It doesn’t need much dressing up, and it’s as big a game as the Region VI men’s basketball tournament ever gets to see.
But when No. 2 Coffeyville (33-1) and No. 9 Hutchinson (27-3) face off in Friday’s 7:30 p.m. semifinal at Hartman Arena, for the first time there will be a chance of the loser getting to play on in the NJCAA Tournament.
And that changes things a little bit, especially because it appears Coffeyville has already secured one of the NJCAA’s new at-large bids, regardless of Friday’s outcome.
Seward County (25-7) plays No. 24 Barton (27-5) at 5:30 p.m. in the other semifinal.
“We haven’t talked about (the at-large bids) too much, we’ve just tried to keep moving through the season and focused on the next game,” Coffeyville coach Jay Herkelman said. “But I guess it has changed things in that we do have a little control based on how we did and that we’ve had a good year.”
Unranked Seward likely needs to win Region VI to earn a bid. Barton, which split with Hutchinson during the regular season, could make an argument for one of the at-large bids with a win and a Blue Dragon loss.
“Coffeyville is playing really well and we’ve gotta find a way to win,” Hutchinson coach Steve Eck said. “I’m not going to comment on the (at-large bids), we’re just going to go out, play and enjoy it.”
Freshman guard Kadeem Allen leads the Blue Dragons with 17.7 points and 3.7 assists. Teammate Alex Davis, a 6-foot-9 sophomore forward, leads the Jayhawk Conference with 2.9 blocks.
Coffeyville’s two top scorers are freshmen — 6-7 forward Montel James (17.6 points, 8.9 rebounds) and 6-3 guard Earl Peterson (12.5 points).
Herkelman has won six Region VI titles in 18 years at Coffeyville.
“Big games like this, that’s one of the reason why you get into this profession,” Herkelman said. “And that’s still something that I feel, too. There’s excitement around this game.”
In the women’s semifinals, No. 3 Hutchinson (31-1) plays Butler (26-6) at 1:30 p.m. and No. 12 Garden City (29-3) plays Cowley (28-4) at 3:30.