EL DORADO – Gunner Hutson was key as you would expect a senior to be as the Circle Thunderbirds beat Wichita Trinity Academy 68-57 on Saturday afternoon to win seventh place in the 52nd annual Bluestem Classic.

“We’ve been in a lot of close games this season,” Circle head coach Bo Horyna said. “We were able to close this one out. I’m proud of the guys.”

Hutson’s key moments were a large part on why the T-Birds were able to overcome a 10-2 run that spread from the end of the third through the early part of the fourth quarter.

Once leading 45-41, Trinity powered to the paint, got to the rim and were getting what they wanted for what it appeared to be really the first time in the game. However, the T-Birds who’ve faced their fair share of close games hung tough and prevailed.

Matt Hromek had 20 points for the T-Birds, including four threes in the second half, three in the fourth quarter.

“My teammates did a really good job of getting me the ball,” Hromek said. “I was able to hit the shots.”

After trailing 32-29 at the break, the T-Birds spent the fourth quarter trying to get back in the game. That’s where Hutson stepped up.

Hutson had a punch out with 5:48 to go, putting the ball in the hands of Luke Beougher, who got fouled and gave the T-Birds another life. On the ensuing play, Hutson was fouled, hitting two free throws and the T-Birds took the lead for good.

"People don't typically understand how big of plays those are," Horyna said. "Those were game changing for us."

On the other end, Hutson made his mark by putting his body on the line by drawing the charge and you could fill the air leave Trinity.

“I’m the type of guy who will put his body on the line for my team,” Hutson said. “Whatever they need, I’ll do it.”

Trinity never could find their rhythm again after that. They would struggle when attacking the paint, rimming shots short and Circle kept them at one-shot possessions.

Circle improves to 4-7 on the year and will get McPherson on Tuesday, Jan. 28 at home in a makeup from a game that had been postponed due to poor weather.

“Games like this and like Winfield show exactly how good we can be when we play as a team,” Hutson said.