J.J. Rhymes scored a career-high 41 points and led the Blue Dragon men to rally from 26 points down in the first half in an 82-81 victory over Butler on Wednesday in El Dorado. (Joel Powers/Blue Dragon Sports Information)
J.J. Rhymes scored a career-high 41 points and led the Blue Dragon men to rally from 26 points down in the first half in an 82-81 victory over Butler on Wednesday in El Dorado. (Joel Powers/Blue Dragon Sports Information)

Hutchinson CC Sports Information

EL DORADO – Throughout the first 187 meetings between the Hutchinson Community College and Butler men's basketball teams, there have been so many memorable, heart-stopping battles.

Game No. 188, played Wednesday night at the Power Plant, may have topped them all.

The Blue Dragons had only two leads on Wednesday – 2-0 and when the clock struck all zeros at the final buzzer.

In between those points in time, the sixth-ranked Blue Dragons fell behind by as many as 26 points and then embarked on the largest comeback in program history in Hutchinson's 82-81 Jayhawk Conference victory over the Grizzlies.

Rhymes scored a career-high 41 points to lead the comeback. Trailing 81-79 with 6.9 seconds to play, Butler missed two free throws that would have iced the win. Instead the Dragons pushed the ball up the floor and Rhymes shot a guarded 3-pointer from 23 feet. The ball hit the front rim twice before falling in to complete the historic comeback.

The Dragons won their sixth-straight game and improve to 11-1 overall and 7-1 in the Jayhawk Conference. Butler falls to 5-6 overall, 2-6 in league play.

Hutchinson's previous largest comeback was 24 points 2006 Jayhawk Conference Shootout against Johnson County. The previous largest comeback in the Steve Eck era was 19 points against North Lake College on October 31, 2015.

The first half was nightmarish for the Blue Dragons:

+ After Sal Nuhu hit Hutch's first shot attempt of the game, the Blue Dragons then missed their next 15 shots over a span of 11 minutes. The Dragons were down 24-3 when Rhymes hit Hutch's second field goal of the game at the 8:35 mark of the half.

+ Butler increased its lead to 36-10 with 4:42 to go on a Russell Smith jumper.

+ The Dragons managed to shave off eight points of that deficit by halftime (41-23). The lowest scoring half this season saw the Blue Dragons make only 9 of 29 shots in the opening 20 minutes.

+ As the teams were headed to the locker room at halftime, Eck was assessed his second technical foul of the game and was ejected for the first time in his 39 seasons as a coach. That meant assistant coach Reggie Freeman took over on the bench.

The first 35 seconds of the second half weren't any better as Butler scored seven quick points to build a 25-point lead at 48-23 with 19:25 to play. Rhymes, who had nine points at halftime, stopped that run with a slashing move to the hoop and started the comeback.

Rhymes, whose 41 points ties Kadeem Allen for the fifth-most points scored in a Blue Dragon game, scored 32 points in the second half on 11 of 13 shooting and 9 of 14 shooting from the foul line. Rhymes is the first Blue Dragon to score 40 or more points in a game since Bashir Ahmed tied the school record with 46 points in a 2016 triple-overtime loss to Cowley at the Sports Arena. For the game, Rhymes was 15 of 23 from the field and 10 of 16 from the foul line in becoming the seventh Blue Dragon ever to score 40 or more points in a game.

Curtis Hollis, who nailed a key late 3-pointer in the game's final 30 seconds was next with 10 points. Devonte Bandoo had nine points and Rob Whitfield had eight, including two huge second-half 3-pointers during the comeback.

The Blue Dragons finished 30 of 62 shooting (48.4 percent), going 6 of 15 from the 3-point line and 16 of 24 from the foul line. The Dragons had only 12 turnovers, but were out-rebounded 37-33.

Ketarrious Bouchum and Smith had 21 points each to lead the Grizzlies, who finished 29 of 59 shooting (49.2 percent), hitting 6 of 18 from 3-point range and 17 of 23 from the foul line. The Grizzlies had 16 turnovers.

Midway through the second half, a Blue Dragon comeback seemed unlikely after a Bouchum 3-pointer with 10:28 left gave the Grizzlies a 69-47 lead. Over the next 7 1/2 minutes, the Blue Dragons went on a 20-2 run and pulled within 71-67 after a Rhymes basket with 3:01 to play.

The Dragons kept slicing away and cut the lead to 73-72 after a Bandoo 3-pointer with 2:12 left. The Grizzlies scored four quick points to rebuild a five-point lead. Butler maintained that lead at 81-76 with 16 seconds left after two Bouchum free throws. Hollis quickly hit a 3-pointer with 11 seconds left to pull within 81-79. That set up the two missed Butler free throws with 6.9 seconds left and Rhymes' game-winner.

The Blue Dragons turned their shooting fortunes around with 63.6 percent shooting (21 of 33) in the second half. The Grizzlies shot 50 percent (14 of 28) in the second half.

Hutchinson will battle Barton at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday at the Sports Arena in a battle of two of the three teams tied for first place in the Jayhawk Conference.