BY CAYDEN SANDERS
Fort Hays hosted another game in Gross Memorial Coliseum against Avila College on Monday looking to improve on their hot start to the 2021-22 season. Kaleb Hammake and Jared Vitztum carried Fort Hays State to a 75-59 victory to match their best start since the 2013-14 season, where the Tigers finished with a 22-8 record on the year and made it to the NCAA tournament.
“Obviously Kaleb and Jared carried the team, Geoff [Hamperian] has been tremendous all year and so your going to have slump games and it happened tonight,” Head Coach Mark Johnson said. “We struggled all the way around but those guys definitely carried the offensive side of the ball.”
The Tigers and Eagles offense had it going for them as they would hit shots early and often. Eventually, both teams had a scoring drought but the Tigers’ biggest run of the night was halfway through the first quarter as the Tigers scored 10 straight points. The Tigers edged out the Eagles 36-35 going into halftime.
The Eagles shot the ball well in the first half offensively, making 14 two-point shots and seven three-pointers.
“They deserve some credit, they normally shoot the ball at a smaller percentage, but tonight they had a better percentage, in the first half they shot 50% and we thought our defense was a little slower to the ball but they shot the ball really well tonight,” Johnson said
Both teams came out of the halftime break cold, but Hammake started the Tigers’ second half with a big three. However, Avila’s Eric Smith Jr. would answer back with a made shot of his one before Hamperian stole the ball from Avila to have a quick transition three-point play.
Hammeke and company pushed the tempo in the final eight minutes of the match with a quick Hammake three. Vitztum used a post move and scored to push the lead to 17 points. Minutes later Hamperian hit a three to give the Tigers a 20-point lead.
Hammeke finished the night with 23 points and 9 assists, with Vitztum having another double-double collecting 19 points and 12 rebounds.
“It felt good to go out there and help the team, yeah we didn’t play as well as we should have but having a good game personally is great to have especially early in the season,” Hammeke said.
Quinten Rock left the game with an apparent ankle injury as he fell on top of another player’s foot. He would not return to the game but had a walking boot on when he came out of the locker room.
The next game for the Tigers is Saturday in Gross Memorial Coliseum asFHSU start back up in league play against Nebraska Kearney for a 4:00 tip-off.
“It’s nice to hear having the best program record since 2013, but once you get into conference play there is no easy game. Even if a team is at the bottom of the league it doesn’t mean that they are not going to be an easy win.” Hammeke said.