to get in other than winning the region. We feel like the committee looked at us and saw that we played a lot of Division I teams, more than some of the teams above us.”
Kawanise Wilkins led the Cougars in scoring with 21 points. Elijah Ford scored 14. Keshon Montague scored 11. Marvin Cannon had 10 points with 14 rebounds and four blocked shots.
Tyler, which ends the season 26-7, was led by Micah Thomas with 14 points, followed by Cameron Johnson with 12, Brian Warren with 11 and TiAndre Jackson with 10.
“Congratulations to Barton and their fans,” Tyler coach Mike Marquis said. “They made the 10 a.m. game a great atmosphere. If you took a poll, everyone would be back in bed still. The way they shot it from the 3-point line was a huge difference. We couldn’t over come that. The first half, they took it to us. At the 10-minute mark, we cut it to 10. We took a couple of rushed shots that would have taken it inside of 10. Then they made a three and a dunk. Once it got to 15, that took our spirit from us.”
Tyler came into the tournament after winning the Region XIV tourney title. The Apaches took second in the Region XIV East Division title.
“Our league is so difficult,” Marquis said. “To win three games in three days and take such a pounding, we didn’t have the same level of enthusiasm we had the last couple of weeks. … I’m worried about us getting on the bus, because we might not have enough gas. We had five guys back that won 50 games in two years. In our league, that is difficult, difficult to do. I’m so proud of our program and our administration at Tyler. It hurts to lose. We’re going to go home, hit the books and do the rest of the things we need to do.”
Barton trailed 10-4 early, but tied it at 12 on a Wilkins shot in the lane with 14:30 left in the half. Down 16-12, Barton finally started clicking from both ends of the court to make a 15-2 run. Cannon hit two free throws with 4:11 in the half to put the Cougars up by 11.
Barton led by 14 at the half, 43-29.
The Cougars led by as many as 17 early in the second half despite some foul trouble. Fouls were 6-0 against Barton in the first seven minutes of the half.
Tyler drew as close as 10 midway in the second half. Barton replied with a 12-0 run that featured a Webster slam, followed by a 3-pointer. The run drained the life out of the Apache.
“We missed four straight free throws in there to keep it in striking distance, Marquis said. “They got a couple of layups to their credit. Our worry was they would break the press and bring it back out and make us more tired. They shot it fast, which we hoped they would do, which would give us a chance to attack. They made a couple of big threes. They were making threes all game long.”
“If that thing gets down to six or seven, the noose gets a little tighter,” Fletchall said.
Barton takes on top-seeded and 33-0 Indian Hills Community College at 2 p.m. today.
“There is a great history with Barton and Indian Hills going back to championship games (in 1999),” Fletchall said. “Coach (Hank) Plona has great talent. I feel blessed. We’re playing our second game, so that is going to help earl. The first few minutes of the game will be tough. I don’t care who you are.”
TYLER JUNIOR COLLEGE (26-7) — Johnson 5-13 2-4 12, Warren 4-16 2-5 11, Bergang 0-1 1-2 1, Jackson 3-9 2-2 10, Sandifer 2-4 0-0 4, Clark 0-0 0-0 0, Fontain 0-3 2-2 2, Thomas 4-12 3-4 14, Balentine 1-2 0-0 1, Luster 0-2 3-4 3, Agee 2-7 0-2 4, TOTALS 21-69 15-25 63.
BARTON COMMUNITY COLLEGE (28-6) — Wilkins 8-15 3-5 21, Ford 6-8 1-2 14, Montague 4-10 0-0 11, White 2-6 0-0 4, Webster 6-10 3-4 18, Andrews 0-1 0-0 0, Cannon 3-10 4-4 10, Haist 0-0 0-0 0, Thomas 0-0 0-0 0, Dalyrimple 2-5 0-0 6, Broomfield 1-3 0-0 2, TOTALS 32-68 11-15 86.
Total fouls — TJC 14, BCC 17. Technical fouls — none. Fouled out — none. 3-point shooting — TJC 6-21 (Warren 1-5, Jackson 2-6, Sandifer 0-1, Thomas 3-9), BCC 11-25 (Wilkins 2-5, Ford 1-1, Montague 3-7, Webster 3-7, Cannon 0-1, Dalyrimple 2-4). Rebounds — TJC 41 (Johnson 7, Agee 7), BCC 47 (Cannon 14 ). Assists — TJC 7 (Warren 3), BCC 22 (Wilkins 6). Turnovers — TJC 11 (Agee 3), BCC 12 (Webster 3). Blocked shots — TJC 3 (Johnson 1, Bergang 1, Sandifer 1), BCC 8 (Cannon 4). Steals — TJC 8 (Thomas 4), BCC 3 (Montague 1, Webster 1, Broomfield 1). Officials — n/a. Attendance — n/a.