The Blue Dragon women win the 2024 national championship with an 88-80 overtime victory over Northwest Florida State on Monday night in Casper, WY
The Blue Dragon women win the 2024 national championship with an 88-80 overtime victory over Northwest Florida State on Monday night in Casper, WY

Hutchinson CC Sports Information

CASPER, Wyoming – Hutchinson Community College women's basketball was indeed golden on Monday night.

Trailing by six points with 2:32 to play in the fourth quarter, the top-seeded Blue Dragons were able to force overtime and then dominate the extra session, outscoring defending national champion Northwest Florida State 19-11 in overtime and winning the program's first national championship with an 88-80 victory in the 2024 NJCAA Division I Women's Tournament championship game at the Ford Wyoming Center.

The Blue Dragons complete their 50th season with an undefeated 37-0 record – a school record for wins, longest winning streak (37) and best start to a season (37-0).

This was Hutchinson's fourth attempt to win a women's basketball national championship, coming up short in 2012, 2014 and 2015. The Blue Dragon won their second women's national championship (women's cross country in 2001) and 10th overall team national championship (Men's basketball – 1988, 1994, 2017; Men's Golf – 2021, 2022; Football – 2020-21; and men's track and field – 1954, 1959).

Freshman guard Kiki Smith was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player. She scored 23 points on Monday night to finish with a four-game scoring total of 68 points. Smith broke the freshman season scoring record and finished second in single-season scoring with 652 points.

Both freshman Hailey Jackson and sophomore Journey Armstead were named to the all-tournament team on Monday. Jackson had a postseason-high and team-high 25 points to lead the Blue Dragons. She hit three critical free throws with 0.7 seconds left in regulation to force overtime. Jackson finished seventh on the freshman season scoring list with 478 points, including 65 points in the tournament.

Armstead had 11 points and three assists before fouling out with 5:09 to play in the fourth quarter.

Blue Dragon head coach John Ontjes was named the Coach of the Tournament

Monae Duffy had 10 points and 9 rebounds for the Blue Dragons. Akaysha Muggeridge scored six of her eight points in overtime. Muggeridge added seven rebounds and four assists.

The Blue Dragons led by as many as 13 points in the third quarter, but Northwest Florida State rallied to take a 57-55 lead after three quarters and led 68-62 with 2:27 to play in regulation.

The Dragons rallied back, closing with a 7-1 run, getting three free throws from Hailey Jackson with 0.7 seconds to play to tie the game at 69-all. Trailing 69-66, Jackson was fouled with 0.7 seconds left in regulation. The freshman from Tulsa, Oklahoma, hit all three free throws to force overtime.

In overtime, Muggeridge, Jackson and Smith scored on consecutive possessions for a 77-71 lead and upped the lead to eight at 81-73 on a Muggeridge hoop with 1:18 to go. The Blue Dragons were 6 of 6 shooting from the floor and 7 of 10 from the foul line in overtime. Northwest Florida State was 5 of 12.

The Blue Dragons had to overcome the 30-point performance of Northwest Florida State's Destiney McPhaul, who was 10 of 20 shooting and 10 of 12 from the free-throw line. Nevaeh Scott had 13 points and Celia Riviere had 10 points.

After shooting 52.2 percent in the first half, the Blue Dragons shot 49.2 percent for the game (30 of 61). The Blue Dragons were 3 of 16 from 3-point range and 25 of 33 from the free-throw line. The Dragons out-rebounded the Raiders 36-29, but committed an NJCAA-Tournament high 19 turnovers.

Northwest Florida State shot 51.7 percent for the game – just the 15th time in Ontjes' 578 games coached an opponent shot 50 percent or better. The Raiders were 1 of 8 from 3-point range and 17 of 23 from the free-throw line.

Both teams came out on fire – Northwest Florida State shot 63.6 percent and the Blue Dragons shot 53.8 percent – in an opening quarter that had three lead changes and four ties. The Dragons built a 6-3 lead on a Smith jumper with 7:56 to play in the first quarter. The Raiders answered with six unanswered to take a 9-6 lead after a McPhaul bucket at the 5:48 mark. The Dragons took an 11-9 lead after an Armstead transition basket with 3:34 to go. Smith's steal and layup bumped the lead to 15-11 with 2:28 to go. Northwest rallied to tie the game at 15-all, but Jackson hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key for an 18-15 Hutchinson lead after one quarter.

The Dragons opened a six-point lead when Armstead had a strong drive to the hoop for a 23-17 lead with 8:22 to play in the second quarter. The Dragons then went on a 10-2 run to build its first double-digit lead of 33-22 on a Jackson 15-footer with 4:57 to play. Smith hit a pull-up jumper with 1:51 left to build a 37-24 lead. The Dragons led 39-28 at halftime.

The Blue Dragons led 48-35 after a Jackson inside basket with 7:21 remaining in the third quarter. Turnovers started to become an issue. Seven Dragon miscued led to 14 Northwest points off turnovers as the Raiders outscored the Blue Dragons 22-10 over the final 7 minutes to take a 57-55 lead heading to the fourth quarter, closing the period on an 8-0 run.

Facing major foul trouble in the fourth quarter, the Blue Dragons trailed 68-62 with 2:37 to play in regulation. Jackson hit two free throws with 1:37 left and Smith had a steal and layup with 1:37 left to cut the deficit to 68-66. The Raiders had a chance to put the game away with 2.6 seconds left, but Riviere missed the second of two free throws and the Dragons corralled the rebound and called timeout to advance the ball. On the inbound, Jackson was fouled attempting a 3-pointer and she made all three free throws to give the Blue Dragons new life, tied at 69-all at the end of regulation.

Trading buckets on the first two possessions of overtime, Muggeridge, Jackson and Smith scored on consecutive possessions to build a 77-71 lead with 2:44 to go. After Northwest hit a 3-pointer to cut the Dragon lead to 82-78 with 42 seconds left, Kahlen Norris had a strong take to the hoop to score for an 84-78 lead with 33 seconds left.

GAME NOTES – The Blue Dragons are now 24-12 all-time in the NJCAA Tournament, 22-10 under head coach John Ontjes. … The Blue Dragons are now 3-0 all-time against Northwest Florida State, all three wins coming in the NJCAA Tournament. … The Blue Dragons have a 50-year record of 1,112-405, including 94-50 all-time in postseason play. … The Blue Dragons were 4-0 when trailing after three quarters this season. … This was Hutchinson's first overtime game of the season. … This was Hutchinson's second win this season over a Top-5 ranked opponent, also defeating No. 3 Butler in January.