The goal of winning the Jayhawk Conference Western Division is gone, but an even bigger carrot remains for the Hutchinson Community College women's basketball team.
That is, repeating as the Region VI champion.
"I'm pleased with how we're playing," said Hutchinson coach John Ontjes. "We had a great second half to the conference season and we feel like we're playing our best basketball of the season right now."
The Blue Dragons (28-3) are riding a 13-game winning streak into today's Region VI quarterfinal game against Independence (22-8) at Koch Arena.
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Hutchinson finished 14-2 in Jayhawk West play, one game behind Seward County. Ontjes points to the Blue Dragons' last loss — at Garden City on Jan. 18 — as the one that let the title get away.
He also points at that loss as a key teaching point.
"We fought all year long to get the No. 1 seed and we feel like that loss cost us a league championship," Ontjes said. "That was a real test. We've fought all year and that just made us fight even harder."
Ontjes delivered the Blue Dragons' first Region VI title since 1978 last season with the same core group he has on the court this year, including All-Jayhawk West picks Heather Robben and Ariella McGhee.
Robben leads Hutchinson with 16.1 points per game, McGhee averages 11.1 points and 8.3 rebounds.
"Getting to the top is not easy to do," Ontjes said. "It takes the right group of talented kids and a lot of luck. We feel like we've had both."