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BLUE DRAGON ATHLETICS

HUTCHINSON COMMUNITY COLLEGE

1300 N. PLUM

HUTCHINSON, KANSAS 67501

(620) 665-3530

FAX # (620) 665-3394

 

1988 NATIONAL CHAMPIONS


Steve Fritz (3) scores for the Blue Dragons in their

1988 first-round NJCAA tournament game against Chipola, Florida. 

Looking on is HCC's William Davis (44).

   The Hutchinson Blue Dragons finally found the pot of gold on Saturday, March 20, 1988.

After years and years of coming up short when it came to the NJCAA Tournament, the Blue Dragons ended all of that talk.

Steve Fritz, a future United States Olympian, converted a three-point play with 22 seconds remaining to give Hutchinson a 76-74 victory over Kankakee, Ill., in the 1988 national championship game at the Sports Arena for the Blue Dragons first-ever national championship in men’s basketball.

Hutchinson, making its third appearance in the NJCAA Tournament championship game, put the finishing touches on its most successful season in the 57-year history of the program. The Dragons won a school-record 37 games, while losing just two. Now the Dragons can add a national championship to its long and storied history.

“We are a very fortunate basketball team,” said HCC head coach David Farrar, who led the Dragons to a national championship in just his second season at Hutch. “Kankakee had the hardest playing team I’ve seen in the two years I’ve been here.”

Kankakee used its superior quickness to force Hutchinson into 14 turnovers and 43-percent shooting from the field in the first half. The Cavaliers led by as many as 12 points in the first half, but the play of Reggie Morton helped the Dragons pull within five, 39-34, at halftime.

“We were very fortunate to be within five at halftime,” Farrar said. “We couldn’t do much technique-wise. We just had to get more physical. It was pretty important for us to get off to a good start in the second half.”

The Dragons did just that. Maurice Brittian slammed a dunk home with 16 minutes, 55 seconds left to five HCC its first lead. The Dragons led by as many as five before Kankakee rallied back to take the lead. Neither team led by more than three points the rest of the way.

Kankakee was on the verge of ending Hutchinson’s hopes of a first national title when the Cavaliers had the ball and a three-point lead with 2:30 left in the game.

Fritz came up with the two biggest

 plays in the tournament for Hutchinson. Kankakee took a 71-68 lead on a basket by Andy Kpedi. The Dragons missed on their next possession and the Cavaliers pulled down the rebound. Fritz stole the ball and converted a layup to pull Hutch within one at 71-70 with 1:50 left.

Kpedi was fouled and hit one free throw to put Kankakee up 72-70. Reggie Morton, who had his best game of the tournament for Hutch, hit a 3-point field goal with 1:10 left to five HCC a 73-72 lead.

Kankakee came right back and took a 74-73 lead with 55 seconds to go on Maurice Lamar basket. What happened next put Fritz’s name firmly entrenched into Blue Dragon lore.

Fritz found a seam in Kankakee’s zone defense and drove to the hoop. He hit a bank shot from the left side and was fouled with 22 seconds to go. Fritz, an 80-plus percent free throw shooter, calmly sank the free throw to give HCC a 76-74 lead.

“I wasn’t even thinking about it at the time,” Fritz said. “I hadn’t played well until that time. I just tried to relax as much as possible.”

Kankakee still had 22 seconds left. After taking a pair of timeouts with eight seconds left, the Cavs decided to go for the win.

Andre Tate’s 3-point attempt hit the back of the rim and bounced over the backboard and out of bounds with 1 second remaining. The Hutchinson crowd erupted and littered the floor with toilet paper after Kankakee called a timeout.

While the fans celebrated, the officials discussed whether to call a technical foul on the Dragons because the crowd threw debris on the floor before the game’s completion. There was a five-minute discussion before it was determined that it was a neutral floor and no technical was assessed.

The national championship was finally owned by the Blue Dragons.

“This really means a lot,” Fritz said. “It’s hard to imagine that from over 500 schools, we are the best.”

The Dragons did not shoot well in the first half, but missed only six shots in the second half. William Davis capped off a brilliant tournament and HCC career with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Morton led the Dragons with 20 points, hitting four 3-pointers. Brittian finished with 13 points.

The Dragons broke two school records. One was for the most wins in one season at 37 and the other was points scored in the season at 3,240.

“It’s been a long year,” Farrar said. “What this means is that nine kids invested time and energy toward a goal. They reached all four of their goals. They sacrificed themselves to play as a unit. They proved to be the most consistent team in basketball.”

The Dragons also reaped the top individual tournament awards. Brittian was named the 1988 tournament’s Most Valuable Player. Brittian averaged 13 points per game during the tournament, but was intimidating on defense as well.

Brittian, Davis and Fritz were all named to the All-Tournament team. Davis averaged 17.5 points and 8 rebounds per game, both HCC highs for the tournament. Fritz averaged 11.7 points per game.

Farrar was named the Coach of the Tournament.

After defeating Independence in the Region 6 championship game, the Dragons played Chipola, Fla., in the first round of the 1988 NJCAA Tournament. Despite some tense moments down the stretch, the Blue Dragons held on for a 70-64 victory. The Dragons built a 58-40 lead with 6:50 left in the game, but the Dragons grew tentative on offense in the final minutes and Chipola climbed back into the ballgame.

Behind the play of Karl Brown and Gary Brown, Chipola drew within five, 65-60 with 57 seconds left. HCC freshman Cody Walters hit one of two free throws and was fouled again, but missed the front end of a one-and-one, but Fritz grabbed the rebound and scored with 26 seconds left.

Davis led a balanced HCC attack with 15 points. Fritz and Kevin Howard added 12 each. The Dragons shot 56 percent from the field.

HCC earned a spot in the national semifinals with a hard-fought 97-90 victory over Shelby State, Tenn., in a second-round matchup. The Dragons led 50-32 at halftime, shooting 69 percent from the field and 14 of 17 from the foul line. After shooting only 38 percent in the first half, Shelby State started heating up in the final 20 minutes. But Hutch maintained its lead hitting 20 of 27 free throws in the second half. Davis has 17 points, while Brittian and Fritz had 16 each. Shaun Vandiver came off the bench to score 14 and Howard had 10. HCC shot 63 percent for the game.

The Dragons defeated Mattatuck, Conn., 86-63 in Friday night’s semifinals to earn a berth in the national title game for the third time. The others were in 1949 and 1973. Hutchinson shot 64 percent from the field and defensively controlled Mattatuck’s 6-foot-10 Brent Dabbs. Hutch took control early with leads of 8-0,  26-14 and 41-25 in the first half. Mattatuck stayed within 11 points for the first five minutes of the second half, but Hutch went on an 8-2 run over the next three minutes to go up 62-45 with 12:15 left.

Davis scored 21 points to lead Hutchinson against Mattatuck. Brittian and Vandiver had 14 points each.

 

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