BY TRISTAN SASSE
After defeating Missouri Southern in the MIAA opener on Thursday, the Fort Hays State University Tiger men’s basketball team hosted Pittsburg State in the second conference game of the season. A highly contested matchup throughout, the Tigers outlasted the Gorillas, 77-74. The win marked the second straight victory for FHSU over the Gorillas.
Less than four minutes into the game, Pittsburg State stormed out to a 9-2 lead. A pair of Gorilla threes increased the advantage to 15-6 soon after. Pittsburg’s early lead climbed to as many as 12, but nine straight points by Hadley Gillum kept the Tigers close.
With just under 10 minutes left in the first half, the Gorillas led 22-19. Moments later, a Kyler Kinnamon three tied the game. After a pair of Marcus Cooper free throws, FHSU claimed their first lead. Lead changes continued throughout the final minutes of the half, as the Gorillas held onto a 29-28 lead. The first half remained back and forth, as PSU kept a slight advantage going into halftime, at 40-38.
The Gorillas shot 45.8% in the opening half, while holding FHSU to 41.9%. Additionally, PSU had nine turnovers in the first half, while only forcing five. Demetrius Levarity and Xavier Adams guided Pittsburg with 13 points and six rebounds each. For the Tigers, Gillum led all players with 17 points and five rebounds.
In the second half, PSU took an early eight point lead. At the 16 minute mark, Brady Werth pulled the Tigers back within two. With 14:39 left, it was tied at 50. Gillum gave the Tigers their first lead of the second half shortly after. The Gorillas held a 57-56 advantage with under 10 minutes remaining.
A quick burst by FHSU gave them a slight advantage minutes later. The Tigers took a 63-60 lead after a Kinnamon three pointer. The lead increased to five with just under four minutes remaining. Fort Hays led 69-64 with 2:41 left.
Adams cut the Gorillas’ deficit to two after a three point play. Trey O’Neil answered with a three pointer on the opposite end to increase the lead back to five. Werth followed with a layup to give FHSU a seven point advantage.
Pittsburg State trailed by four with under 25 seconds remaining. After a Kinnamon free throw, Grant Lozoya connected on a three to bring the Gorillas within two. Calvin Harrington made 1-of-2 free throws and the Tigers were up three with 10 seconds left. For PSU, Jaxon Holden missed a three in the closing seconds and FHSU held on for a 77-74 win.
By the Numbers
The Gorillas finished at 44.2% from the field, while the Tigers shot 41.9%. FHSU out-rebounded Pittsburg State on the afternoon, 39-34. Fort Hays finished with 15 assists and only seven turnovers.
For the Tigers, Gillum finished with 29 points and 12 rebounds. Werth also had a double double with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
For the Gorillas, Adams contributed with 22 points and eight rebounds, while Lozoya had 20 points and Levarity finished with 19 points and 13 rebounds.
FHSU (6-2 overall, 2-0 in MIAA) will travel to Topeka to take on the Washburn Ichabods (5-3) on Wednesday, December 6. Pittsburg State (5-4, 0-2) will host the Lindenwood Lions (6-1) in an MIAA matchup on December 7.