James Rojas has a career-high 22 points to lead the Blue Dragons to a key Jayhawk Conference 85-72 victory over Barton on Wednesday in Great Bend. (Allie Schweizer/Blue Dragon Sports Information)
James Rojas has a career-high 22 points to lead the Blue Dragons to a key Jayhawk Conference 85-72 victory over Barton on Wednesday in Great Bend. (Allie Schweizer/Blue Dragon Sports Information)

Hutchinson CC Sports Information

GREAT BEND – James Rojas came off the bench to score a career-high 22 points and spark the Hutchinson Community College men's basketball team to a key Jayhawk Conference victory on Wednesday at Barton.

The No. 14-ranked Blue Dragons defeated No. 10 Barton 85-72 at the Barton Gym. The Blue Dragons, along with Coffeyville's victory on Wednesday, move into a three-way tie with Barton for first place in the Jayhawk Conference. Hutchinson improves to 22-4 overall, 18-4 in the conference.

The victory also gives Hutchinson the head-to-head tiebreaker over Barton after completing the regular-season series sweep of the Cougars.

Rojas provided a huge spark for the Blue Dragons, scoring 15 of Hutchinson's first 23 points of the game. His transition dunk from a Rob Whitfield steal with 13:32 to play gave the Dragons the lead for good at 13-11. When he nailed a 3-pointer with 9:13 remaining, the Dragons led 23-17.

Hutchinson held Barton to 29.4 percent shooting in the first half and build a 41-34 lead by halftime.

The Blue Dragons broke the game open with an 18-6 run over the first 6 minutes of the second half.

Rojas was 8 of 12 shooting, including a season-high two 3-pointers to finish with 22 points and seven rebounds.

Sophomore Devonte Bandoo had 19 points on 6 of 12 shooting, including 3 of 5 from 3-point range. Bandoo had seven rebounds, five assists and two steals.

Whitfield had 16 points on 7 of 15 shooting with two 3-pointers. Whitfield had a career-high eight rebounds and three assists.

Tiylar Cotton had two 3s and finished with eight points. J.J. Rhymes had eight points and four assists.

The Blue Dragons shot 30 of 67 for the game (44.8 percent), hitting 9 of 16 from 3-point range and 16 of 23 from the free-throw line. The Dragons were dominant on the boards, out-rebounding Barton 54-37 with 14 offensive rebounds. Kai Mitchell tied a season high with 12 rebounds.

Kawanise Wilkins hit for a game-high 22 points to lead the Cougars. He added 12 rebounds and four assists. Keshon Montague had 16 points.

The Cougars were limited to 35.7 percent (25 of 70), hitting 6 of 29 from 3-point range and 16 of 24 from the foul line.

Each team had early runs – Hutch started with a 7-0 string and Barton countered with an 8-1 run to knot the score at 8-all with 15:15 to play. Tied at 11, Rojas' dunk ignited an initial 9-4 run. The run increased to 12-6 when Rojas' 3-pointer gave the Dragons a 23-17 lead with 9:13 to play and Barton was playing uphill the rest of the night.

A Bandoo 3-pointer boosted the Dragons to a 30-22 lead with 6:27 to play in the half. Then leading 34-28, Bandoo hit another 3-pointer at the 2:33 mark to give Hutch a 37-28 lead. The Cougars scored the final points of the half on a Montague basket, which cut the Dragon lead to 41-34.

Hutchinson scored the first eight points of the second half. When Sal Nuhu hit a pair of free throws at the 17:48 mark, the lead ballooned to 15 at 49-34.

Barton made several runs, but the Dragons continued to find answers.

Leading 50-38, Rhymes scored inside from Whitfield assist with 16:05 left. That sparks a 9-2 Hutch run that was capped by Whitfield's putback with 14:01 to play to rebuild a 59-40.

With Hutch up 63-50, Cotton knocked down a 3 from the left wing for a 16-point lead with 8:28 to play. With Hutch leading 68-56, Cotton answered again with a 3-pointer to boost the Dragon lead back to 15 with 5:10 to go.

Rojas buried his second 3-pointer of the game for a 78-58 Dragon lead with 3:01 left. Barton went on a 9-2 run to trim the lead to 13. Whitfield had the final answer for Hutchinson with a 3-pointer at the 1:13 mark for an 83-67 lead.

The Blue Dragons play host to Cowley at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday for Pink-Out Night at the Sports Arena.

GAME NOTES – The Blue Dragons defeated Barton for the sixth straight time and are now 85-26 all time, including 34-15 in Great Bend. … J.J. Rhymes moved into 12th place on the Blue Dragon career scoring list with 1,113 points, moving past William Davis (1986-88).