BY RAEGAN NEUFELD
PHOTOS BY JESS KIRCHHOFF
Fort Hays was able to bounce back from their loss to #2 Northwest Missouri State by beating Missouri Southern on Thursday night, 89-71.
The game was the only time the two teams will meet during the regular season. The Tigers came in with better records of 11-3 overall and 6-3 in the MIAA while the Lions stood at 8-6 and 5-3.
Although FHSU allowed over 60 points -a rare occurrence- they were able to be more productive on the offensive end, with 89 points being a season-high for the team.
“I thought we played really well,” said head coach Mark Johnson. “We played good offensively the whole entire game, both halves. I thought the first half we didn’t guard quite up to our capabilities, but the second half our guys played great defense and really made it hard on the other team. That was probably the difference in the game. We decided to guard pretty hard in the second half and we kept our offense going.”
Both teams applied the pressure on the defensive end and went back and forth offensively for the first half. The Tigers held onto the lead after their second basket and led at halftime 48-40. From there on, they extended their lead little by little and went on to outscore the Lions 41-31 in the second half.
As a team, FHSU shot 49.1 percent overall, and 39.1 percent from beyond the arc. In fact, nine 3’s were made, six coming in the first half. Quinten Rock was 1-5, Jared Vitztum was 2-4, Nyjee Wright was 2-3, and Kaleb Hammeke was 4-6. The Tigers also had plenty of opportunities to shoot free throws and went 28-36, or 77.8 percent.
Wright and Hammeke were perfect from the free throw line, shooting 8-8 and 6-6, respectively. Hammeke and Vitztum led all scorers with 22 points each. Wright had 18 and Elijah Nnanabu scored 11. Nnanabu and Vitztum also grabbed eight rebounds each.
Johnson said that he hopes the win gives some of his players the boost they needed.
“Kaleb and Jared have been struggling with their three-point shot a little bit since we’ve come back from Christmas, so you hope the couple they made tonight carry over and they have some confidence in themselves.”
The win brings the Tigers to 12-3 and 7-3 on the season. Next up is another home game on Saturday, against Pittsburg State at 4 P.M.