BY RAEGAN NEUFELD
PHOTOS BY JESS KIRCHHOFF
The Fort Hays men’s basketball team (17-4, 12-4 MIAA) evened their season series with Rogers State on Thursday night with a 62-47 win. Rogers State had previously beaten the Tigers 58-51 on January 3rd.
In what was a physical game, head coach Mark Johnson said that he was pleased with how his team battled it out.
“I’m proud of the toughness we showed,” he said. “It was a hard-fought game. I thought our guys never backed down and pushed through the physicality to get the win.”
Fort Hays trailed the Hillcats 10-6 after eight minutes of play in the first half. The offense gradually began rolling for the Tigers, and after making five three-pointers in five of the last seven minutes, they took a 31-21 lead at halftime.
Rogers State (14-9, 8-9 MIAA) stuck around after the break and had the deficit down to seven points with just seven minutes left to play in the game. However, an 8-0 run punished the Tiger lead out of reach as they held a steady lead until the end.
“It just came down to getting stops,” Johnson said. “We got some defensive stops, got some rebounds, and then Jared [Vitztum] had some big moments, big shots, and Kaleb [Hammeke] hit a couple of big plays for us to ice the game.”
Vitztum led Fort Hays in scoring and rebounding, recording a double-double with 18 points and 12 rebounds. Hammeke was the next high scorer with 13 points, all in the second half. Traejon Davis was 2-3 on 3-pointers and totaled 11 points. The rest of the Tigers’ scoring came from eight points each by Nyjee Wright and Gabe Pieschl and four from Elijah Nnanabu.
“Trae again stepped up and had two 3’s tonight. Gabe was big, I thought Gabe Pieschl might’ve had his best game of the year, he had eight points, seven rebounds, four steals, and was really good,” Johnson said. “And sometimes we forget to acknowledge how good Jared is because it just becomes a common occurrence. We’ve seen 18 and 12 from him quite a bit, but that was a pretty special performance again.”
As Johnson mentioned, his team was able to make stops on the defensive end. Once they did that, they just simply outplayed the Hillcats. The Tigers not only outrebounded Rogers State 32-23, but they shot the ball better from the field (43.9 percent) and beyond the arc (40 percent) while shooting 81.8 percent from the free-throw line.
Fort Hays will be back at 4 p.m. inside Gross Memorial Coliseum on Saturday to take on the Northeastern State RiverHawks for the second time this season.